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Implementing Isometrics: Tackling Knee Pain

The last few blogs have delved into all things isometrics, different ways to perform isometrics, and its use in different populations. One of the most common conditions people come to see us at Made 2 Move is knee pain. And one of the many ways we have found to ameliorate this pain while building capacity in the surrounding muscles, tendons, and joints  is isometrics. We decided to do a deep dive into isometrics specifically for knee pain. Let’s jump in! 

Using Isometrics for Knee Pain

Isometrics are commonly used at our ACL Performance Lab to both test and treat athletes working on returning to sport and life. Another common reason for knee pain, unrelated to surgery and typically more of an overuse injury, is tendon related knee pain. And noted by one of the leading researchers on tendons, “Tendinopathies develop load tolerance in a tolerable pain range” (Rio et al. 2015). Thus, it can make sense to use isometrics as a way to introduce these tolerable ranges to help aggravated tendons respond and adapt. 

As noted by Muaidi in 2020, “The key aim of rehabilitation is to develop load tolerance on the part of the tendon by addressing pain reduction initially, followed by progressive loading” (Muaidi 2020). If the tendon is too painful to load through a full range squat initially, we can still load isometrically in a box, Spanish, or quarter squat as as we slowly reintroduce full range squats. 

How to Implement Isos for Knee Pain: 

  1. Find a tolerable, but challenging range of motion

  2. Find a tolerable but challenging load

  • You can push into a little discomfort here but not 10/10 pain. This may require some picking up and backing off based on pain levels. 

  1. Now, Hold. 

  • (Adjust accordingly based on pain responses)

NEWSFLASH: The above 3 steps can apply to any injury or nagging pain, not just the knees. 

At Made 2 Move, your PT will check in with you throughout the exercises to gauge your body’s response to the stimulus. We are also interested in your pain responses over the next 24 hours post-PT,  as there is sometimes a delayed pain responses in conditions that involve tendons. Thus, we always encourage communication via the Team Builder app. 

Practical applications

The exercises chosen are going to be highly dependent on your pain levels and goals, but here’s three of our favorite isometric exercises for general knee pain used with lots of our Made 2 Move athletes: 

If you are struggling with knee pain and finding it difficult to work around in the gym or daily life, reach out to today to set up an initial evaluation. We are ready to help you navigate this journey!

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