Knee Pain & How to Relieve It

I’m no stranger to knee pain. It’s why I started Pilates. You can read more about my story here. Knee pain is frustrating because you feel it often and want to find a way to fix it. If you’re a runner or walker you want to be able to keep moving and find joy in your movement. It’s still possible to do the activities you love without slowing down for a nagging pain.

There could be a number of reasons why you feel knee pain. If it’s really awful you’ll want to see a sports doctor or a specialist. They can identify where the pain is coming from and why which will lead you to a path of mindful movement.

One way to be more mindful of your movement is to acknowledge your pain.

Have you ever felt pain in your body and thought “it’ll go away eventually?” I’ll admit I’m the last person to take medicine when I have a headache. The stubbornness is real and strong and I want to will the pain away. It doesn’t always work that way though. Instead, when you feel pain say to your body “I feel my left knee hurting, I am listening.” Repeat it a few times and notice an improvement as you move! 

The body is designed to move using your hip and ankle as mobility joints while your knee remains a stable joint. Too often, we use our knee joint as a mobility joint. Take a moment and picture someone walking down the street and not bending their hips. They tend to waddle as they go. Now think of some not using their foot and ankle to push off the ground as they walk, they shuffle and drag their feet instead. In both images, the person is using their knee to move rather than having it support their femur bone, tibia and fibula.

How do you manage to not use your knee as a mobility joint and use it as a stability joint?

First, we bring awareness to our body and how it works. Your knee is meant to flex (bend) and extend (straighten). Your ankles and hips do the same plus rotate. If you step off a curb and catch your balance it’s because you rotated your ankle externally. You may feel a slight pain in your ankle and overall you regain your posture and keep going. If your knee were to react the same way it can result in a tear, sprain, or strain of the ligaments that surround your knee.

Second, here are a few images to imagine when walking and running. Walk around the house and feel your heel touch first and then image you push a pedal down with your toes as you step off your foot. Think of your feet having springs as you walk giving you a lightness to your step.

Next, lie on your back with your knees bent. This movement is really simple and really effective when you focus your mind on the action. You will lift one foot and bring your knee towards your chest. As you lift the foot try to bend your hip before your knee. Then extend your leg out in front of you off the floor. Focus on extending your hip before your knee. 

Lastly, stay on your back for a shoulder bridge. Before you start, try to pull your heels closer to your butt (figuratively not literally) and as you lift your hips keep your shins reaching forward. This exercise uses your glutes and hamstrings and mobilizes your hips. 

Shoulder bridge on the mat.
Shoulder Bridge on the mat.

To receive more tips for relieving knee pain, click to view this month’s video tutorial!

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