female athlete runner touching foot in pain

Exercises for Leg Pain

Nearly 59% of Americans are suffering from leg pain. But despite these numbers, the current status quo of pain management is not ideal for many.

Leg pain can range from annoying to absolutely debilitating. Fortunately, many cases of leg pain can be relieved by exercising the affected muscles.

Wherever you’re hurting, from your thighs to your ankles, we hope the following exercises can be helpful. Keep in mind that it is always important to start slow and build your skills, and as with all types of pain management, to listen to your body. If any exercise becomes painful, discontinue and seek advice from your pain specialist.


For those with knee osteoarthritis, it is important to strengthen your quad muscles.

To do so with leg lifts, lie down on your back, lift your legs up one at a time, keeping the raised leg straight, and hold them in the air for five seconds. Another way to bolster your quad muscle strength is with a Bulgarian split squat: rest one foot on a bench or chair behind you, and lower your body in a squat with the other leg.


A kettlebell swing requires a kettlebell, although it is possible to use a dumbbell instead. Begin in a standing position, holding the kettlebell between your knees. Keeping your back straight, hinge forward while shifting your hips back, bending your knees no more than necessary to allow the kettlebell to swing between your legs. Using your leg strength and core, return to an upright position while raising the kettlebell with extended arms in front of you, and then lower to the original position. This whole-body exercise stretches the glutes, hamstrings, hips, core, shoulders, and back.

The basic bridge is another excellent exercise for the hamstrings, and is easier on your body than others. You don’t have to arch your entire back into a curve — simply lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor, and focus on raising your hips to form a straight line from knees to shoulders.

Knee & Joint Strength

If you are struggling with knee pain, certain leg exercises may not be for you, as improper movement may exacerbate any injuries. However, there are several knee and joint exercises that can be low-impact and bring relief. These include leg raises, or seated knee extensions, and hamstring curls.

Lower Back & Hip

Supine side leg raises may be able to help you stretch and relax your lower back and hip. Lie down on your side, properly supporting your spine and abdomen, and slowly lift and lower one leg. Utilizing a mat can also give you extra support and comfort.


Calves are often neglected during exercise routines, and a standing calf raise may be quite beneficial to your knees, too. Stand upright, with your feet flat on the ground, and slowly lift your heels and shift your weight to your toes. Squats can also ease pain in your calves.

Ankles & Feet

The University of Michigan provides a selection of rehabilitation exercises if you are struggling with an ankle sprain. These include the towel stretch, during which you place a rolled-up towel at the bottom of your foot, outstretch your leg, and pull at each end of the towel.

There are also many exercises that can help with foot flexibility and mobility, such as the toe splay: Sit down and spread your toes apart without straining. Hold the position for 5 seconds before releasing.

What if the Exercises Aren’t Helping?

Since every body is different, and there are many different types of leg pain — including musculoskeletal, vascular, and neurological — not all of these exercises may work for you. Consult with your doctor or a pain specialist to custom-design an exercise program that is specifically designed for your leg pain. Visit us online to schedule a consultation, or call us at 770-929-9033.