Updated: Nov 5, 2021
If you struggle with knee pain, you know that it’s often not an easy fix and it’s also really not fun. There are many types of knee pain as well, so it can be hard to figure out what’s best for you and how to overcome this limitation. If you’re recovering from knee surgery, meniscus tears, or acute injury to the knee then at least the reason for the pain is obvious and oftentimes there are pretty good outcomes from diligently following the exercises from a physical therapist, along with maybe some massage, or acupuncture.
The clients that I tend to work with usually struggle with a different kind of knee pain. This type of knee pain is generalized knee pain, often without a direct cause, often along the lines of chronic aches and pains. I had a client once with excruciating and debilitating knee pain. She had gone to her doctor, she’d had x-rays taken and they didn’t find anything wrong. Osteoarthritis of the knee is another label that's generally akin to the term ‘wear and tear’ and I’ve worked with plenty of these knees and their owners.
So what's to be done with this type of generalized knee pain? Today I want to give you my top 3 tips for working with your own knee pain along with the elephant in the room that most people (and professionals) are missing when it comes to knee pain. It’s so simple and so common sense that it’s mind-blowing how often it’s ignored.
So here it is; the way your foot functions as it navigates the ground is dictating the movement potential and function at the knee. Dictating is a strong word. Just throwing an orthotic in there is negating the opportunity to teach your foot how to do its job better. Doing exercises that don’t address this primal movement relationship are potentially a waste of time. So what do we do instead you might ask?
Okay, here are some simple tips and tricks that you can start implementing today to better understand and also alleviate your knee pain.
Tip #1. Start checking your foot pressures as often as you can- it only takes 1 minute.
‘Foot Pressures’ are a really simple and quick way to check in with your daily posture and assess for yourself how your body weight is distributed into the ground. This is step one for connecting the dots between the foot and the knee. The most common relationship is going to be knee pain associated with the foot that has more weight distributed towards the front and the inside part of the foot. There’s plenty of other scenarios, along with the foot pressure in one foot simply being really different from that in the other foot.
Tip #2. Does your pelvis move? How about your spine?
Think of a lizard or a wave in the ocean… if the pelvis is moving well then this movement will roll up through the spine all the way up to the skull. And if your pelvis doesn’t move, or if your spine is stiff and rigid then it can have a direct effect on the amount of force going into the knees. The knee is simply stuck between the foot and the hip, so a big part of knee health is actually in making sure everything else is doing its job. Spend a week or two religiously (and gently) bringing mobility into the spine and hips. Think cat cow, foam rolling, gentle backbends, and twists. How do your knees feel after this type of mobility work?
Tip #3. Twist toward your knock knee
Have you heard of the term knock knees? This is when the knees roll in towards each other. Sometimes one knee will do this more than the other. Simply writing about movement can be tricky (and I plan to be posting more videos here soon as well) but this one is so simple I think you can manage just from reading a few short paragraphs.
You're going to twist toward the knee that’s more rolled in. If your right knee is more rolled in than the left one, then you're going to twist your body toward the right. It sounds ridiculously simple, but trust me… there is a wealth of knowledge to be learned from this. While you're at it you could twist the other way just to see what happens. I want you to pay attention to what's different on one side versus the other. Does this movement twist all the way down into the foot and past the knee? If the answer is no then we have some work to do.
As always, go slow and never push through pain or discomfort. Always consult a trained professional that can help you with your specific needs as this information is not meant to replace direct consultation. With that said I think too many people hand over their health to a professional without first asking their body for information and cultivating a deeper sense of awareness.
One of my favorite things about the way that I work with clients is that it’s always about self-empowerment and self-awareness, becoming your own healer and advocate, while at the same time using a map of functional movement mechanics and specific primal patterns to address movement limitations and restore a better option.
In movement and stillness