PREVENTING & IMPROVING KNEE PAIN
Knee pain is a common complaint that affects people of all ages, and often caused by either a one-time acute injury, or can be caused by repetitive motions that stress the knee over time, especially as we age. Knee pain can often turn chronic, affecting one in five people in Australia, caused by injury to the ligaments or cartilage, arthritis, gout and infections.
There are some steps you can take to prevent and improve knee pain and injuries, to minimise the problems and difficulties associated with knee pain. If you’re already experiencing knee pain, or want to prevent it in the future, read on!
To prevent knee pain, as a general overview, lifestyle is key. We often, when we’re in pain, want to stop moving all together, but it is now clear that maintaining movement and strength in the associated areas is key. Knee health can be dependant on functionality and mobility of muscles surrounding the joint, as well as the joint health itself, so movement is such an important component to ensure you are doing what you can to maintain or improve the state of your knee.
There are also specific exercises and mobility stretches and release work that is important to prevent knee pain that you can do, that make a real difference.
If you are experiencing knee pain, it is important to have the cause determined, so booking in for an assessment and treatment is a good idea to ensure you are getting to the bottom of the knee pain, as well as having the right treatment plan in place for your particular condition.
It may seem contradictory, but research has shown that exercise and movement actually helps relieve knee pain, however, it is important you have been assessed to identify which knee exercises can be helpful or harmful for your condition and individual presentation of your knee pain. The exercises below are general and simple for the prevention of knee pain, and there are many more that can be incorporated into your program.
We focus on and recommend approaching your knee pain like this: Loosening off the tight areas and strengthening the weak areas of the surrounding muscles and tissues. Below are a few exercises that you can add in now, to help prevent knee pain.
CALF/ HAMSTRING/ GLUTE SPIKY BALL RELEASE
Releasing your calf muscles, hamstrings and your glutes is paramount for preventing and managing knee pain and injuries. A key is to keep the surrounding tissues and muscles mobile, flexible and released, enabling better use, contraction and activation of the muscles surrounding the knee joint. This enables better structural support and awareness in your lower limbs which really helps in the prevention and management of knee pain. You can do all of these areas seated on the ground, putting the ball underneath your body weight, and leaning the body into the ball. For the glutes sitting on it, with your knees bent and your arms behind you to release off all aspects of your glutes. The key is to find a spot and let it sink in, and then slowly shift to the next spot. Do not just roll around, this can be quite aggravating and more often than not, the muscle actually doesn’t relax off.
CALF, HAMSTRING AND ADDUCTOR STRETCH
Having a stretching routine for all of these areas is extremely beneficial.
- For the calf, stand on a step on one leg, bringing the heel off the back of the step so you are standing on the ball of your foot on the edge of the step. Keeping the knee straight, slowly allow your heel to drop off the back of the step to bring on a deep calf stretch. Make sure you take your time to slowly come out of this stretch.
- For the hamstring & adductors either sitting on the ground with your legs in a straddle sit, reaching forward with both arms and then reaching toward one leg for a deep stretch. You can also when you are standing, find a box or a chair, facing the object, and put your leg/ ankle up onto the box leaning forward for a hamstring stretch with the knee straight, or slightly pivot your body so you are side on to the box or chair, and you will get a stretch more on the inside of your leg/ groin and thigh (adductors).
GLUTE BRIDGING EXERCISE
This is specifically for strengthening, which will recruit the glutes, hamstrings and quads, which will start to build strength in these areas which is important for knee support and strength.
- Lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground and arms at your side.
- Slowly lift your hips off the ground, imagining one vertebrae being peeled off the ground at a time, making sure you are activating from your glutes, core and your hamstrings predominantly. It is important to ensure your knees and hips are staying in a straight line. Only go up to a point where you are not arching your back at the top of the bridge- everything needs to stay in a nice straight line so you are not activating your lower back.
- Hold the bridge at the top, really feeling the activation through the glutes, core, quads and hamstrings.
- Slowly lower the bridge down, putting one vertebrae from the top of your back down onto the ground until you reach your sacrum and coccyx. Again, ensuring you are maintaining a neutral pelvis, and your knees and hips are in a straight line.
- Aim to do about 10 reps of this exercise, 2 times.
So there you have it, a couple of key stretches and exercises to add into your routine to prevent knee pain and injuries. If you have a knee complaint or pain, it is important to get it looked at so you can ensure you are doing the right exercises for what is going on with your body.
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