One of the most common complaints I hear and have to deal with is knee issues. I’ve seen my clients suffer from knee pain and occasionally, I suffer from knee pain as well. There are different causes for the pain such as arthritis, being a flat foot (that’s me), overuse or weakness of the muscles that protect the joint. The good news is you can effectively treat most knee pain yourself.
When we over-use muscles like the hamstrings and the inner thigh muscles they become tight. When we under-use muscles like the gluteus maximus muscles they become weak. The combination results in compressive force on the knee joint causing pain. As a society, our glutes are weak.
“We know from research that knee injuries, including common Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tears, can occur when large hip muscles are weak. ACL tears, which are eight times more likely in women athletes, have been shown to lead to other cartilage tears and to correlate with knee arthritis later in life.
When the main butt muscle (gluteus maximus) is weak, it causes the pelvis to drop and the upper thigh bone (femur) to fall inward. This imbalance creates painful downward stress on the hip, knee and ankle every time you take a step. Hip extensions are helpful exercises to strengthen the glutes.” Says Julie Kailus.
Think of this, some joints need to be stable and others need to be mobile and they alternate all the way up the body. If a joint like the knee is not stable, it will gain stability through the hip or ankle. The hip is supposed to be mobile; if it’s tight your body will compensate and find the mobility from the next joint in the chain and so on. If you have imbalances through your muscles you will eventually have pain and discomfort because some muscles are working overtime while other muscles aren’t doing their job. The over worked muscles will give up when you least expect them to. Have you ever bent over to reach for something or went to turn for something and something went ‘ping’ and caused you instant pain? You may have been lucky and it was just a jolt or you may have been down for a week or so because of the pain.
You can prevent these imbalances by stretching the tight muscles and strengthening the weak muscles. Sounds simple right? Well, it is, but it takes time and consistency.
Start your treatment:
- Stretch the tight muscles. For knee issues, that will most likely be your hamstrings, inner thighs, and hip flexors. If you aren’t sure what those are, that’s OK, then stretch your whole body. 😉 I will promise, your body will thank you.
- SMR – Foam Rolling. If you can get yourself a foam roller you can do some self myofascial release – SMR Here are some great techniques. At first you will hate it but you will quickly fall in love with how you feel after. It’s giving yourself a massage to get rid of those persistent knots whenever you want.
- Strengthen the weak muscles. A couple of my favourite compound exercises are bodyweight squats and stationary lunges. Just remember to drive up through the heels and try to be conscious of not letting your knees go past your toes, with your knees forming 90 degree angles.
- Build your Core. You want a strong foundation by building your entire core. You can do that by doing different exercises like the bird dog, dead bug, back extensions, plank, and mountain climbers just to name a few. With a strong core you will have a stable lower back, then you can have mobile hips, stable knees, mobile ankles and so on.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight. Julie Kailus also states “Being overweight makes men five times more likely (and women four times more likely) to develop knee osteoarthritis. New research shows that a 10% decrease in weight will result in a 28% increase in knee function (such as for climbing stairs and walking). Another study found that for every 11 pounds a woman loses, there is a remarkable 50 percent decrease in the risk of knee arthritis. Why? Fat decreases muscle strength, and excess body weight adds strain to knee joints. In fact, there’s an inverse relationship between body weight and quadriceps muscle strength: the higher your body weight, the weaker your knee muscles.”