Knee Pain When Bending Exercises For Seniors

Seniors will often report knee pain when bending due to arthritis, which is the breakdown of the cartilage that cushions your knee joints. Many people will develop arthritis in their knees as they grow older.

The best thing we can do for our arthritis is to keep our knees moving. Your arthritic knees will feel better if you include gentle movements like the exercises below. Your knee pain will actually get worse after an extended period of sitting.

  1. Knee Raise
  2. Pressure on Pressure off
  3. Seated Bridge
  4. Knee to Chest
Watch my instructional video

With the knee raise below, we not only exercise the hip but as we squeeze the thigh and tighten the leg, the knee is also worked in a pain free way. This is just an isometric contraction in the quads, especially if we bring our toes toward our chest. The pressure on and off exercise is a common one done in physical therapy to improve range of motion into extension. The seated or supine bride is a great way to strengthen then knee without too much bending also. Then bringing your knee to your chest is also a great way to improve your range of motion into flexion.

Exercise 1

Knee Raise. Begin in your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly straighten out your leg by contracting your quads and bringing your toes toward your chest. Hold briefly when knee is fully straight, then return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 2

Pressure on Pressure off. To improve your motion into extension, extend your leg out on another chair or simply on the floor in front and bring your toes toward your chest. Place your hands above your knee cap, with your thumb on one side and fingers on the other side. Apply pressure on your knee to straighten and then take off the pressure. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 3

Seated/Supine Bridge. Chair Bridge. Begin by sitting tall in your chair, hands at sides, chest lifted, chin up, breathing naturally in through your nose and out through your mouth. Place your feet flat on the floor below your knees. Holding on to the side of the chair with both hands, lift your bottom off the seat and bring your hips forward off the front edge of the chair. Continue with this motion elevating your hips as high as comfortable. Hold briefly and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times. Maintain tight core during the exercise, belly button to spine.


Supine Bridge. Begin on your back with feet flat on the floor, your pelvis in posterior tilt pressing against the mat or bed. Slowly raise your hips off the bed or mat to a position that has your hips fully extended. Hold for 5 seconds and return to the start position. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 4

Seated Knee to Chest. Begin in your seat with feet flat on the floor. Perform a posterior pelvic tilt and press your back to the chair. Inhale deeply and bring one of your knees toward your chest. If you have had hip replacement, bring the knee only to 90 degrees. Feel the stretch in your lower back. Hold for 10-20 seconds, then repeat with your other leg. This stretch should feel good and not cause pain.

An important point to make with these knee exercises is that in order to make progress you should not experience any pain. We call this exercise in a pain-free range of motion. For example, if you begin to bend your knee in the chair to your chest and then feel pain when your foot is 5 inches off the ground, then you know that the first 5 inches of foot clearance is your pain-free range. In this case you can safely begin to exercise in this pain free range and slowly increase the motion as your pain improves. We must not exercise with pain. This will only prolong your rehabilitation and cause discouragement and increase your discomfort.

It is also important to warm up your muscles in order to get the most benefit out of these stretches and exercises. Walk around your home while marching and lifting your knees up to waist height and also swing your arms about to increase the blood flow to your muscles and increase the temperature of your joints.

Never hold your breath when doing knee pain with bending exercises. Generally follow the safe recommendations of most health professionals by exhaling during the exertional part of the exercise and inhale during the relaxing part of the exercise.

So to help your painful knees, introduce these safe and effective knee exercises into your routine. Our knees really need movement to keep in shape and reduce the pain with bending. If your pain continues, you may need to see your doctor for continuing care.

Let me know if you have any questions or would like to see other exercises or senior fitness content. You can leave your comments and suggestions on my About Page. Need personal help? Check out my new Academy. Exercise is really your magic pill to feel better and live longer. Remember to stay active, stay strong, and stay connected!

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Doug Schrift

Doug Schrift is a Physical Therapist, Certified Geriatric Specialist, and senior fitness coach. Doug helps seniors become strong and stable even if they have never exercised before.