A single tool to combat knee pain? Learn how you can use a simple bath towel to decrease pain in the back of the knee.
Written by: Coach Todd
When it comes to different treatments for knee pain, many articles focus on pain in the front of the knee. But what about those struggling with pain that is causing achiness and stiffness in the back of the knee?
Baker’s cysts, hamstring strains, or other injuries may be causing you to suffer in pain and avoid things like going for fall hikes, squeezing in another round of golf, or even playing with your grandkids.
But rest and avoiding movement isn’t necessarily the best option.
While acute injuries may need some rest, ice, and a few day’s time to recover, chronic injuries are the opposite. If you’ve been struggling with pain in the back of knee for more than 2 weeks, you need movement to help stimulate healing and strength.
Before I jump in and tell you all about how you can address this pain, let me talk to you a little about why you may be experiencing this pain.
Part of getting better is being able to identify what your body is trying to tell you.
What Causes Pain in the Back of the Knee?
Knee pain can be caused by many things and what exactly is the culprit may alter your treatment plan.
You may unexpectedly feel the muscle above or below your knee contract, or spasm, when you have a cramp. The pain lasts from a few seconds to 10 minutes in every location. The muscle may also be sore for a few hours after the cramp passes.
Many times when we suffer from cramping, it is a lack of hydration or minerals in our diet.
Try eating a banana with a big glass of water. If you still experience cramping, check out the exercises below.
Typically synovial fluid acts as the knee joint’s lubricant. However, if you have arthritis or a knee injury, synovial fluid can build up in hopes to add extra cushion and protection for your joint. A cyst will appear in the back of the knee called a Baker’s cyst and you will feel a soft pad.
You can opt to have the cyst drained but many times it comes right back until the injury is addressed.
Osteoarthritis, a gradual breakdown of cartilage that occurs as you age, is the most common type of arthritis. This degenerative disease will cause pain as the cushion provided by the knee’s cartilage slowly wears away. This pain can sometimes be isolated to the feeling it in the back of the end.
To key to addressing arthritis? Movement!
Sudden movement or an overstretching of your hamstring (the muscle in the back of your thigh) can cause a tear to occur. If the tear is small, therapeutic exercise can help speed up the healing process. However, if a full tear occurs, a trip to the doctor is your next step.
A tear in your meniscus, a wedge-shaped piece of cartilage that cushions and stabilizes the knee, may not hurt initially. You may simply hear a “popping” sound and continue on with your day, however, it will become more painful after you walk on it for a couple of days.
Don’t just hope the pain from this tear will go away on it’s own. It’s critical that you start an exercise program right away, like the one below.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
A DVT is the clotting of blood that occurs within the leg in a vein. When you stand up, you’ll feel pain in your leg. Exercising can worsen the problem with this type of condition. As soon as possible, discontinue activity and contact your doctor.
Natural Treatment for Pain in the Back of The Knee
While many of these causes of your knee pain may seem out of your control, hear me out that you do have control in decreasing your pain!
Fear not, exercise and movement are not off-limits (unless I noted it above). In fact, it’s highly recommended.
Therapeutic exercise is a key component of gaining and maintaining strong, healthy, and pain-free knees.
All you need a bath towel and some motivation.
Calf Stretch with Towel
Sit on your bed or floor with your back against a flat surface.
With one leg straight out in front of you, place the towel around your foot. Your opposite leg bent may be bent to help protect your lower back.
Us for arms to pull your foot towards your chest with the towel. Hold for 20 seconds before switching legs.
Perform twice per leg.
This exercise focuses on stretching your calf muscle. What many people don’t know is the calf actually plays a roll in knee stability because it attaches just above the back of your knee. So what does that mean for you? If this muscle is tight, it will cause stiffness or pain in the back of the knee.
Lie on your back with one leg bent and one straight. Wrap the towel around the straight-leg’s foot and gently pull your leg up towards the ceiling.
Think about driving that heel as close to the ceiling as you without causing any pain. Hold for 20 seconds. Relax and repeat on the opposite leg.
Perform twice per leg.
Your hamstring plays a big role in supporting your knee during movements like walking, going up and down stairs, and getting up from the chair. If it is too tight, just like the calf, it can cause stiffness or pain.
In the same starting position as exercise #1, place the rolled-up towel underneath the straight leg’s knee. Gently push the back of your knee into the towel. Hold for 5 seconds and slowly. relax.
Repeat 10 times total.
This exercise is a gentle way to strengthen the quad muscle which lays on the top of the thigh. Making sure your major muscle groups of your knee are strong is just as important as making sure they are not too tight. Strengthening your quads will take off any joint pressure you are feeling in the back of the knee.
For this next exercise, place a folded towel under one of your heels and lay back. Keep your heel on the towel and slide your heel to meet your bottom.
Perform the movement slow and controlled 10 times.
This last exercise is an easy way to strengthen the hamstring muscle in an “unloaded” position. Normally throughout your day, the hamstring works when you are upright, like when walking. But by straightening in a laid back position, you can target your muscles without causing increased pain.
Sometimes with these 4 exercises, people experience muscle cramping. That either means you are stretching too far or squeezing your muscles too hard. Try backing from a little from the stretch or activating your muscles with less force.
When done with correct form, therapeutic exercise is a great natural solution to combatting pain in the back of the knees.
You can also start with daily walks. Walking helps to mobilize joint fluid (called synovial fluid) in order to lubricate joints and supply cartilage with nutrients. The healthy cartilage helps provide a cushion for the knee joint but works best when supported by strong muscles.
The key to sustainable and effective walking is to start slowly. You might do five minutes a day the first week, and then increase your time or distance a few minutes the next week.
Remember to listen to your body and not push through the pain. Here’s a step-by-step guide to starting your walking routine with knee pain.
While building strength may take some time, the benefits will last a lifetime.
To your health!