5 Things to STOP Doing to Have Less Knee Pain
1. Stop locking your knee joint.
Stand up. March 8 times, then stand still. Look down at your knees or try to feel how they are positioned. Are they slightly bent? This is generally a good thing. You have some space in the joint and you are likely using your muscles to keep your joint stable. If you should stumble, your muscles will be ready to react and help you move.
OR Are your knees completely locked out?
In this extreme position, the knee joint is at its least mobile and the bones are the most compressed position. Your body is generally using your ligaments to maintain stability. Ligaments are not like muscles. They don’t help your joints move. If you should lose your balance, it may take extra time for your muscles to respond OR you could sprain your ligaments instead.
Start standing with your knees slightly bent.
2. Stop letting your knees move left or right when squatting, lunging or stepping.
A common tip for squatting or kneeling is to make sure your knees stay behind your toes. I’ll address that in the next tip.
For now, do 5 squats as far down as you can go without pain. Look down at your knees and feet as you squat. Are your knees moving to the left or right of your feet? Are your feet moving to the left, or right? Your knee should only move forward and backward and stay in line with your foot. Your feet should stay in place.
If you are squatting down 1 time to pick something up, your knee joint may be able to take that strain. However, if you repeat excessive, poor movement patterns the knee structures (like muscles, ligaments, cartilage or bones) take on stresses that they aren’t designed to withstand. This can lead to pain!
Start to only squat, lunge or step as far as you can keep your knees and feet pointing forward.
3. Stop bending just your hips and knees when squatting, lunging, or stepping.
Wait, what? I can hear you asking! Hear me out.
As I noted earlier, we often hear that when squatting “don’t let the knees go beyond the toes.” Let’s test that.
Sit at the edge of a chair with tall posture. Keep your knee above your ankles. Try standing up while keeping your knees behind your toes. Did you almost fall back on to the chair?
Try it another way. Sit at the edge of the chair, but… Scoot forward so you knees point straight but are just past your toes. Keep your back straight and lean slightly forward. Stand up. How did that feel?
Typically, the 2nd option is easier AND doesn’t lead to knee pain. How is that possible? We’ve heard so often that squatting with knee past the toes is bad for you. But I bet you’ve been standing up that way since you’ve learned to stand up! So why doesn't it hurt? In the 2nd option, scooting forward helped you bend your ankles. This ankle movement takes away stress from the knee joint.
Start squatting, lunging, and stepping with bending at your hips, knees, AND ankles!
4. Stop stretching!
Huh? I can hear you really questioning that one! Let me explain.
Think about the properties of a rubber band where the whole band has a normal elastic feel. Imagine someone has tied a knot in the band. Stretch the band from one end to the other. What happens?
Almost the entire band gets longer, except… for the knot. The knot actually just gets tighter. So, to restore the band to its original length, you would simply untie the knot. So how does this relate to muscles?
Consider your entire front thigh muscles as that rubber band. It is unusual for the entire length of the muscle to feel “tight”. Typically, certain spots along our muscles feel “tight”. If you just stretch the muscles most of the muscle will lengthen. However, like the knot in the rubber band, the tight spot feels tighter. You can’t just cut open the muscle and untie it (what a bloody mess that would be!!!). What can you do?
Well, the answer does involve blood, blood flow as a matter of fact. Increasing blood flow to muscle can help untie the tight spot. There are several ways to do this:
- Move (hence the recommendation to warm up before stretching)
- Get a massage (awesome option and you can sleep too!)
- Foam roll the muscles
- Add mild heat to the area
Start by first warming up, then stretch!
5. Stop “Googling”.
Let’s imagine you’d done steps 1-4 and feel like maybe your pain has gone down somewhat. But it’s still bothering you and you want to know why and what else…
It’s not a bad thing to research why you might be experiencing knee pain. However, there is so much information about what’s the right exercises, which stretches, how to foam roll, what are all the different types of knee pain.
Instead of wasting time guessing and still having pain, contact an expert on movement and posture- a physiotherapist (PT). A PT won’t just look at your knee and pain, but take in the whole picture from head to toe. The PT will look at how you move, then empower you with effective skills and knowledge to take charge, move well, be active, and enjoy life!
Start living and moving better by working with a Physiotherapist!