Do your knees hurt? Are you hesitant to dance, hike, bike, or take the stairs because of weakness or pain? Today, I want to share four key steps to preventing and correcting knee pain. Yes, it is possible! And it’s certainly something I know about. Over 50 years ago, I blew out my knees in gymnastics. If you experience knee pain, you are NOT alone!
In fact, over 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, and the second most common type of chronic pain is knee pain. So let’s talk about building a healthy habit, and banishing knee pain for good!
First of all, knee pain isn’t your fault. It might stem from a few different causes: injury, malalignment, weakness, disease…but the great thing is, much of knee pain is correctable. It doesn’t have to haunt you forever!
Step 1: Alignment
So where do we start? Well, let’s look at alignment, our first key element in preventing knee pain. You can practice perfect alignment by getting ready to sit with your feet straight forward, keeping the middle of your kneecap aligned right over your second toe. Your hip bones should be fairly in line with your kneecaps, too. Now, make sure to keep your knees apart as you sit (about a fist-width apart). I know it’s not easy!
Commonly, your knees “kiss” together when you squat…but we don’t want that! If your normal squat involves your knees touching, that can indicate hip and knee muscle weakness and malalignment. You’re going to need to work to keep your knees apart and aligned with your feet. Watch your knees as you slowly sit or stand—keep that “fist width” between your knees.
We want a nice, slow squat in order to reduce knee pain. Take it easy, with toes straight ahead, maintaining that knee space. Take a moment now and attempt to squat properly—only as far as you can without pain. Use your hands for safety, not to hold you up. See, not so hard! In about three weeks to three months, the weak-knee “wobble” and the pain will lessen and probably cease within a year.
When you squat, you are working on your balance, too. It’s okay if this is tricky. Remember, the more you use those knees, the stronger they will be! No more knee pain!
Step 2: Slow Control
Second, you want to make sure you’re using slow control when you sit and stand. You want to stand up slowly and in control, maintaining that alignment. Remember, focus on using your legs, not your arms!
If you’re used to relying on your arms, you will feel some discomfort in your legs when you use your arms less for support.
Strength and control allows your hips, legs, and back to stay strong and in control as you slowly sit and slowly stand. Plus, you’ll build your balance, which can prevent falls and protect your furniture.
Sit Like Royalty
Lots of people tend to sit like…well…a sack of potatoes—thud. Where rice is a big staple, I’d encourage patients not to crash onto sofa or chairs like a sack of rice. Whichever starch you choose to resemble, lots of people tend to flop into their seats. But if you want to protect your knees and correct that knee pain, you can’t be a sack of potatoes! Instead, work on sitting like royalty—slow, in control, elegant.
First, make sure the chair is under you. Once you find the chair, see if you can sit without the hand rests. Don’t use your arms. Lean forward gently, following our rules of strength and control, with feet back under you and toes straight ahead. Slowly stand up. You certainly may use your hands if you need to prevent pain as your strength builds.
This slow sitting and standing is great to practice. Make sitting like royalty, with excellent alignment and slow control, a lifelong habit – every time you sit or stand. You can do this!
Step 3: Ice
The third tip is proper use of ice. Numbing cold can help stop pain, increase circulation, and decrease muscle spasms, all without the side effects of medicine. I’ll talk about that in another post, but in the meantime, remember that ice is your friend!
Move the ice around the painful knee—but not over the knee cap—with ice cubes or a paper cup of ice for 1-3 minutes, until the painful area is pink and numb. Avoid frostbite! Allow your knee 45 minutes to an hour to warm up and then you may repeat this helpful, pill-free pain reliever. This procedure will relieve your knee pain.
Step 4: Massage
Last, but not least, is massage. As I built strength in my legs to stop that knee pain, I was constantly massaging my knees, for many, many years. It really helps. You can do it yourself, taking time during dull moments to massage and work those knees.
Wiggling, too, is a good trick. With feet on the floor, lift your toe, then your heel, to move your knees a bit, keeping them from getting stiff. It’s a good way to wake up your knees before you get up or sit down. You’ll want to make sure your chair is there and your knees are “awake” so you don’t go from stock-still to racing, or vice versa.
If you follow these tips, your furniture will love you, and your knees will improve! It just takes consistency and time, so keep at it!
Alignment in Action
As an example, one of my patients was a mom with three kids under three years old, with a tri-level home. She couldn’t understand why her knees weren’t getting better. In this case, overuse was her trouble, so with treatment, alignment training, massage, ice, and even going up and down stairs on her bottom, my patient was able to build her knee strength back up.
Whether I’m working with dancers, ranchers, runners or basketball players, the basic process is the same. We work on alignment and build strength to correct the cause of pain and weakness. But this kind of change can be a slow process, and it can take months to a year. Don’t give up! You can do it!
I like to think of Job 4:4 which says, “Your words have supported those who are falling. You encourage those with shaky knees.”