Kneeling Pain: What can I do about it?

kneeling pain

Kneeling can be painful with knee pain. As a country often described as having a melting pot of cultures, traditions are something that Singaporeans hold near and dear to their heart. Despite coming from different backgrounds and religions, there are some common traditions that are performed across groups such as kneeling. Many may say that kneeling is a young person’s activity. With age, it can make it difficult and painful to kneel. However, knee pain is not exclusive to old age and affects younger generations as well. Here at Core Concepts, we’ve treated clients as young as 14 years old for knee pain

In this article, we will explore more on why kneeling can aggravate problem areas and result in pain and how you can continue to kneel despite these problems. Through this article, we want to address such concerns and fears of injuries, and why you should see a physiotherapist for treatment so you can enjoy the festivities pain-free, or know what to do once you start experiencing discomfort. 

Why does kneeling make my pain worse?

Kneeling aggravates knee pain because when we kneel, there is increased mechanical compression in the knee joint. This means that the kneecap is pushed forcefully against the thigh bone. The compression force varies with certain factors. For instance, someone with high body weight or kneels on one side more than the other will experience pains that are greater in intensity, frequency, and types too. Such pains include pulling pains, sharp pains, and dull ache pains.

If someone who is already experiencing knee pain continues to adopt a kneeling position, the knee becomes more sensitive, since additional compression worsens the pain. However, it does not cause greater injury to the person.

How can I continue kneeling despite pain?

Due to tradition and religious rites, one may have to get into a kneeling position despite knee pain. If you’d like to kneel despite already having knee pain, here are some tips by our physiotherapist to minimise the discomfort

Modify the way you kneel

Kneeling on hard surfaces such as the floor can increase the intensity of your pain. Alternative surfaces can reduce the pain as they place less stress on the kneecap. These include kneeling on a softer surface, or praying in a sitting position.

A quick fix is to place a block under the sitting bones to lift the buttocks away from the heels. This added elevation under your buttocks reduces the pressure on your kneecaps. If that isn’t enough, place a folded blanket directly behind the knee and/or a bolster across the heels to further decrease the flexion in the knees.

Perform Knee Strengthening Exercises

Knee strengthening exercises help to strengthen the muscles surrounding your knee joint. Stronger muscles reduce kneeling pain as they help to relieve the stress placed on your kneecaps. Here are some simple exercises that you can perform at home as recommended by our team of physiotherapists.

Sit to Stands

Sit to stands are a great way to strengthen your bones, the exercise strengthens the gluteus maximus and the quadriceps at the same time. These two powerful muscle groups work to get you to the standing position. Exercising these muscle groups will strengthen your legs, butt and back, and will help protect your spine. A stronger butt, spine and legs will mean better balance and a lower risk of falling.

Equipment required: A chair

Performing the Exercise:

  1. Sit in the chair of your choice.
  2. Slide forward as far as possible.
  3. Move your feet back so your heels are lined up with the front edge of the chair.
  4. Feet shoulder width apart, knees bent to 90 degrees
  5. Bow your body forward and push through your heel to stand up. Lightly use your hands on the chair if necessary
  6. Do five to 10 repetitions two times a day.

Tips

  • Make sure that your spine maintains its length. Do not change its shape.
  • Imagine a buoyancy balloon in the center of your head, just above your eyes. Imagine this balloon pulling you up as you perform the exercise.
  • Do not let your knees collapse inward.
  • Breathe in when in the starting position and breathe out when pushing up.
  • Try not to favor one side or use your hands too much to help you. Your hands should be used only to keep balance if needed.
  • Do not let your knees go past your toes as you stand up, that will activate the thigh muscles and cause more pressure in the knees.

Glute Bridging

A basic bridge engages the stabilizers of the posterior chain, including your hip abductors, gluteus maximus, and hamstrings. Your overall strength will improve as these muscle groups get stronger. A strong core will also improve your posture and can help ease lower back pain. 

