The knee is a complex joint that not only bends, straightens, but also twists, and rotates. It is heavily dependent on the soft tissues and ligaments surrounding it to help support our weight and to power through its various motions. In a previous post, I talked about the rotator cuff as the number one area most likely to get injuries by newbie exercisers. The knee follows a close second.
A thick pad of cartilage acts as a cushion and stabilizes the structures between the two bones. It is then held together by very strong ligaments. The structure of the knee is extremely susceptible to blows from the side. It can be severely injured from rotating and twisting forces. It is poorly designed for most impact sports such as football.
Most common knee injury
Although there are several severe knee injuries, a dull, sharp, or radiating pain is the most common. The cause of this pain is often from tight hamstrings and calves and weak quadriceps (the muscle at the front of your thigh). This does not include any impact sports injuries.
It is very common with runners since running strengthens the hamstrings (the muscle at the back of your thighs). The quadriceps help absorb shock and when they are weak, they cannot do the job. If your knees are unstable, your thigh muscles are too weak. This causes your kneecaps to slide off their tracks hence causing it to wobble eventually damaging the cartilage.
As mentioned previously, try strengthening the quadriceps with exercises that do not cause further pain. Squats and stationary lunges mimic real life motions, but avoid bending knees beyond 90 degrees when doing these exercises. Leg extensions are helpful for some people, but might hurt for others. Stretch hamstrings and calves.
Stair climbing can also strength knees, but only if the stair height is under 8 inches. One of my favorite workout dvds is a series called The Firm. They spend a lot of time doing tall box climb with weights where the box height is 14 inches. I never attempt to do all those sets with the 14-inch box. My knees get so sore even though I do not have any knees problem to begin with. As a modification, I used an 8-inch step instead. If an exercise is exacerbating an injury, by all means modify it!
Your knee problem does not always start at the knee.
The pain can be caused by your hip or your ankles. Since your thigh bone connects to your knee bone and your knee bone connects to your shin bone, sometimes all it takes is one weak link to affect the entire chain.
For the hips, try stretching the hip rotators since they align and stabilize the hip. They often get tight for runners.
For your feet, try checking your footprints the next time you come out of the shower. With your wet feet step on a brown paper bag to get your footprint. If your feet roll excessively out or in, orthotics that you insert into your shoes might help. Google “foot pronation” for more information.
Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.
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