Knee pain. It has happened to most of us. 1/3 of Americans will experience knee pain at some point in their lives. It is the 2nd most common cause of chronic pain and new reports show it is affecting more people each year. So, if you are experiencing a “twinge” or maybe a “tweak” in your knees, it is time to take some action before bigger issues occur.
The greatest cause of knee pain is, by far, poor body mechanics and poor mechanics are typically caused by a lack of mobility which leads to a lack of strength. For example, due to prolonged sitting, a lot of people experience a tightness in the front of their hips. This tightness in the front of the hips leads to decreased strength in the back of the leg (glutes and hamstrings), which decreases the support in the back of the knee. Without the support and strength in the back of the knee (posterior), force traveling through the knee joint is pushed into the front of the knee (anterior) and causes pain across the front of the kneecap (commonly called “Runner’s Knee”). This is not the only cause of knee soreness, but it is definitely one of the most common.
The knee joint is where the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone) come together. All 4 muscles of the quadriceps come together to form the patellar tendon which starts at the top of the knee joint, adheres to the patella as it crosses the anterior (front) of the joint until in attaches at the tibia below. The patellar tendon lies within a grooved-out notch the allows you to bend and straighten your knee without irritation. A lot of knee pain is caused when the alignment of the patellar tendon and this specially made notch go out of whack.
The inside of your knees is referred to as the medial side and the outside of your knees is known as the lateral side. Imbalances between these two sides can cause the patellar tendon the shift towards the stronger side. For instance, if you have had an injury to your knee in the past, you may remember your therapist trying to get the inner-most muscle of the quadriceps to fire. This needs to be strong, so that your patella does not start to track to the lateral side of the knee joint and cause you more pain. If this imbalance continues, a person can start to feel tightness in the IT band and other soft tissue on the lateral side of the knee while also experiencing sharp pain on the medial side of the joint. The knee has to be balanced side-to-side (medial to lateral) to stay pain-free and happy.
Imbalances front-to-back (anterior to posterior) are the usual cause of pain in the first example of our Runner’s Knee. However, we also see in the example above, that imbalances medially to laterally can cause different, but equally annoying pain. The routine below starts with releases of the most commonly tight areas of the hip and lower limb that may cause imbalances at the knee joint. They are followed by exercises that strengthen the muscles that are commonly weak in people with knee pain. This routine will not help everyone with knee soreness, but if you have been experiencing sore knees after activity or “tweaks” and “twinges”, this is a great place to start. Even if you have not had knee pain, this routine will help your knees stay happy, healthy and pain-free.