Monday, December 6, 2010

Exercise for Knee Pain

Many people complain of pain in their knees. Very often, this is due to a quadriceps muscular imbalance.  The quadriceps is a group of muscles on the front of your thigh.  There are four of them (hence “quad”) that all have a slightly different lines of pull.  If one muscle in this set is proportionally much stronger or weaker than the rest, it will distort the line of pull.  Sometimes, this distortion is enough to cause the kneecap to track off course, creating discomfort or pain.
In many cases, the culprit is a weakness in the most medial muscle of the quadriceps, called the vastus medialis.  I believe that this weakness is caused by our tendency to not squat deeply, and since the Vastus Medialis is responsible for those particular degrees of knee flexion, it gets underutilized and becomes underdeveloped.  Of course, this is just my theory; I may be wrong. 
However, what I do know, is how to make that muscle stronger.  And this is an exercise that you can do right now to begin to improve the condition of your legs and specifically to help alleviate pain in your knee. 
Sit in a chair that is at the correct height.  You’ll know it’s the correct height if you can sit on the edge of the chair with both feet flat on the floor and your knees bent at ninety degrees.  If the chair is too low, you can put a pillow under you so that you sit higher, or if the chair is too high, you can place a yoga block or a few books under your feet.  Adjust yourself so that you can sit erect with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent at ninety degrees. 
Place your hands on your thigh.  One hand goes on the lateral aspect of the front of the thigh and one on the medial aspect. Then, press your foot slightly down into the floor and at the same time begin to make a slight movement forward.  It’s a very slight movement as if you were going to slide the bottom of your foot along the floor.  But don’t  move the foot. You’ll feel your thigh muscles contracting underneath your hands.
Notice that if you use a lot of force, you’ll feel contractions under both hands, which means that you are contracting the vastus medialis, but also contracting the vastus lateralis which is on the lateral aspect of the thigh.
Keep repeating this movement, only use less and less force. Make the movement less and less until you can feel only the medialis contracting.  It may take a great deal of concentration, but you want to train yourself to be able to contract only the vastus medialis.  Use your hands as feedback.  If you feel the muscle moving or getting firm under your hand, you know it’s contracting. You want to feel the inner thigh contract while feeling that the outer thigh is not contracting. 
Your foot and your knee will not be moving.  You’re only looking for a contraction of the vastus medialis.  You can do this exercise every day. Strengthening this muscle, and bringing it into balance with the strength of the vastus lateralis will help balance out the knee joint and will help reduce and eliminate that knee pain.

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