Equipment Needed: Exercise Mat

Performing the exercise: 

  1. Lie on your back with your hands at your sides, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor under your knees.
  2. Tighten your lower abdominal muscles and let your lower back come in contact with the floor.
  3. Push your heel into the floor and lift your hips off the floor. Try to create a straight line from your knees to shoulders without involving the muscles in the lower back. 
  4. Squeeze your core and pull your belly button back toward your spine.
  5. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, and then return to your starting position.
  6. Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Tips: 

  • Ensure that you have a good form by making sure that you avoid raising your hips too high. Hyperextending your lower back can lead to a back strain. Keeping your abdominals and buttock muscles engaged will ensure you don’t arch your back excessively.
  • If you find your hips are dropping as you try to hold the bridge position, lower your pelvis back down to the floor. When you’re first starting out, you may need to hold the bridge position just slightly off the ground and for only a few seconds at a time until you build up sufficient buttock strength.

Single-leg glute bridge with hamstring curl

This is a variation of glute bridging which engages your hamstrings as well. The single-leg bridge is a good low-load exercise to strengthen the lower abdominals and glutes.

Equipment Needed: Exercise Mat & Towel

Performing the exercise: 

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the floor.
  2. Place towel under right foot
  3. Draw your tummy into your belly button and gently tuck your tailbone under your body using your lower abdominals.
  4. Push your heel into the floor and lift your hips off the floor. Try to create a straight line from your knees to shoulders without involving the muscles in the lower back. 
  5. While staying in that position, slide your right leg forward and backwards using the towel.
  6. Return to starting position by maintaining the alignment to lower your body down to the mat.

Things to look out for:

  • Be mindful not to tense your neck, or have your shoulders hunched forward. The whole of your back should also be resting on the mat.
  • When lowering yourself, the lower back should touch the floor before your glutes. If it’s the other way around, your back is likely to be in an arched position causing excessive strain to the lower back.

Double-Leg Squat

The Squat exercise mainly targets the thighs (quadriceps & hamstrings) and the buttock muscles. However, this version of squat we are recommending will target more on the buttock muscles. Core strength & stability, ankle mobility, back muscles, calves, and other factors play an important role when you are doing this exercise. Since the buttock muscles are the largest muscle in the human body, we need to strengthen it to have greater capacity to take load off the knee. This will help to alleviate pain in the knee, or even in the general lower limb.

Performing the exercise:

  1. Stand with your head facing forward and your chest held up and out.
  2. Place your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Extend your hands straight out in front of you to help keep your balance. You can also bend the elbows or clasp the fingers.
  3. Sit back and down like you’re sitting into an imaginary chair. Allow your upper body to bow forward as you go down and keep your lower back flat or slightly rounded.
  4. Lower down so your thighs are as parallel to the floor as possible, with your knees over your ankles. Press your weight back into your heels.
  5. Push through your heels and bring your upper body up at the same time back to the standing position.
  6. Start with three sets of 10 squats, and then add more reps (12, 15) as you get used to the motion.

Tips:

  • Do not allow for excessive arching of the lower back while squatting.
  • Make sure that your knee does not go past your toes at any point of the squat, this will increase the compressive forces in the knee.

Seek Medical Attention

If you are already suffering from chronic pain, it would be advised to seek medical attention from a physiotherapist to prevent the pain from getting worse and affecting your quality of life. Our team of physiotherapists will offer proper guidance to correct improper knee biomechanics through exercises and treatment. These aim to loosen tight and tense muscles, mobilise stiff knee joints, and strengthen underworked muscles to ease the load on the knee.

Besides guidance, our physiotherapists can help by offering advice to reduce the compressive force acting on the knee when kneeling, such as praying on softer surfaces.

We also believe in long-term approaches to ensure the knee heals, and to reduce chances of the injury recurring. Patient education is key to understanding the likely causes of knee pain such as increased load on the knee from frequent kneeling, standing, and walking. Proper pacing and planning of activities can ease the pressure exerted on the knees by breaking down long and physically strenuous tasks into smaller and more manageable tasks. An example of pacing and planning can be dividing house cleaning to cleaning two rooms per day, or doing it in bouts of 45 minutes to an hour.

If you are experiencing severe pains, in the knee or any other parts of the body, do make an appointment to get yourself assessed by a physiotherapist so you can enjoy a pain-free holiday without worrying about injuries and aches.