by Jarueba Taylor
“Oh my aching knees.” Have you said this before or am saying it now and you don’t know why. The all mighty knee joint is arguably the one of most important joint in the body as far as mobility is concerned. The knee aids in everything from standing, bending, walking, sprinting, twisting and cutting movements. Not only is the knee joint the largest joint in the body but also one of the more complex of all joints. It supports almost all of the weight of the body while still aiding in mobility. Because of its multiple uses, the knee joint can be very vulnerable to acute injury as well as injury over time due to prolonged or overuse creating wear and tear. Anyone who has had a serious knee injury can tell you how deliberating it can be. What if you fall in the category of not having a serious knee injury but constantly complain about knee pain or lack of knee flexibility? No pun intended but this can be a real pain. Not only can it limit your ability to do things like exercise and play but also your ability to get around on a daily basis.
The pain may not originate in the knee.
Most people will be surprised to find out most knee pain does not even originate in the knees. Some forms of knee pain are merely signs of other existing problems. Let’s look at six possible reasons some people may have knee pains.
1. Bearing too much weight on the joints.
One of the main reasons people have knee problems is they have too much weight bearing down on the knee joints. This is mostly common in people who are overweight or have a high level of body fat The knee joint holds most of the weight of the body so the more a person weights the more stress they place on their knee joints. if a person has a lot of body fat, that’s going to take up more surface area increasing the size of the load on the knee joints. For every pound a person is overweight, they add an extra 5-10 pounds of pressure on their joints. The smaller framed a person is the more added stress is placed on their joints. If you are carrying a lot of extra weight on your frame and your knees constantly hurt. Try shedding a few pounds for relief.
2. It doesn’t pay to be a weak ass (literally).
Who doesn’t like a nice perky butt that sits up? You are probably saying right now….” I thought we were talking about knees?” Don’t worry. I’m getting to that subject. What most people don’t know is the glutes play a major role in knee stability. Certain types of knee pains like tendonitis have a direct relationship with the Gluteus Medius. The Gluteus Medius originates in the same spot as the other glute muscles but attaches to the side of the leg. The Gluteus Medius helps with abduction (moving away from the body) of the leg. The Gluteus Medius also plays another important role, it helps control leg stability. When the Gluteus Medius does not fire properly or is weak, it can cause leg instability. When this happens the supports of the knee are forced to do the stability work instead of the glutes. This can result in pain in or under the kneecaps. The key here is to focus on some exercises or movements that specifically target the glutes. Exercises like glute bridges, step ups, glute kickbacks and band abductions should be a regular part of your exercise regiment.
3. Can’t move the hips.
This is similar to number two but this time it is related to the hips. When the hips are not stabilized properly the hips cannot rotate properly. Weak hip stability forces the thighs inward. This forces more direct pressure on the knees resulting in pain. The goal in this instance is to develop stronger and more flexible hips. Strengthening and flexibility exercises like Sumo squats, sumo deadlifts, abduction movements, single leg vertical leg presses, and hip flexor stretching should be regularly used to strengthen the hips.
To help with this problem a person should focus on strengthening and stretching the hamstring muscles thru closed chain exercises. Closed chain exercises are exercises where the hands or feet are in constant contact with a surface. Closed chain exercises also do a better job at opening up the hips and stretching the glutes and hamstrings. Exercise like Stiff Leg Deadlifts, Glute Ham Raises, and Romanian Deadlifts are all great choices. In contrast, exercise like leg curls will not work because they don’t require the glutes and hamstrings to contract and stretch at the same time.
4. Hamstrings are too tight and weak.
Tight hamstrings can wreak havoc of the back, hips, and yes you guessed it…the knees. One of the most serious risk factors for ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries and other various knee problems is weak or tight hamstrings. A majority of ACL pains and injuries are due to an imbalance between quadriceps and hamstring muscle strength. When hamstrings are tight this balance gets thrown off even more. The result is more stress being placed on the anterior knee structures.
5. Big calves will pay big dividends.
Another reason for knee pain may be the need for calf strengthening. Yes I did say strengthening the calf muscles. The calves are made up of two major muscles. Those two muscles are the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is the particular muscle to focus in on because it is the calf muscle that crosses the knee. When calves are tight or weak, stressed is placed on the posterior part of the knee where the calf muscle crosses. To focus on the gastrocnemius you should incorporate exercises like standing calf raises, donkey calf raises, standing calf stretching, or any type of calf raiser where the entire leg is in a straight position as opposed to the legs being bent at the knee like a sitting calf raises
6. You are doing too much of a good thing.
Ever hear the saying “Too much of a good thing!”? One of the biggest problems with knee health may simply be overuse. If any type of tendonitis in the knees is present, take a good objectionable look at the type and frequency of training program being used.
Let’s take a second and look at knee anatomy. One misconception is that the patella only moves in a vertical manner. In actuality though, it also tilts and rotates. This means there are a lot more points of contact between the undersurface of the patella and femur. This possible repetitive rubbing and contact can be a big factor in tendonitis. The key here is evaluating what training methods are being used and how they are affecting knee mobility and stability.
Let’s wrap up your knee health.
Having constant knee pain can have a real negative effect on everyday life. Constantly dealing with pain and not knowing why can be even worst. Everyday, people suffer from knee pain and some do not understand why. While all knee pain can’t be simply diagnosed, understanding some reasons for knee pain may be simpler than thought. While the actual pain may be in the knees, it may be signs of other issues going on. Knee pains can be signs of being overweight, weak muscle, tight muscles, muscle imbalances, or just doing too much. By taking a closer look at other areas that affect the knees, this may lead to a closer insight of a person’s knee aches.
*Disclaimer- This information in this article is not meant to treat, diagnose, prescribe or cure any ailment. Always consult a physician before you begin any new exercise program, start, stop, or change anything that has been previously prescribed…