Let’s face it. You’re getting older, your life’s passing you by, you’re sitting on the couch, and watching TV. All of the sudden, that Everest College Commercial comes on and reminds you that you need to get an education. So you get up, go to pick up the phone and…it hurts to walk over to the phone because of your knee pain. Then you remember your knees also hurt when you run. Bummer. All jokes aside, there’s a small chance that you’re interested in Everest College. Yet, there’s a greater chance that you’re frustrated with your knee pain.
So What Causes Knee Pain?
It could be a lot of different things, and this has a high potential for getting very scientific; so I’ll explain it in the simplest way possible. Improper patella (knee cap) tracking, is one of the fairly common reasons that your knees are sore. What do I mean by tracking? Think of it this way, your patella is held in position by various amounts of fascia (which is attached to muscles) pulling it in multiple directions. With improper tracking, your patella is not centered, and is in a position that could possibly rub against the bone, cartilage, etc, thus causing inflammation and knee pain. Your physiotherapist will often call this “patellofemoral pain syndrome” or “PFPS”.
There could be numerous reasons why your knee is tracking improperly, but judging by what I’ve seen in the trenches, the most uncommon reason is that your muscles on the outside of your leg are too strong, and pull your knee cap sideways. That is so 1980’s. The most common causes of this tracking problem (that I’ve seen) is bad Q-angle, poor hip and ankle mobility, and weak glutes (your butt muscles). Combine this with all the long distance running that people do, and you have a recipe for disaster that not even the Demon of Knee Pain could dream of creating.
This is the angle between the hip and knee. Check out the figure below:
Generally, you don’t want your knees caving in. Most women have a tremendous problem with this because they tend to have wider hips (for childbirth). This is the reason why I barely ever allow any of my female clients to do long distance running. Look at most female marathon runners. Natural selection has weeded out ones with wider hips, leaving the women with small Q-angles to win the races (pain-free).
Hip and ankle mobility?
This is basically the range of motion that your hips and knees have (often confused with flexibility). As you get older, the years of sitting at a desk add up, and you end up getting tight (pretty much everywhere), and start losing your mobility. This is why most children can put their feet over their heads, and the reason why your grandparents have trouble bending down to tie their shoes.
Let’s Get Rid of This Pain
First of all, I’m not a Physiotherapist, so use the methods below at your own discretion. Further, if you’re unsure about anything (your pain, why you hurt, exercises, etc. etc. etc.), then PLEASE go see a physiotherapist! With that being said, even if you don’t have knee pain, a lot of people could benefit from taking the advice I’m about to give.
First of all: if it hurts, stop doing it. Duh! A lot of people play Russian roulette with logic and end up losing. Does your knee really hurt after running that 5K? Then stop running until you’re better. Once you’re better, improve your running mechanics. This means getting a professional to teach you how to run properly, or at least doing a little bit of research.
Start foam rolling:
Invest only 10 minutes of foam rolling per day, and you will thank me and your foam roller.
Activate your glutes with the following exercise. Muscle activation simply means: warming up a specific muscle to “turn it on”. Most people recommend doing muscle activation after mobility work, but I’m a firm believer that activating the glutes (specifically) before mobility work will transfer over to an increased performance during the mobility work.
Mobilize your hips and ankles. Here’s some good videos how to do so:
Last (but not least), start building leg and glute strength properly. Use excellent form (don’t let your knees cave in), and use single leg exercises and their variations (reverse lunges, single leg deadlifts, etc). Progress slowly. When performing most single leg movements, make sure that your center of weight is on your heels (and not on your toes), and that you can feel the movement being executed (at some point in time) in your butt (and not your knees or back). Good rehab is usually just good (and proper) training. Not sure if you’re performing an exercise properly? Ask a physiotherapist or a good trainer at the gym. Don’t be afraid to ask. Usually, the ones who know what they’re doing are also the ones who will happily help you out. Don’t forget to thank them.
Concluding this madness…
Obviously, there is no one single method to rehab an injury, but your first step should always be to get someone to look at it (I would recommend a good physiotherapist over a Doctor). Or, if you want to try the self experimentation route, my tips above are a great starting point. Just remember that nothing will ever compare with getting one-on-one consultation with a well established movement specialist, such as a physiotherapist. “Why you making it complicated? It’s easy” (Everest College Guy).
Good luck with your knees!
We want to thank Jason for providing the excellent guest post! He makes some great points! Need one of those good physiotherapists Jason was talking about? In pain, and would like a one-on-one physiotherapy assessment? At Strive Physiotherapy and Performance, we are committed to providing an in-depth assessment to ensure we can work together to find the best plan of action for each individual client. Call us at 519-895-2020, or use our online booking tool on www.strivept.ca to book an appointment with one of our knowledgeable physiotherapists, and they will be sure to help you understand your injury.
Physiotherapist at Strive Physiotherapy and Performance
About the Author:
Jason Maxwell is a rocket scientist turned fitness professional. He specializes in helping guys build muscle, lose fat, and get stronger. Visit www.jmaxfitness.com for more information.
Strive Physiotherapy & Performance
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