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The patella is a bone that covers the knee, most often known as the kneecap. This bone is connected to the thigh muscles by a tendon that can be damaged, injured, or otherwise weakened, leading to pain in the knee or other tracking problems with the patella. Patella exercises can help alleviate pain and strengthen the tendon as well as the muscles to which the tendon connects, though before attempting any patella exercises, it is a good idea to visit a doctor so you can find out what is causing the problem in the first place. Failure to do so can actually worsen pain.
Once you have determined the cause of the pain, you may choose patella exercises that do not increase pain. Start with easier exercises that increase mobility and test the overall strength of the knee, and if pain worsens, stop the exercises altogether. Depending on the issue causing the pain, you may need to consider strengthening the muscles of the thigh; squats and deadlifts are great exercises to accomplish this, but again, these exercises can sometimes lead to more pain in the knee, so they should be stopped immediately if pain is felt.
Most patella exercises are aimed at strengthening the muscles that stabilize the knee. These muscles may include the thigh, gluteus medius, and even the calf muscles. Calf raises can help strengthen the calf muscles, and when combined with a regular stretching routine, calf raises can improve leg strength and function quickly and effectively. Clamshell lifts can work the gluteus medius muscles, which are situated on the outside of the hips. These stabilizer muscles help improve knee function, so they will need to be strengthened and stretched regularly.
Injuries to the cartilage of the knee, which usually sits beneath the patella, may become exacerbated through patella exercises. If this occurs, stop exercising and visit a doctor to determine the best course of action. Injuries to tendons can also be aggravated by patella exercises; a doctor may recommend combining exercise with anti-inflammatory medications, or he may simply recommend light stretching exercises to start with. Once the tendons and muscles are no longer inflamed, you can begin doing mobility exercises aimed at allowing you to move the knee more smoothly in a correct path. The kneecap can become misaligned, and exercise will only make the problem worse if it is performed incorrectly or too often.
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