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Do your knees hurt every time you climb the stairs, bend over, or squat down at the gym? Does this prevent you from doing certain exercises at the gym or at home? Knee pain is one of the most common complaints i come across, that is keeping women from pushing themselves at the gym, in fear of increased pain. Today i want to dive into what is causing this pain and how we can rehabilitate the knees so that they are back in working order!
If you have an old injury that wasn’t properly treated, you may have a flare up from time-to-time. This can cause you to be really uncomfortable especially with squatting down. What is important for this particular predicament is for you to build strength in the surrounding muscles (calves, quads, and hamstrings) with isolated exercises. So, for example, instead of working your quadricep (thigh) muscles with squats, try an isolated leg extension where the force is not on your knee when your knee is hinged. Building strength in the surrounding muscles will take pressure off the joint and will allow the knee to strengthen over time. I have provided a ‘no- knee pain workout’ graphic for you to strengthen the muscles without tension on the knee.
Another huge problem that could occur is muscle tightness (especially in the hip flexor muscles and the IT band). If you have a job that requires you to sit most of the day, your hip flexors are most likely too tight. This stops you from fully extending your hips, making it difficult to properly contract your glutes- which will lead to your knees buckling in when you squat.
When your hip flexors are tight, you can also experience back pain. Also, when your hips are tight, the muscle that goes across your hips and knee changes pull direction when it is contracting, and causes pain and tightness in the IT band. The IT band is a band of fascia that begins at your pelvis and runs down the outside of your thigh and crosses the knee to attach to the shinbone (it’s quite the piece of fascia!) When the IT band is tight it can pull your kneecap out of its groove over your knee and not allow it to glide smoothly (I PERSONALLY have experienced this type of pain and it’s not nice! It’s rude!)
To combat this I would suggest stretching and foam rolling as much as possible as much as possible.
Improper use (buckling)
The third, and most common reason for pain in our knees is from improper exercise technique. If, when squatting, your knees stay straight forward, tracking above your ankles, you probably don’t experience this type of pain. If, when you squat, your knees collapse inward, you are increasing the strain on your knee cap (and probably feel this pain). This applies to jumping movements, lunges, and anything really that has to do with the legs. Our legs are designed to be strong in specific positions and if we don’t follow that form, our joint suffer.
A few exercises to practice to strengthen these muscles so that your knees don’t cave in are as follows: glute bridge, clamshells (can be done with a resistance band), and froggie presses.
Always seek the advice of your doctor or physiotherapist if you are injured; perhaps even ask them if any of these apply to the pain you’re experiencing. Always be gentle with yourself and don’t push yourself beyond the pain you’re feeling (unless it’s the good pain of muscle contraction!)
Comment below what your favourite lower body exercise is, and if you have any questions; feel free to ask!