Medial Knee Pain Exercises

Pain on the inside or medial part of the knee can be caused by a variety of different issues. Degeneration or thinning of the cartilage—known as osteoarthritis (OA)—is a frequent source of these symptoms. Fraying or tearing of the shock-absorbing meniscus between the knee joint may also be to blame.

After an acute twist or injury, a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) or subluxation of the kneecap (patella) could be the culprit. Additionally, repetitive activities like biking or running can lead to the development of inner pain caused by pes anserine bursitis.

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Regardless of the cause, there are several different exercises that may help alleviate some of your symptoms.

While it is always a good idea to have your pain evaluated by a physician, the strengthening techniques listed below can provide some support to the injured area and potentially offer some relief.

Straight Leg Raise

Straight leg raises (SLR) are a great initial way to target the quadriceps muscles in the front of the thigh. The technique activates this knee-supporting muscle without placing excessive pressure through the joint itself. It can be helpful for osteoarthritis, meniscal lesions, a subluxed kneecap, or an MCL sprain. In addition, performing this version of a leg raise can also improve friction-related issues like pes anserine bursitis. To do this technique appropriately:

  1. Lie on your back and keep your uninvolved knee bent.
  2. Tighten your thigh muscle on the involved side.
  3. Keeping the muscle contracted, slowly lift the injured leg about 12 to 16 inches in the air. Do not allow your knee to bend as you do this.
  4. Hold the leg at the top of the motion for 1 to 2 seconds before slowly lowering it down again.
  5. Try 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Single-Leg Balance

Proprioceptive exercises like the single-leg balance technique are a great way to target the stabilizing muscles in the leg. This technique helps build strength and balance in individuals and can be beneficial for people with medial osteoarthritis, a medial meniscal tear, a patellar subluxation, or an MCL sprain. Here’s how to complete it properly:

  1. Stand on a level surface and straighten your injured knee by squeezing your thigh muscle.
  2. Lift the other leg in the air and try to maintain your balance without leaning your body or using your arms if possible.
  3. Hold this position up to 30 seconds if you can before returning the involved leg to the ground.
  4. Repeat the pose 5 to 10 times.

If the exercise gets easy, it can be progressed by closing your eyes. You can also attempt to increase the challenge by standing on something wobbly like a sofa cushion or a thick bath towel. Be sure you have a nearby counter or chair to grab if you lose your balance.

Ben Goldstein / VeryWell

Seated Knee Extension

Seated knee extension is another easy way to focus on the quadriceps muscle using only a resistance band or ankle weight. This exercise can help build strength and improve symptoms associated with medial OA, medial meniscal tears, MCL sprains, or pes anserine bursitis. To correctly complete this technique:

  1. Sit on the edge of a higher chair with your legs dangling toward the ground.
  2. Secure a resistance band around your ankle and tie it to the leg of the chair. A light cuff weight can also be fastened around your ankle instead.
  3. Without lifting your thigh off the chair, slowly extend your injured knee against the resistance.
  4. When your affected leg is completely straight, hold this position for 1 to 2 seconds before slowly bending it toward the ground again.
  5. Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Resisted Side-Stepping

In addition to the quadriceps muscle, the gluteus medius plays an influential role in supporting the inner knee. Building strength in this fan-shaped muscle, which is located on the outside of your hip, may help improve the symptoms associated with medial knee osteoarthritis, medial meniscal degeneration, an MCL sprain, a patellar subluxation, or pes anserine bursitis. Resisted side steps are a good way to target this important area. Here’s how to do this exercise:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and tie a resistance band around both ankles.
  2. Bend your knees slightly. Without losing the squat, take a large step to the side with the injured leg.
  3. Slowly bring your uninvolved leg back toward you until the legs are once again shoulder-width apart. Try not to let your trunk lean to the side as you make these movements.
  4. After taking 10 side steps in one direction, reverse and go the other way 10 times. Try completing 3 sets to each side.

Ben Goldstein / Verywell


Using the bottom step in your house, the step-up exercise activates the quadriceps muscles while mimicking a common daily activity. This simple technique is another way to reduce the pain associated with knee osteoarthritis, MCL sprains, meniscal lesions, and patellar subluxations. To do a proper step-up:

  1. Begin facing the stairs with the foot of your involved side on the bottom step.
  2. Slowly step up with your uninvolved leg while making sure that your injured knee does not buckle inward.
  3. Once both feet are on the step, reverse the movement and gradually lower the uninvolved foot back toward the ground. Again, be sure to keep the knee aligned over your foot.
  4. Complete this exercise 10 times and try to do 3 total sets.

If the step-ups are getting too easy, you can make them more difficult by increasing the height of the step or by holding on to dumbbells in each hand as you do them.

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Wall Squat

Using only an empty wall, the wall squat technique will have you feeling the burn in your quadriceps muscle. This exercise can increase strength in this area and help improve the medial knee symptoms associated with OA, meniscal tearing, an MCL sprain, a patellar subluxation, or pes anserine bursitis. Give it a try like this:

  1. Stand with your back to a smooth wall and your feet about 12 inches away from it.
  2. Lean against the wall so that your buttocks and shoulders are touching it.
  3. Bend your knees as you slide your body halfway down the wall.
  4. Hold this position for 5 seconds before sliding back up again. Make sure not to let your knees go over your toes as you do this.
  5. Complete 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions of the exercise.

To make this exercise more challenging, try increasing the amount of time you hold the squat or sliding further down the wall until your knees are bent to a 90-degree angle. You can also attempt the exercise while holding dumbbells in each hand to increase the difficulty.

In addition, because excessive pronation of the foot can cause the arch to cave inward and increased amounts of stress to be placed on the medial knee, it is a good idea to wear supportive footwear while you exercise.

Wall squat

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bennell KL, Kyriakides M, Metcalf B, et al. Neuromuscular versus quadriceps strengthening exercise in patients with medial knee osteoarthritis and varus malalignment: a randomized controlled trial. Arthritis & Rheumatology. 2014;66(4):950-959. doi:10.1002/art.38317

  2. American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons: Home therapy exercises for pes anserine bursitis.

  3. Wang S-Y, Olson-Kellogg B, Shamliyan TA, Choi J-Y, Ramakrishnan R, Kane RL. Physical therapy interventions for knee pain secondary to osteoarthritis. Ann Intern Med. 2012;157(9):632-644. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-157-9-201211060-00007

  4. Swart NM, van Oudenaarde K, Reijnierse M, et al. Effectiveness of exercise therapy for meniscal lesions in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2016;19(12):990-998. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2016.04.003

  5. Laprade RF, Wijdicks CA. The management of injuries to the medial side of the knee. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2012;42(3):221-233. doi:10.2519/jospt.2012.3624

  6. Ménétrey J, Putman S, Gard S. Return to sport after patellar dislocation or following surgery for patellofemoral instability. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2014;22(10):2320-2326. doi:10.1007/s00167-014-3172-5

By Tim Petrie, DPT, OCS
Tim Petrie, DPT, OCS, is a board-certified orthopedic specialist who has practiced as a physical therapist for more than a decade.