We use our knees so much throughout the day that we often don’t even think about them until they hurt. By that time, the damage may have occurred months, or even years, before.
The majority of knee pain is caused by muscle imbalance somewhere in the lower part of the body. A restricted muscle or tendon that is pulling the hips or the ankles out of alignment can lead to overpronation (inward rolling) or supination (outward rolling) in the feet. And uneven distribution of weight can cause early degeneration and calcium deposits within the knee. Wear and tear on the cartilage that surrounds the ends of the leg bone can eventually lead to bone rubbing on bone, which then can lead to arthritis.
Assuming a holistic approach to knee health, let’s look at what you can do to support your knees.
Posture Makes Perfect
One common culprit that leads to knee pain is bad posture. How do you use your legs when you walk, run, or get up from a seated position? If you’re not lifting your legs straight up when moving forward, but rather shuffling or walking on the edges of your feet, the Vastus medialis—the muscle that extends the knee—may become weakened and cause knee pain.
When getting up from a chair, engage your abdominals rather than only using your legs. You can also use your arms to help you, but don’t rely on them too much or you may develop elbow problems. When sitting, use the 90-90-90 degree rule where the elbows, hips, and knees are all positioned in a 90-degree angle. This ensures proper blood flow and nerve circulation.
Stand Up for Your Knees
When people sit all day at a desk, they can constrict their hip flexors and weaken their gluteal muscles, causing an imbalance of strength in their core muscle groups.
Let’s face it, people were not meant to sit for prolonged periods of time. If you must sit, get up from time to time. If there are stairs at your office, take the stairs to another level for a drink of water every so often. Prolonged sitting will just allow those same weak muscles to never become stronger.
On the other hand, when you experience an injury, take the time to rest and rehab your knee correctly. Your practitioner will tell you when you can get back to walking, lifting, etc. Don’t overdo it too soon or you may end up doing more damage to your knee.
Muscle up, Buttercup!
There is no way to strengthen the knee joint itself, but you can strengthen other muscles to help redistribute some of the work. Here are two exercises that can help:
Pelvic lifts: Lie down with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and knees together or slightly apart. Lift your buttocks off the floor. Hold for one second on lift and squeeze gluteal muscles. Do three sets of 10-12 repetitions. This will help stretch the hip flexors and strengthen underused gluteal muscles. Pelvic lifts should be done daily for those who sit at a desk for more than two hours at a time.
Wall chairs: Place your back against a wall or for better support place a physio ball in between your back and the wall. Pretend to sit upright in an imaginary chair while keeping your knees and hips at a 90-degree angle. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds or until fatigued. Do three sets of 10-12 repetitions. This will help you to lift your legs and bend your knees better while walking or running. Your knees will thank you.
As noted, there are many different influences that can cause knee pain. Identifying those influences is key to getting the right solution. Talk to your healthcare practitioner about an appropriate physical maintenance program for you. Treatment can also include massage, chiropractic adjustments, nutritional supplements, and weight loss. Knee pain may be something of a puzzle, but it can be treated.