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Exercising with Knee Pain

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Exercising with Knee Pain

Exercising is a great way to live a healthier and happier life.

We all know, and understand that.  But what do we do when we don't think we can exercise due to pain?

Pain is no joke, particularly when it comes to joint pain.  

One of the most common ailments we see, and work with here at RAW Fitness in Washington Township is knee pain.  Learning how to exercise with knee pain can be a challenge for most, but it doesn't have to be.  There are ways to not only exercise with knee pain, but also to limit knee pain, and improve knee pain so that we can get back to being active, and pain free.

That is what we want to share with you today, some ideas and strategies for overcoming knee pain, and how you can start taking action towards a healthier and more active lifestyle without the "crutch" of knee pain slowing you down.

We have worked with hundreds of people in the Washington Township and surrounding areas with knee pain, how to overcome it, and how to still exercise with knee pain with out it causing more harm.  I can even attest from personal experience, that through college, I had 3 knee reconstruction surgeries to overcome, so many of these tips have been used first hand from myself.

As always, please consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise regime.  With everything stated in this article, there is obviously acute injuries and things of that nature that are beyond this article. However, some of the tips given today can still really help with alleviating some of the pain, or improve the bodies biomechanics so these injuries do not happen again.

The knee gives so many people issues, but really, it is a pretty simple joint.  It is meant to flex and extend, and help with stabilization.... that's about it!

It is not nearly as dynamic as a hip or ankle joint that is designed to move in all different planes of motion.  However, that is where lies a lot of the problems for people. Because the knee joint is not meant for mobility, if the surrounding joint mechanics are limited in their range of motion or mobility, then the knee will get pretty stubborn and try and find a way to help you get in a position to move in whatever endeavor you are tying to accomplish.

For instance, if you go to squat down, but your ankle and/or hip are limited in their range of motion, your knee will try to take some of the mobility work (it is not supposed to), in order to compensate and accomplish the squat.

Our bodies are pretty stubborn!  We find ways to accomplish moves or positions, even if it causes us a detriment elsewhere.  This theory is called the Joint by Joint Approach

As you can see in the pic above, every next joint is either meant for mobility or stability.  You can also see from the picture that when we lack ankle or hip mobility the pain, or compensation will tend to go to the knee to make up for it.  This is a perfect recipe for knee issues and knee pain.

When we tend to develop knee pain, the first instinct is to just throw in the towel.  Well it doesn't have to happen that way, and there are ways to avoid the pain, but also improve the bodies biomechanics to start to improve what is causing the knee pain.

So what do we do about this?

We want to work on what is called the length-tension relationships surrounding the joints.  What this means is every joint in our body generally has a pair of skeletal muscles attached to the joint, and those muscles should have about equal tension, or length, in terms of their range of one another.  For example, your hips have the hip flexors on one side, and the glutes on the other side.

What tends to happen to cause people to lose mobility in their hips and ankles is that one of the muscles becomes dominant and overactive, while the other becomes more dormant and underachieve.

Think like a sailboat (I am by no means a sailor, so excuse my lack of ability to give you proper terminology), if you had one Side of the sail pulling hard on the sail and the other side not holding up their end of the bargain, that sail would be extremely pulled to the one side and not do you much good to get you to your destination.

That is kind of like your joints, when one muscle is tight, or shortened, generally the opposing muscle is weak and lengthens. This puts your joints out of its natural alinement and decreases your ability for proper range of motion.

This can happen for numerous reasons, but one of the main reasons now a days are because of our lifestyles.  Sitting often, and looking at a computer screen or our phone all day are 2 very common ones.

What is happening here is our muscles get "stuck" in a position from being in that position for extended periods of time.  One muscle dominates and is always active from the nervous system firing, while the other sits back doesn't do a whole lot.  Think of it like when your doing a big project and you have the one person doing all the work (I am sure that was you), and then the other person just sitting back letting you do all the work but still getting some of the credit (I am sure that was not you).

So, when this happens there is a 3 step process we want to start to work on to fix the issue.  I will go over the 3 phases, and you will want to do this in this specific order.

The first thing to tackle is:

  1. Soft Tissue

We want to teach the nervous system to relax those muscles that are tight and overworking when it comes to the ankles and hips.  This is essentially like a massage therapy session, using pressure to relax the muscle.  It all also workout out any scar tissue, adhesions, or knots you may have developed. 

How we are going to do this is to use what is called a foam roller, or something that is hard that you can roll on, like a lacrosse ball, softball, etc. It is not going to be very pleasant but will really help.

When we roll out, we want to do it slowly, and only go over the muscles, not the joints. Think like moving about an inch per second, and when you find any spots that feel tender, try to relax that area, breathe and hold it on that spot for 30-60 seconds.

Here are the areas we want to foam roll to help our knees:

I added these all as a link to a video for you to reference. 

The second phase we want to do is...

2. Lengthen

Similar to the first phase, is we are just using the modality of stretching or lengthening the muscle tissue in order to get the nervous system to stop firing the muscle so much.

Also in line with the soft tissue work is we will want to stretch some of those same muscles:

  • Hip Flexors
  • Quads
  • Groin
  • Calves

Do this after you do the soft tissue work.

We aren't done yet though, lastly we want to...

3. Activate the weak muscles

This is the opposite side of the first 2, where now we want to strengthen those lazy muscles that aren't "pulling their weight" if you will. Here are the muscles you want to target:

When you do these 3 phases, this will help you to bring the joint back into it's proper alignment, or at least as close as you can. This should help improve your range of motion in your ankle and hips, and in result you should decrease the amount of stress on the knee joint.

Do this at least 3-4x a week, with the first 2 phases doing everyday if you can.  It is also great to do this before and after a workout to teach the body to exercise with proper form.

In the meantime, when doing exercise program you can simply avoid some of the biggest culprits of knee pain:

  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Weighted lunging
  • Weighted squats

And sub them out for some things like:

  • Bridges
  • Med ball work like slams
  • Upper body cardiovascular exercises

Hopefully this protocol really helps you so that you can get back to being pain free and living a healthier and happier life!

Let us know if you need any clarifications or help with anything.

You can email us questions at Info@madeatrawfitness.com

By the way, did you know we offer our first class free??

You can come in and jump in on a free class at your own schedule, simply go here: Madeatrawfitness.com/offer and we can send over our class schedule for you to come in and give us a try! See you soon!

Providing Washington Township & Shelby Township With The Best Fitness Training Around!

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