Got knee pain? Training for Warriors PDX has troubleshooting tips!
Coach Josh here from Training for Warriors Portland.
Knees are really great for running and jumping... and really crappy when they hurt all the time. If you have ever had a knee injury or knee surgery, then you already know how valuable a healthy knee is. This is an EXTREMELY brief snapshot of the knee and how to take care of it. The knee is a relatively simple joint in the body, but like everything biological it is still an amazingly complex device.
"The knee is a dumb joint," says Paul Collins, premier strength coach in Portland. Paul has been training cycling and soccer athletes since the Olympics were actually held at the base of Mt. Olympus.
What he means by this, is the knee doesn't have many purposes.
It hinges one way and only one way. If your knee has ever moved any more than that, you've probably had knee surgery. The knee is acted upon by muscles from the calf, hamstring, and quadriceps. The lateral rotators of the hip also have a role to play in knee health, as they will take the leg into external and internal rotation quite easily due to their relative strength compared to hip adductors.
I've assembled a list of activities that have helped to eliminate some of my clients' knee pain.
The fact of the matter is that tissue quality and balance of tension relationships lead to functionality. The more symmetrical and balanced an individual, the more supple, mobile and stable their movement patterns are and the less likely they are to suffer pain and injury.
Buckshot approach to solving knee pain:
Without putting you through my assessment, I can't tell you exactly where you are tight and weak, hyper-mobile or excessively rigid. Here is my punch list to troubleshoot your own knee pain.
1) Foam roll the usual suspects
Take a sturdy foam roll and give ten swipes to the quads, calfs, anterior tibialis (front of calf), IT band (outside of thigh), and gluteal muscles. Roll over each glute separately, at different angles, with the leg straight... and again with one knee bent. Many runners and cyclists will have solved their knee pain with just this protocol. If you find a tight and/or painful muscle group, you have found a muscle that has metabolic debris leftover from whatever the hell it is you do. Keep rolling it. Daily. After ten days of sequential rolling, your pain should alleviate.
2) Drill hip extension
Most of my clients (even the athletes) have unforgiving hip flexors. You can start by getting into a glute bridge, lifting the hips up high and maintaining hip extension for two minutes. If your hamstrings cramp, they are likely tight, short, weak or all of the above. If you don't feel anything in your butt, then you may have trouble activating your glutes. If your back hurts, it means you are attempting to use your back instead of your legs (nip this in the bud now and save yourself back surgery later on in life). Once you've done a two-minute drill, get back into the same bridge position and alternate having one foot on the ground. Marching back in forth with your feet, keep your hips in the air. If you drop altitude or feel pain in the low back, you definitely need to RECRUIT the GLUTE.
3) Activate the Glutes
Walk up to a wall, place both of your hands against the wall with arms extended. Lift one leg up to 90 degrees and keep it there. Use the GROUNDED leg by flexing your gluteals and driving your hips towards the wall. You should feel your glute muscles ball up and burn, your butt get nice and hard, and your hip stretch on the front side. Your bent knee should barely inch towards the wall. Do not lean in with your back, do not use the hamstring to assist. This is a glute activational drill. Give yourself about 20 reps and switch it out. It may take ten or twenty attempts to feel your glute activate. The quicker you feel your glutes engage, the better off you are. If it doesn't work, you need more tools. Leave a comment or email me if you need some more!
4) Release the Hamstrings
Lie on the ground, lift one femur (your leg) so it points straight at the ceiling. The other leg stays on the ground, flat. Place your fingers right behind the knee where the hammies meet their tendons. SLOWLY extend the knee up to 180 degrees as you slide your fingers down your hamstrings. You should feel knots, tension, and liberation as you pull any hairs out of your leg. Do this three times each leg, works best with loose shorts to access bare skin. Bonus points to those brave warriors who pull a stick or massage tool down their hamstring. Then go ahead and floss your hamstring. Best to watch a video on that one.
5) Strengthen Glutes and Hamstrings
With your activated and lengthened hamstrings and glutes, get onto the gym floor and strengthen! Hip thrusts, deadlifts, goblet squats, bird dogs, 1-legged supine extensions are all great. Whatever phase of training you are currently in, keep your form good and strength will come quickly. Returning strength to new range of motion is all what corrective exercises and stabilization are all about.
6) Stretch them bad boys out
Hamstrings, Groin, Quads, especially the evil rectus femoris are often in need of stretching. Choose your tightest muscles to stretch first, and work your way down.
Wow, I got excited and a little carried away on this post but I like it!
If you have any questions, just comment below.