Many people feel pain in their knees after doing exercise but not during. The reason for this can be that while exercising, we use our muscles frequently, and thus they get warmed up, so we might not feel knee pain. But, after exercise, we feel pain around or behind our knee caps. This is because excessive workouts can damage soft tissues and tendons around the knee caps. In addition, exercising after a long time can also put a strain on the knees, causing knee pain.
The knee is a complex joint that involves ligaments, soft tissues, tendons, and muscles that support the joints. Any strain in the muscles or tendons during exercise can become a reason for knee pain after a while.
Here are described some reasons that can potentially cause knee pain after exercise but not during.
- High-stress exercises
High-stress exercises can be the reason for delayed knee pain. For example, the exercises that involve bending of knees or full-arc knee extension can potentially cause knee pain after exercise. In addition, tough workouts like full deep lunges, squats, hamstring curls, or even excessive running and stretching can cause knee pain because these movements put a lot of stress and strain on knee caps. In fact, any exercise done in a careless manner or in an immoderate amount may lead to pain in joints after exercise.
- Less lubrication in joints
Synovial fluid is a thick liquid present in between your knee joints. When the loss of this fluid goes beyond a limit, it results in increased friction between the knee joints. When we move our legs frequently during exercise, it produces friction between the joints due to less lubrication, leading to knee pain after exercise.
- Micro tearing of muscles
Extreme stretching or high-stress exercises can tear the muscle fibers. This usually happens when a person works out after a long time. The muscle fibers get torn up and lead to soreness and pain in the knees after exercise. Even a mild tear in the knee muscle can be felt due to immediate spasms. Depending on the severity of tearing, you may find it hard to walk around.
The pain due to micro-tearing in muscles can last up to 2 – 3 days. Foods rich in protein, vitamin C, and fiber can make the recovery process faster.
- Increased stress on the muscle
Some hard exercises may cause muscle strain which can lead to pain in knee joints. People might pull their muscles while working out. The pain due to muscle strain can be felt around the knee caps. Lifting heavy weights with a jerking motion and poor posture and stiffness in quads can also be the reasons behind knee pain after exercise.
- Meniscus damage
The meniscus is a piece of cartilage located between your joints. It gets injured if there is too much pressure on your knee or when you rotate your knee forcefully. People may not feel the pain immediately and continue to do high-stress exercises, making it worse. The knee joint may swell and become painful after 2 – 3 days.
Symptoms of the damaged meniscus can include difficulty while walking, inflammation or stiffness in the joints, and difficulty in straightening your knee.
- Wearing wrong shoes
Shoes play a huge part in your workout routine. Wearing the wrong kind of shoes can put a strain on your knees and back. Shoes that do not support your feet and feel uncomfortable can even damage the joints. Wrong shoes can alter the position of your feet and affect the mobility and balance of your knees. Unbalanced knees while exercising can make bones misaligned, leading to severe pain in the knees after some time.
Tips to Avoid Knee Pain After Exercise
There are many ways a person could damage his knees while exercising. Below are some tips and methods that will help you avoid any damage and cope with the pain in the knee joint.
1) Warm up your muscles
It is important to warm up your muscles before doing exercise. It can help loosen up the tight muscles and increase blood circulation throughout the body. It increases flexibility and range of motion. Also, a good warm-up optimizes the performance ability and makes a person less prone to injury.
Some basic warm-ups include jumping jacks, walking before running, squats, and a few push-ups.
2) Treatment with ice and heat
If you feel acute pain or swelling in your knees after exercise, try keeping an ice pack over it for some time. The ice will reduce swelling and numb the affected area. After icing, put a heating pad over your knee and leave it for about 15 – 20 minutes. The heat will open up the blood vessels, allowing more oxygen and blood to flow towards the injured area. Heat can alleviate pain and help relax your stiff joints. However, applying ice or heat unnecessarily over the joints can make the injury worse.
3) Regular weight training
Performing exercises regularly and lifting weights in a daily routine can help muscles carry the pressure without any strain. Regular weight training eases the pain in joints and improves their functioning by making them strong and tough. In addition, when muscles get used to stretching and training, there are fewer chances of injury in joints.
Some exercises to strengthen your knees are leg lifts, walking regularly, wall squats, and leg presses.
4) Healthy diet
Your diet has a major impact on your body. A good and healthy diet makes muscles and joints strong. Some foods can also help decrease pain and increase the flexibility of joints.
Foods like nuts and seeds, fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, and other nutrient-rich foods are good for knee strengthening.
Older adults can also take vitamin supplements like Omega 3, Vitamin D3, and Chondroitin along with a healthy diet.
5) Increase lubrication naturally
Injury in knee muscles can cause a significant decrease in the fluid between your joints. Less fluid in the joint can lead to a lot of pain and uneasiness. Increasing lubrication can increase the flexibility and smoothness of joints. Certain foods that are high in healthy fats like cheese, whole eggs, avocados, and olive oil help increase lubrication naturally.
Dehydration is also a big cause of decreased lubrication. Drinking much water throughout the day will help overcome this problem as well.
6) Take a rest
If moving makes the knee pain worse, try taking a rest for 1 or 2 days to ease the discomfort. Resting for a while gives your knee muscles some time to heal. During the resting period, avoid lifting heavy objects and putting pressure on your knees so that the muscles can relax fully. After 1 – 2 days, start taking small walks. If you do not feel any relief in the pain, seek a professional’s help immediately.