Please love your knees
Helping us to move and supporting our weight, knees do such a lot for us, but when was the last time you thought about looking after them?
You probably don’t think about them much at all, until they become painful!… And that’s part of the problem with knees, they have so few nerves in them that the damage is already done before you get the signal to tell you that they hurt.
The knee is a modified hinge joint, this means that it moves forward and backward like a hinge but it will allow for some rotation when it is bent, which is where the problems can start. When the leg is straight (be careful not to lock the knee back too far though) it provides a very stable position for the body. In this position the lower end of the femur (thigh bone) and the upper end of the tibia (shin bone) rotate against one another to “lock” the knee into place, allowing the muscles to relax, whilst the joint supports our weight. To allow the knee to rotate we have to release this lock and bend it a little, missing this stage out and trying to twist the knee when it is straight is when injuries can occur.
So, now we understand a little of how the knee joint works, what can we do to look after it? Here are a few tips:
Take care when taking part in activities, such as football, squash or dancing, that involve a lot of quick changes of direction. Ensure you don’t twist with a straight / locked leg.
When practising your yoga make sure that you do not over extend the knee past the foot, particularly when you are supporting your body weight. Those who come to our classes will be used to us reminding you to keep the shin on the vertical, in line with the ankle when we are in triangle poses, or lunges and runner positions.
Work on stregthening the thigh and lower leg muscles to keep the knee joint in place. Lots of lovely squats and lunges and for the yogis postures that use the triangle stance, goddess pose and bridge are great for strengthening the thighs, whilst chair of the heart will work the lower legs.
Make sure you work on keeping the hips flexible. Many knee problems actually originate in the hip. The hip joints become stiff and when they do not move the legs as we would like we try to get the same movement from the knee, but the knee doesn’t move like the hip!
Here are some simple moves to help keep flexibility in the knees and hips. Start by sitting on the floor, with your legs extended.
Take hold of the back of the right thigh, with both hands, skirt the floor with your foot as you bring the knee towards the body and then stretch it away again. Repeat 4 times.
Bend the right knee, let the foot rest on the floor. Keep the torso tall, exhale and gently use your right hand to ease the right hip down to the right, knee stays bent, the foot will roll as you move the leg. Inhale bringing the knee back up to the starting position. Repeat 4 times.
If comfortable repeat the above movement 4 times, this time resting the right foot on the left thigh.
Repeat moves 1 – 3 with the left leg. Notice if one leg is easier than the other.
Now try opening both hips out together. Start with the knees bent, open outwards bringing the soles of the feet together, and then back up. Repeat this controlled movement 4 times.
The knees also like to be massaged, use your thumbs and fingers to gently circle around the knee cap, not actually on the knee cap and at the back of the leg, behind the knee. This encourages the flow of synovial fluid, which we need to keep the joints moving freely.
Finally, just in case you do twist your knee, try this, it might just rescue it! Sit on the floor, interlace your fingers and hold the knee with the heels of the hand. Let the low leg relax as you hold the knee quite firmly, for about 20 seconds, keeping the foot from the floor.
Hope you’ve found this blog of interest. Until next time, take care of your knees and yourself, Ix