Knee pain after pregnancy is common. During pregnancy, women gain weight and experience ligament laxity, which allows the baby to pass through the birth canal. According to Be-Fit Mom, "instability, in combination with the shift in your center of gravity, reduces neuromuscular coordination and balance, leaving you more vulnerable to injury." Avoid aggravating activities such as kneeling, while incorporating gentle stretching and strengthening exercises after your doctor has given you permission to exercise.
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Weak hips often place unnecessary stress on the knee joint. Strengthening the hip complex with exercises such as bridges may alleviate your pain. To begin, lie flat on your back with your arms at your side. Bend your knees and make sure that your feet are shoulder-width apart and your toes are pointed straight ahead. Slowly lift your butt off the ground and hold for a second before lowering. Repeat for the desired repetitions.
Side-Lying Leg Raises
Another exercise that strengthens the hip complex is a side-lying leg raise. Start by lying on your side with your lower arm extended and your ear resting on your shoulder. Keeping your legs stacked, take a slight bend at the waist, bringing your legs forward a few inches. Raise the top leg as far as you can without leaning forward or back. Lower the leg. Repeat for the desired repetitions on both legs. If you have trouble not rocking during the leg raises, place your back against a wall for extra support.
Exercise Ball Squats
Squats integrate movement through the entire lower body and work the gluteal complex, quadriceps and hamstrings. Since post-natal women are often less stable, use an exercise ball to support your movement and keep you in the proper position. Begin by placing the ball on a wall and then placing your lower back against the ball. Making sure your feet are shoulder width apart and your toes are straight ahead, extend your feet out on an angle in front of your body. Keeping pressure on the ball, slowly lower into your squat, making sure to use a pain-free range of motion. Return to the starting position. Repeat for the desired repetitions.
Gentle stretching can lengthen tight, sore muscles. To stretch the quadriceps, the muscle in the front of your thigh, lie on your side. Bend the top knee and grab your ankle and gently pull it in until you feel a slight stretch. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds and repeat on the opposite leg.
To stretch the hamstring (the muscle group on the back of your thigh), lie flat on your back with your left knee bent and your right leg up straight. Place your hands behind your leg and gently pull it in until you feel a slight stretch. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds and repeat on the opposite leg. If you have trouble reaching your leg, a towel may be used to assist you in pulling the leg into your body.
Modified 'T' Stretch
The modified "T" stretch works the lateral hamstrings. To begin, lie flat on your back with your legs out straight in front of you. Take your right leg and bring it across your body to the left keeping the leg as straight as possible. Using your left hand, gently pull the leg closer to your left shoulder if possible. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds and repeat on the opposite leg.
- Be Fit-Mom: Common Pregnancy and Post-Partum Discomforts: Knees
- "Pre-Post-Natal Fitness"; Lenita Anthony; 2002
- "What to Expect When You're Expecting"; Heidi Markoff and Sharon Mazel; 2008