Sore Knees? It's All About The Foot and Hip!
Confession time – I observe people's gait! How somebody walks is the definition of gait. If I find something off, like one foot is turned out more than the other, I may approach them – even strangers. Walking back to the office after lunch a few weeks ago, I found an interesting gait. To my surprise, the person ended up walking with her friends to the same building and on the same floor, where I have my Nordic Body administrative office. A few days ago, when she was alone, I approached her, and she was quite open to my suggestions. Very cool. Everything I had observed turned out to be accurate and affecting her knee. I was even able to pinpoint which knee she had a problem with. In her case, it was the foot that made the knee compensate by caving in each time she took a step. Do you want me to take a look at how you walk? Send us a max 30-second video (your walk from the front, side, behind) to [email protected] and add "Observe My Gait" in the subject line.
Daily Routine - Self Massage
Ever since the day I became certified by NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) in 2000, I have foam rolled my body pretty much daily. Even one of my sisters in Sweden keeps a roller stored for me when I visit. Foam rolling can best be described as self-massage (with a foam roller), and it is considered to be a way of stretching the muscles. Static stretching (holding a stretch for 30 seconds to allow lengthening of a specific muscle) is not always the most efficient way to loosen up the muscle. Imagine you have a knot on a rope, and you keep on tugging on it (stretching) from both sides. Does the knot get tighter or looser? Correct, tighter! Applying pressure to that knot should loosen it 50-70% after 10-60 seconds. That's why you want to foam roll your body BEFORE warming up before a workout and save the static stretching to the end unless you have one side tighter of a muscle group. In that case, you can do static stretching only on the tighter side before the workout. For example, let's say you have a tighter hip flexor on your right side compared to the left side. Hold the hip flexor stretch only on the right side for 30 seconds. AFTER the workout, you stretch BOTH sides, starting with the right side. If it's still tighter than the left, you stretch the right side twice (2 x 30seconds).
- Foam roll
- If needed – static stretching ONLY on the side of the muscle group that is tighter
- Warm-up (3-5 minute cardio to increase the body temperature)
- Workout (main activity)
- Static Stretch
All Roads Lead to Rome
You have muscles coming UP from the foot crossing the knee, and you have muscles coming DOWN from the hip attaching by knee or crossing it. The knee is like ROME – all roads lead to Rome. In taking care of the health of your knee, you want to foam roll all four parts of your upper leg – front, side, inside, and back. Include the lower portion by using a different technique if you lack the core strength to foam roll from hip to foot. For more information on how to foam roll, check out my book Nordic Walking published by Human Kinetics in May 2009. Nordic Walking Book
One of the most easily injured joints is the knee. We can fracture the bones surrounding the knee, tear the meniscus, have inflammation in tendons, have too stretched out ligaments resulting in instability of the joint, and last but not least have arthritis much due to wear and tear. The knee is made up of four main things: bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons.
Bones. Three bones meet to form your knee joint: your thighbone (femur), shinbone (tibia), and kneecap (patella).
Articular cartilage. The ends of the femur and tibia and the back of the patella are covered with articular cartilage. This slippery substance helps your knee bones glide smoothly across each other as you bend or straighten your leg.
Meniscus. Two wedge-shaped pieces of meniscal cartilage act as "shock absorbers" between your femur and tibia. Different from articular cartilage, the meniscus is tough and rubbery to help cushion and stabilize the joint. When people talk about torn cartilage in the knee, they are usually referring to torn meniscus.
Ligaments. Bones are connected to other bones by ligaments. The four main ligaments in your knee act like strong ropes to hold the bones together and keep your knee stable.
Collateral Ligaments. These are found on the sides of your knee. The medial collateral ligament is on the inside of your knee, and the lateral collateral ligament is on the outside. They control the sideways motion of your knee and brace it against unusual movement.
Cruciate ligaments. These are found inside your knee joint. They cross each other to form an "X" with the anterior cruciate ligament in front and the posterior cruciate ligament in back. The cruciate ligaments control the back and forth motion of your knee.
