Knee pain can be idiopathic and can oftentimes come along without warning.
It can be a nuisance, particularly for those who are wanting to engage in active lifestyles.
Your first instinct will of course to see a specialist and discuss your options. If you can walk and be mobile, you will most likely be prescribed physiotherapy, which you will probably need to pay for.
Surgery will not be considered until you are above a certain age bracket, or unfortunate enough to have undergone a devastating injury where you are unable to walk.
This is not to say physiotherapy is your best option or not, people have a lot of success within these prescriptions.
BUT, before going to see an expensive physiotherapist, which I have mentioned before:
Physiotherapy focuses on the prevention of pain rather than improved mobility.
Potential Causes Of Knee Pain:
- Weakness of the quadriceps
- Weakness of the Hip flexors/ abductors
- Isolated vastus medialis oblique (VMO) hypotrophy
- Tight quadricep(s)
- Tight hamstring(s)
- Tight calf/calves
- Weak or poor ankle mobility
If you are mobile and able to move freely, improving these deficiencies could well be key to your knee pain being resolved.
Weakness Of The Quadriceps
To improve the strength of the quadricep, without putting tension on what is probably an already sore knee you could perform leg extensions. Leg extensions specifically focus on the quadricep engagement.
Dependant on the severity of your pain you could start with the weight very light and isolate one leg at a time, making sure you try to get a big a range of motion as possible that is comfortable for you without feeling any pain.
Weakness Of Hip Flexors/Abductor Muscles
The most effective way to improve in this area, is to increase the range of motion by undertaking mobility exercises.
The simplest method, which requires no equipment is a seated straight leg raise.
How to perform:
Sit on the floor in an upright position, with one leg extended and back straight.
- Hug the other knee to your chest.
- Engage your core and turn the other leg slightly outwards.
- Begin to slowly lift your leg off the ground.
- Hold for one second and then slowly lower leg to the ground.
- Perform 2-4 sets per side until failure.
Start off slow and if you feel a pinch or sharp feeling in the front of the hip, stop immediately and see a rehab practitioner to assess your hips.
The abductors can also be strengthened by using another body weight exercise, which can again be performed without any equipment. The exercise is a supine side leg raise.
How to perform:
- Lie down on your side on the floor. Your spine should be in a straight line, with this line followed all the way down to the bottom of the leg.
- Place your arm straight on the floor under your head or bend your elbow and cradle your head for support. Place your left hand out front for extra support or let it rest on your leg or hip.
- As you exhale, gently raise your left leg off the lower leg. Stop raising your leg when you feel the muscles flex in your lower back or obliques.
- Inhale and lower the leg back down to meet the right leg. Stack your feet again.
- Repeat 10-12 times, then switch to the other side.
The VMO (Vastus medialis oblique) is better known as the tear drop area of the quadricep. If this area is not properly developed, then this can be a cause of knee pain.
This area can be strengthened with correct training protocol but cannot be specifically targeted.
Increasing the strength in this area will come in the form of compound exercises and quadricep isolation exercises such as squats and leg extensions.
Make sure you are training your leg muscles effectively, with high rep ranges and higher volume.
When performing squats, an elevated heel will allow more tension to be placed on the front of the anterior section of the upper leg and therefore improve the strength and size of the VMO.
Any exercise which initiates hypertrophy in the quadriceps will be beneficial.
The quickest way to resolve the issue of tight quadriceps, hamstrings or calves is simply by stretching them to lengthen permanently.
This will not be an overnight fix, but more a subtle change which will take place over several months.
- Lying quad stretch
- Standing quad stretch
- Kneeling quad stretch
- Lying hamstring stretch
- Sitting hamstring stretch
- Standing hamstring stretch
- Downward dog
- Lunging calf stretch
- Lunging calf stretch
Another area of the body which is closely linked with balance and therefore a potential decrease in knee mobility and pain is within the structure of the ankle.
Weak Or Poor Ankle Mobility
Consider that if you were turn your toes in and out, the ankle either flexes or extends.
If you have had an ankle injury in the past which is has not healed properly, then every movement on foot you make could be causing the knee to invert or be under constant tension because of this.
Therefore, ankle strengthening, and conditioning realignment exercises could be a vital part of releasing any tension which is being placed on the knee because of the imbalance.
Ankle mobility exercises:
Soft and uneven surface balancing
- Take a bosu balance trainer (Or just half a bosu) and start by standing on it with both feet.
- Slowly raise one knee so that only one foot remains on the bosu platform.
- Once the knee is at a 90-degree angle, remain balanced for 30 seconds.
- You may find yourself moving side to side, but this is all part of strengthening the ankle
- If you are unable to do this, stand next to a wall or something stable to grab onto when balancing on one foot.
- If you do not feel confident or comfortable balancing on one side, then you alternatively stay on both feet and try catching a medicine ball which can be lightly thrown to you by a partner. This will shift your bodyweight when catching the ball with less chance of you falling.
A regular stretching routine for flexibility/mobility should be considered whether you are suffering from injury or not. Focus on prevention and not reaction to injury.
Looking for a specific programme dedicated to the relief of knee pain?
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