I used to have "bad knees." I was a dancer for 15 years, had several knee surgeries, and found myself unable to kneel for long periods of time and challenged if I had to sit cross-legged on the floor by the time I was 40. Those days are gone. My knees are no longer "bad." In fact, they're strong, and pain-free, with no arthritis or stiffness.
How did I change my "bad knees" to "good knees?" I discovered Hanna Somatics.
In this post on a well-respected website about age and health, you'll see an incomplete perspective on how to get long-lasting relief for knee pain. I say "incomplete," because from my clinical experience, most people suffering knee pain don't look like the nice, neat, symmetrical "people" in the illustrations. (Don't get me wrong; knee exercises are great for those under the care of a physical therapist who need to regain muscle tone and strength due to knee surgery.)
Most people suffering from knee pain are not standing tall, and balanced.
They are either slightly tilted to one side, twisted in their torso (which causes the pelvis to shift out of alignment) or slumped and rounded forward; this is known as the Trauma Reflex. Most people suffering from knee pain are also very tight in the center of their bodies, and completely unaware of both their posture and their gait. Some people with knee pain limp and don't even know it! This kind of chronic muscle tightness that affects posture and movement is called Sensory Motor Amnesia - the brain has simply forgotten how to relax certain muscles, causing your movement to change for the worse.
Myth: Painful knees mean you have weak knees.
Doing strengthening exercises for knees can be helpful, but doesn't get to the root of the problem. Painful knees do not necessarily mean weak knees!
Painful knees often have more to do with tight, contracted muscles in the thighs (quadriceps and hamstrings) and in the center of the body than with any structural problem in the knees themselves. Unless you've had an accident that resulted in structural damage to your knees, strengthening the muscles that attach into the knee joint without also releasing accumulated muscle tension in the center of the body won't give you long-lasting relief.
Once you learn to relax the tight muscles of the back, waist and abdominals and regain a real sense of balanced alignment and an even gait, then doing certain strengthening exercises can be beneficial not only for the knees, but also for your overall health.
One of the fastest way to relieve knee pain is to regain a balanced gait.
Several things occur when your gait is uneven:
- One leg works harder than the other when you walk. This creates unequal pressure in the knee joint, which can, over time, create structural damage not only in the knee joint, but also in the hip joint.
- The thigh muscles (quadriceps) tighten strongly - often stronger than necessary - to stabilize the knee as you walk unevenly.
- The hamstrings tighten in response to what the thigh muscles are doing. The thigh and hamstrings muscles are supposed to work together in coordination, but when one set of muscles is contracted excessively and continuously, the other set of muscles contracts accordingly, making it difficult to release either set of muscles. It's as if you're stuck in a vice.
On my DVD, Pain Relief Through Movement, I instruct you in how to do the "walking lessons" (shown in the photo on the right), Somatic Exercises that teach you to release and relax the muscles of the back, waist and abdominals for easier movement in the pelvis, hips, legs and knees. These exercises come at the end of the DVD, because once you've learned to regain control of, and release the back, waist, abdominal and hip muscles you're ready to learn to walk freely again. Learning to coordinate the muscles of walking begins with the back muscles, not with the knees.