The Relationship Between Hip Strength and Knee Pain

What is the Relationship Between Hip Strength for Knee Pain?

If you are referred to physical therapy for knee pain, you will undoubtedly do a lot of exercises focused on your hips because there is a strong relationship between hip strength and knee pain. More specifically, your physical therapist will give you exercises that will strengthen your hip abductors (gluteus medius) and hip extensors (gluteus maximus). 

But why? Why would you focus on muscles that are so far from your knee? The answer is simply knee position during the heel strike and stance phase of the gait cycle. During gait, gluteus maximus and medius help prevent the pelvis from “dropping” during the stance phase of gait. If these muscles are weak, there is a momentary hip/pelvis drop that leads to the knee diving in towards the other knee, which in turn leads to compression of the kneecap. Therefore, the chronic stress placed on the knee cap from these altered mechanics lead to knee pain. 

So what will you do during physical therapy to strengthen these muscles? Your physical therapist will give you exercise to strengthen your hip abduction and extension and will isolate your gluteus medius and gluteus maximus.

For more information on knee pain, please go to Knee Pain and for the hip, go to: Hip Pain.

The importance of hip strength for knee painImage of Patient Doing T-Band Exercises

Exercises for Hip Strengthening

Clam ShellsHip Strength exerciseClams Shells

Clams shells address the relationship between hip strength and knee pain by addressing the hip external rotators. Begin Exercise lying on either side, then bend knees and hips. While keeping hips and knees bent at the same angle, slowly lift your top-side leg away from the bottom-side leg. Lift leg up until hips and upper body begin to roll backwards. When this happens, stop the movement, and slowly lower the leg back to starting position. Keep ankles together throughout the entire movement.

Straight Leg Raise AbductionKnee Pain Strengthening Straight Leg Raise

Straight leg raise abduction is another great exercise to address the relationship between hip strength and knee pain.  Lie down on your side. Bend your bottom leg while keeping the top leg straight. Your top leg should be in line with your torso. Raise that leg up off the table and back down. Make sure that you don't lead the lift with your toe, but keep the outside of your foot flat and parallel to the ceiling. You should feel the muscle in your outer hip working.

BridgesPhysical Therapy exerciseBridges

Bridges are a great way to address the relationship between hip strength and knee pain by addressing the hip extensors  While lying on your back, tighten your lower abdominals, squeeze your buttocks and then raise your buttocks off the floor/bed as creating a "Bridge" with your body.

Lateral Walk with Exercise Band Hip Pain workoutsLateral Walk With Band

With an elastic band around both ankles, walk to the side while keeping your feet spread apart. Keep your knees bent the entire time.

Exercise Band Three-Way:

Hip Flexion: Hip Strength WorkoutHip Flexion with Band

While standing with an elastic band looped around your ankles, move the target leg forward as shown. Return to the original position and then repeat.

Hip Abduction:  Hip Strength is important for knee painHip Abduction with Band

While standing with an elastic band looped around your ankles, move the target leg out to the side as shown.

Hip Extension: Hip Strengthening for knee pain Hip Extension With Band

While standing with an elastic band looped around your ankles, move the target leg back as shown. Keep your knees straight the entire time.

JOI Offers Conservative Physical Therapy Approaches For Treating Knee and Hip Pain

It is not uncommon for people of various age groups to have knee pain. There are several different ways to treat pain in the knee in physical therapy. Joint mobilization, which is a hands-on technique to improve mobility of the joints, is one of the most common. Range-of-motion and strength training are also typically used as ways to treat those who are having painful knee symptoms. Lastly and perhaps most importantly is keeping up with your health. Weight loss and a healthy BMI are always recommended in the treatment of knee pain. 

For a physical therapy appointment, please call 904-858-7045

By: Meghan K. Dunn, DPT, ATC

If you want to learn more about hip pain, go to: hip pain

Related Article: VMO or Quad Strengthening

If you are interested in scheduling a MD appointment at JOI, call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online, or click below.

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