There seems to be an epidemic of knee pain, both amongst runners and the general population. Perhaps this is not surprising – the knee is an extremely vulnerable joint critically located between the ground and your hips. I guess it’s also a price we must pay for becoming bipedal.
We also compound this anatomical vulnerability by abusing this important joint by sitting at 90 degrees for most of our lives, wearing footwear that interferes with our ability to both sense the ground effectively and absorb ground reaction forces appropriately throughout the kinetic chain. Throw in some decidedly dodgy posture and basic movement patterns, a diet for which we are ill adapted and global sleep deprivation, and we can see that advice to take strong painkillers and rest it might not quite be enough!
Indeed many will just put it down to ‘old age’ or ‘natural wear and tear’ or ‘too much running’ without looking at the wider picture. I hear these statements all the time and find people generally unwilling to look beyond a simple quick fix ‘solution’ to get them out of pain.
Whilst it is true that some of the root causes may take quite a while to address totally, I believe that the knee joint is designed to last a long lifetime if properly cared for.
Here are just some of things you can do today to begin addressing your knee problems if you have one or to help prevent knee pain from developing. Please realise that this is general advice and may not be appropriate for every single case. If in doubt you should consult an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. However, do be ready to ask probing questions about the mechanisms involved and not just accept that painkillers are the solution. This is far from just a knee issue usually.
So these would be my 5 favourite strategies for dealing with knee pain:
- Take a look at your standing posture. Are one or both of your feet pointing out to the sides? Although it is not always the case, there is a good chance that your knee(s) may be collapsing inwards as you walk, run, jump etc. putting enormous strain on the ligaments. Over time this is likely to use injury as the ligaments will not enjoy these unreasonable demands! Whilst this may be structural and natural in a few cases, it’s far more likely to be simply a posture issue that can be consciously corrected.
- Address the mobility of the joint itself, as well as the mobility of the ankle joint below and the hip joint above. Compression with movement can be a powerful tool here, as well as thing like ‘flexion gapping’ for the knee – putting a ball or towel behind the joint and flexing it to allow it to move more freely. There have been many cases where clients have found that just this in itself can instantly relieve knee pain.
- Having mobilised the joint first, then think about improving the mobility of the muscles around the joint – quads, hamstrings, calves, adductors, TFL etc. Foam rolling, bodyweight stretches (preferably with movement not static), banded stretches, lacrosse ball to release trigger points etc. The aim is to provide freedom to all the lines of connective tissue or fascia that influence the joint and to make sure that all the different layers slide freely.
- Now do some bodyweight exercises, involving flexion and extension of the joint to consolidate this and ‘make it stick’ better. Squats, lunges, toe touches, knee raises, calf raises, kicks etc. to test and lubricate the joint through a full range of motion.
- All of this will help enormously with the health of the joint and the tissues around it, but will not, in itself, permanently ‘fix’ the problem. These procedures need to be done at least a few times per week for ongoing improvement. 10-15 minutes of working on this 2 or 3 times per week will usually produce surprisingly effective results for the time investment. However, we need to also address the environmental causes at the same time by ensuring proper nutrition and hydration for the body (sticky sugary tissues from eating the typical western diet will be stiff tissues), by avoiding sleep deprivation, by addressing postural issues daily, avoiding sitting for long periods and going barefoot or minimal whenever feasible.
It is vitally important for your long term knee health (especially if you are a runner, with all the extra impact on the knee) that you begin this programme now, because it will get to the point otherwise where your ability to walk or run is severely or irreversibly impaired.
To learn more about addressing knee pain without medications, surgery etc. (these should always be the very last resort), arrange a free assessment with David and let’s go down the ‘more and better movement’ path first.
Call or text 07504439555 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.