by Dr. Erin Carr, October 23, 2013
As a physical therapist, knee pain, is probably one of the most common areas for injury when seeking physical therapy treatment. Why is this?
The knee acts as a shock absorber. It plays an important roll whether you are doing a regular daily activity like sitting to standing or walking. More complex movements may include going up and down stairs, running, jumping or cutting. However, the knee is often the culprit for injury, often times seen in females more so than males, as females have a wider pelvis that can create more torque on the knee. Keeping this in mind, there are many muscle attachments at the knee joint, some connecting the knee to the hip, others connecting the knee to the ankle. With that being said, it is important to note that checking the function of a patient’s hip and ankle is just as important as evaluating the knee.
Have you ever sprained your ankle? Had a fall? Bumped your shin on a coffee table?
All of these factors can potentially affect your knee’s function. Your body works in concert within itself. It’s smart. If one area of your body gets bumped, bruised or injured a domino effect occurs sending signals to the brain. As a result, your brain will tell another part of your body to tighten up. Work harder. Compensate. Although this is helpful and can provide temporary relief, over time, this imbalance can affect other joints negatively.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help prevent knee pain:
1. A Strong Derriere: Strengthening your butt, bum, booty, however you would like to call it, is essential when preventing knee pain. These muscles are the largest in your body, supporting your back, hips and legs. They should activate during simple tasks like sitting to standing or walking up stairs. Unfortunately, most of us find ourselves sitting day after day, all the more reason to work these muscles regularly.
2. Balance: Have you every tried standing on one leg? Whether in a yoga class or not, balance exercises help us understand where our body is in space. The small ligaments in our ankles, knees and hips have receptors that constantly communicate with our brain helping bring more awareness back into our joints. This awareness helps build strength and can help in the prevention of injuries.
3. Control: Have you ever noticed that it is sometimes easier walking upstairs vs. downstairs, or up hills rather than down? The difference? Gravity. Gravitational pull is strong and without strong thigh muscles, aka quadriceps, gravity can take a toll, overpowering our muscles, that place more force on the tendons and ligaments in our knee resulting in pain and injury. Eccentric strengthening is extremely important to help build control and improved function.
Understand that a chain of events occurs before, during and after an injury. This type or reaction doesn’t just occur at the knee joint, it can occur throughout our body. Listening to your body is the most important as it will help you prevent further injury from happening.
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