Tendons. Muscles are connected to bones by tendons. The quadriceps tendon connects the muscles in the front of your thigh to your patella. Stretching from your patella to your shinbone is the patellar ligament. Some resources call it the patellar tendon, which is why I keep it here.
Time to Practise
Unless you have had an acute knee injury, either the foot or the hip can cause pain in the knee. Where the ache is located is not always where the source (the reason) for the discomfort can be found. As mentioned earlier, in this case, it was the turned out foot that caused the knee to cave in based on a quick assessment. A joint is always a weak link, whether on a body or a piece of equipment. From your foot to your hip you have three main joints and the one in the middle – the knee – has to obey what happens either at the hip or down at the foot/ankle. A good rule of thumb is to keep a straight (invisible) line from the end of the hip bone (1), middle of the knee cap (2), and the second toe of your foot (3) when you're sitting down/standing up (= a squat exercise). You probably sit down and stand up 100 times a day, so for me to tell you to practice, it may sound amusing. Nevertheless, let's do it – maybe you'll discover something about your body that you have never been aware of before. And perhaps this will be of such value that it will allow you to save your knees from future pain.
- Place a chair in front of a mirror
- Stand in front of the chair, ready to sit down safely
- Best to be barefoot and to wear shorts
Lower Body Check List
- All ten toes looking straight ahead
- Rotate thighs outward
- Feel lifting of arches
- Feel engagement of buttocks (gluteus)
- Ankles in neutral (refer to February article)
- Invisible line 1,2, 3 (joints loaded on top of each other)
- Sit down counting to 4
- Stand up counting to 4
- Same but on a single leg!
What did you discover? Did your knee cave in? Did your foot turn out? Did you lean to one side? Do you want me to take a look at how you sit down? Send us a max 30-second video (of you sitting down from the front, side, and behind) to [email protected] and add "Observe My Sitting Down Technique" in the subject line.
Specializing in Correcting Muscular Imbalances
I have had the privilege to work as a personal fitness trainer with the 50+ market for more than 25 years. It's been an excellent observation of what can happen if you listen or don't listen to your body. Good things can happen when you don't give up the search for improvement. You keep being stubborn about seeking alternatives when an injury persists. I've seen incredible results from clients adjusting and accepting instead of giving up. If you don't maintain the muscles healthy and flexible around the knee joint, it's been my experience that the lack of stability can force you into what I call a "sitting walk." You never straighten out your knees fully (don't hyperextend!) as you stand up. There's a disconnect between activating the front thigh (quadriceps) muscle to stretch the back of the thigh (hamstrings). Of course, this disengagement can also be related to nerves not reaching the muscle for various reasons. I hope this article has given you some ideas, with which you can start working. Please feel free to always contact us at [email protected]
Share Your Story
The goal is to create a community of wisdom. Please share your story! Contact us [email protected] and let us know about your knee problems and how you have solved your pain. Was there a special procedure? Is there a referral to a health professional? Medical doctor? Physical Therapist? Chiropractor? Acupuncture? Massage Therapist? etc.
Practice for the Next 30-Day -- Check Your Knees
Make this month your priority to take care of your knees. If you have ignored them, let me remind you of the fact that you will need them for a very long time, so you better start paying attention to them! Enjoy discovering new things about your body as you sit and stand!
As a fitness expert for 25 years for the 50+ population, I have witnessed fantastic progress and results for people that have stayed consistent over time. I’m sure you can see how it’s all related. Weak bones, weak muscles equals pain. Strong bones, healthy muscles equals less pain and more quality of life.
According to ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), strength training should be performed at least twice a week with 8-10 different exercises that target all major muscle groups. And of course, you must do them correctly to avoid injuries. And that is exactly what the Nordic Body System is all about.
Every month you can try out my free online program Complimentary Cardio + Strength Online Session to get a taste of the Nordic Body System to see if it’s a good fit.