Bad Knees? Start HERE!
The knee is a tricky joint.
There are many people out there who suffer from knee pain but never had a specific "knee injury" before like a fall or a bad twist.
Typically pain and stiffness sets in, you see the doctor, and they probably tell you that you have arthritis or it's "bone on bone".
Insert scary music here!
Don't you worry though!
We can improve this AND you can still enjoy the activities you love!
Today I am going to cover why knees can hurt, how we can fix it, and how we can still workout with knee pain.
I like to explain the position of your knees as "no man's land" as they sit between your ankles and your hips.
This means your knees' strength, stability, and position isn't always dictated by the knee itself, but by what is going on at the hip, thigh, or the ankle.
Issues like stiffness or weakness at the thigh, ankle, or hip can cause issues at your knee by:
- Changing your knees' position
- Decreasing your knees' strength
- Causing excessive strain or torque at your knee
- Making your knees work too hard
- Or a combination of the above
Simply put, to have healthy knees, you need to have healthy ankles, thighs, and hips.
Because of the position of the knee between the hip and the ankle, you cannot do much to target the knee itself to improve its health.
But what you CAN do is improve the health of your ankles, hips, and thighs (and supporting musculature) to strengthen and drastically improve your knees' function.
This is what we're going to cover today.
So, we know your knees need to be stable and strong.
When it comes to movement, your knees should flex and extend (bend and straighten) but resist rotation.
Our ankles and hips should also be strong, but need to be mobile too.
What happens with many knee pain cases is that the joints change roles.
Over the years, our hips, thighs, and ankles start to stiffen.
Add in extended periods of sitting to your daily life and these joints only get stiffer.
This creates shortness at the muscles like your hip flexors, quads, and calves.
This shortness causes a big restriction in movement.
Ultimately, if you cannot move through your hips and ankles, you're going to compensate and move through another joint -- your knees!
Now we have excessive movement and torque at your knee.
At the same time, your hips, glutes, and hamstrings become weaker.
This means only more bad news for your knees as these muscles are your most important knee stabilizers. The stronger they are, the stronger your knees are.
So now your knees are excessively moving because of your stiff hips and are losing their ability to resist that motion because the muscles that control them aren't as strong.
It's like adding fuel to the knee pain fire.
As you can see, to get your knees stronger and feeling better, we need to attack the areas above and below the knee as well as the supporting musculature.
To make things simple, here is your knee health formula:
Flexible/strong hips + Flexible ankles = Happy knees 😀
Today, we are going to get into 3 steps to help you strengthen those knees!
Step 1| Do No Harm
Think of your knees as a scab.
In order for it to heal, it needs time.
More importantly, it needs time with no further irritation.
Your knees are the same.
When you feel pain, it's like you're picking at the scab, causing further inflammation and irritation, slowing down the healing process.
When it comes to your knees, do no harm.
If it hurts, don't do it.
Yes, this means you'll most likely need to give up certain activities for a brief period like running, lunging, and squatting. That is OK!
We will get back to it, and in the meantime we will train around it to still improve your fitness and strengthen and un-stiffen the areas that are causing the pain in the first place.
I will say though, the worst thing you can do is nothing.
It is imperative that you continue to work on your fitness.
This will do wonders for your overall fitness, mental well-being, and speed up the healing that will take place at your knees.
Step 2| Get Mobile
Now that we've eliminated activities that hurt, let's work on restoring adequate range-of-motion at your ankles, thighs and hips.
Start with the foam roller.
Think of this as a self-massage, decreasing stiffness and promoting blood flow to your hips, thighs, and calves.
- Start seated on roller with knees bent, feet on floor
- Keep hands on floor behind you
- Cross one foot over the opposite knee
- Lean towards the side of the crossed leg
- Roll back and forth 3-4" over that side glute as you exhale slowly
- Roll on each side for :30-1:00
- Start on forearms with foam roller directly below your hips
- Keep legs straight
- Use arms to roll from the bottom of your hips to the top of your knees as you slowly exhale
- Roll for :30-1:00
Your Lateral Quad/IT Band
- Start on side with weight on forearm
- Start foam roller directly below hip on outer thigh
- The down leg you are rolling should remain straight
- Bring top leg in front with foot flat on ground
- Use down arm to roll from bottom of hip to top of knee as you slowly exhale
- Roll slowly on each side for :30-1:00
Hip and Ankle Stretch Sequence
Hold each stretch for 1 minute and focus on deep exhalation.
Wall Ankle Mobility Drill
Step 3| Get Strong
Now that we've loosened those stiff muscles around you knees, it's time to get STRONG!
We need to strengthen the muscles and joints that support our knees and keep them stable.
It's time to bulletproof those knees!
The great thing about these movements is that not only do they strengthen your knees, they are also extremely knee friendly in nature.
This means these strength movements are great to do when you're having knee pain.
They are low impact and do not require the deep knee bend that can be problematic for bad knees seen with exercises like lunges and squats.
These are a few of our go-to movements for our new members who come to us with a history of knee pain.
Remember the best thing you can do for knee pain is to move pain-free, reduce stiffness around your hips, thighs, and ankles and strengthen your hips.
Start with 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps of each exercise.