I’m sorry for the belated post this week! We just started filming for the “OnCall with Dr Darria” tv show, and I was waiting to post that—but as it’s still in the studio, it will be next week’s post. Stay tuned!
For this week, I thought I’d post on something that’s been troubling me, too—knee pain. I had been modifying my running stride, and in the process developed a frustrating knee pain. While being married to an orthopedic surgeon meant I did not get TOO much sympathy (I had, after all, ignored his advice to do knee strengthening exercises for some time), it did mean that I was able to get great information on both knee rehab exercises as well as strengthening ones to PREVENT knee pain, and I wanted to share them with you.
Fascinating Facts about your knee: There’s a reason why knee pain is so common—we demand a lot from it! Just with walking, your knee carries a force equal to 1.8 times your body weight with each step (hence, you can see the multiplier effect of why being overweight leads directly to knee pain). When you’re climbing up stairs, it carries 3.5 times, and going down stairs, 5 times your body weight. If you’re running, the force can exceed 10-12 times your body weight, or easily over 1000 pounds.
Also, did you know that the friction between joints in your knee is one-fifth that of ice sliding against ice?? Wouldn’t that be trouble for driving… but it means that any irritation to the surface of the knee joint increases the friction and causes symptoms.
Seven Exercises to PREVENT Knee Pain (avoid if you are currently having pain) –these are especially important for women, as we tend to have weaker muscles around our knee, making us more prone to some injuries.
You can find more details and a video at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Sports Medicine website, including instructional videos
Perform these 2-3 times per week (3 sets of 10-15), after warming up (more information at MGH Sports Medicine protocols)
- Leg Press
- Hamstring curl
- Knee extension machine
- Wall slides (hold dumbells for resistance)
- Chair Squat: sit in a firm, armless chair with your feet flat. Slowly stand up, using controlled movement. Stand upright for a second or two, the slowly sit down. Repeat for 1 minute. If this is to difficult at first (or you find you need to use your arms), instead put a firm cushion on the chair. Be careful: when you are going either up or down, don’t let your knees bend forward beyond your toes
- Calf raises
- Hip Abductor and Adductor machine
If you already have knee pain: A very common type of knee pain includes a condition known as “Patellofemoral Syndrome” in which your kneecap (patella) and the femur (thigh bone that makes the upper part of the knee) become injured/inflamed lead to pain. It occurs most commonly in women, largely because we are more likely to have weak/imbalanced strength in areas of our thighs, thus making our knees more prone to instability and pain. Symptoms include pain in the front of the knee that gets worse with going up and down stairs, if you’ve been sitting for a long period with your knees bent, or by doing deep knee bends. Also, you may notice a grinding or popping when the knee straightens. For more information on this, you can go to the MGH Sports Medicine Patellofemoral Syndrome Protocol, which I’ve summarized below (and yes, started doing myself). Of course, before you begin this or any exercise program, you should speak to your doctor to determine if you have this or a different type of knee injury.
Seven Exercises to Treat Patellofemoral Syndrome (daily):
*Avoid: going up and down stairs and hills, deep knee bends, kneeling, high-impact or step aerobics, or squats, lunges, stair-stepper machines, or knee extension machines. They also advise that you NOT wear high-heeled shoes (well, I didn’t say that I followed ALL of the instructions perfectly….)
- Straight leg lift: Resting back on your elbows, raise your entire affected leg off of the floor. Now, it’s important that BEFORE you raise your leg, you first tighten your quadricep muscle, THEN lift the leg, fully extended. Hold at 45 degrees for 1 second, then lower, relax your muscle, and repeat 20 times
- Short Arc Lift: place rolled towel under knee, lift foot until knee fully extended, hold for 5 seconds, then slowly lower, repeat 20 times
- Wall Slides: place back and buttocks against a wall, feet 12 inches apart, 6 inches from wall. Slowly lower hips and slide down wall until knees are flexed 45 degrees. Pause 5 seconds, slowly slide up, and repeat 3 sets of 10-15 times. Do NOT do if you have worsening knee pain or if there is crunching/popping in your knee
- Hamstring Stretch
- Quadriceps Stretch
- Calf Stretch
- Lateral Hip and Thigh Stretch: cross your left leg in front of your right. Lean to the left, letting your right hip jut out to the side. Hold for 15 seconds when you feel a gentle stretch
I want to hear from you–if you’re having knee pain and find these exercises helpful, drop me a line and let me know how you’re doing!