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Posts Tagged ‘joint pain’

PostHeaderIcon But What if my Knees Hurt?

Knee pain can be a daunting obstacle to success in fitness. When my clients complain of knee pain, I try to nip it in the bud right away so they can reach their fitness goals without aggravating this important joint. If an injury gets worse, it can cause setbacks or even force you to stop training. The good news is that knee pain is often just a warning that you might be overtraining or moving incorrectly. If we listen to this warning, we may be able to avoid a real injury and even the need for surgery.

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In most cases, knee pain is a sign of improper exercise form, tight or weak muscles in the legs (especially the glutes), a weakness in the arches of the feet which can cause the knees to track wrong or a simple sign of overtraining and a need for a short rest.

Weak Arches

When someone tells me that it hurts their knees when they squat, I can tell right away if this is caused from weak arches or “flat feet.” If the knees buckle inward because all of the person’s weight seem to fall to the inside of the feet, this creates tracking problems because the bones are now pushing into the inside of the joint which can create pain and wear in the bones and ligaments. This misalignment, if not corrected, can wear down the cartilage on the inside of the knee joint, causing arthritis. This condition can be sped up if we add load which is why proper form when weightlifting is imperative for longevity.

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Orthotics can help fix this condition but teaching the client to activate the arches of their feet by being aware of where they shift their weight can help build up the muscles of the feet that help protect the knees. Often, the pain goes away immediately when proper form is taught

If not, there are exercises, stretches and massage techniques that can wake up the muscles of the feet that are not activating.

Weak Hips

The gluteal muscle group (buttocks) are one of the largest muscle groups in the human body and are supposed to be the most powerful. However, our modern sedentary society has changed this. The invention of chairs, beds and toilets have taken away the need to deep squat and lunge out of our lives; and unless we constantly get up and down off the floor, we rarely strengthen and stretch our hips.

This lack of conditioning can leave us with a booty that’s too weak hold up our body weight. This lack of muscle support leads to knee pain. In cases such as this, I have clients do strengthening exercises, like pilates floor work so they can strengthen their hips without having to hold their own body weight.

Clammies are a classic example:

Mule kicks are also great, though you might have to cushion your knees:

After a few weeks, the client has built up enough muscle in their glutes to be able to squat and lunge without knee pain.

Tight Hips or Legs

Tense muscles can be an issue for athletes, runners or people starting a fitness regimen. This is simply a case of overtraining with little stretching or recovery.

Using a foam roller or massage tool to release tightness in the IT band, glutes, quads or calves, along with corrective stretching usually resolves knee pain for people who suffer from overuse stress.

Rest and icing the area also helps as does addressing any muscle imbalances. Is one part of the hip much stronger than the other, leading to it doing all the work? If so, corrective exercise can nip that in the bud.

Here is an example of using the foam roller to relieve tension that can pull on the knee joint.

There are solutions

The good news is there are solutions to most knee problems that do not involve drugs or surgery. After assessing how a person moves , listening carefully to where they feel pain and how they approach their lifestyle, we can find ways to overcome the obstacles that get in the way of being fit, healthy and functional.

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PostHeaderIcon How I Cured My Muscle and Joint Pain

I always loved fitness, but the one thing that motivated me to become a professional more than anything else was pain. I remember my physical therapist telling me that I was too young to have back pain and if I wasn’t careful, my spine would just keep getting damaged. He didn’t tell me what being careful entailed. Does being careful mean staying in bed and never running again or lifting my baby boy again? I loved to run and I honestly wondered if I would ever be able to do it ever again.

I had no idea what was causing the pain, but having a background in mindfulness made me look back at all the times in my life when my back was healthy. Coincidentally, these were the times that I was consistently fit. The times when my back was in the worst shape were the times when I was the least fit or had a sit down job. Since all other health options weren’t working, I decided to get fit again. This was not easy. I had a bad back. I started by just doing my physical therapy and some low impact cardio like walking or light aerobics. After a while, the pain subsided but it still came and went. It turned out I had two degenerated discs in my lower back. The best advice anyone could give me was a physical therapist who was also a pilates instructor. She told me to keep moving and stay fit. She said if I wasn’t opting for surgery, my best bet was to strengthen the muscles that protect my spine.

What made the back pain permanently vanish? Well, that’s quite a journey. I became a fitness expert. I learned how muscles and bones worked. I learned that there were specific muscles in my core, hips and even shoulders that weren’t working right. For example, my tight shoulders caused me to have to overly arch my back in order to stand up straight. I can now spot this in my clients or students instinctively. Sure, I was told I had degenerated discs in my lumbar spine but re-establishing mobility in my tight shoulders took a huge burden off my back.

Some muscles of my hips were much more flexible or stronger than others. In fact, it turned out I had a very strong core but was overcompensating, using my back to do all the work because I had weaknesses in my legs and butt. My core wasn’t weak. It was overburdened by taking all the weight my hips couldn’t bare. I also had very tight hip flexors which pulled on my back.

I want to share this with you because I’ve seen a trend in our health care system. Insurance companies only pay therapists to work on the “one” body part that needs it. So, if your back is in pain because you have tight shoulders, you’ll get a lot of therapy for your lower back when you should be opening your shoulders. This is only an example. My knowledge in corrective exercise has taught me that it could be your feet causing pain in your knees, hips or even back, yet our health system is structured to focus on one muscle group at a time.

I was surprised when my son’s pediatrician told me that they don’t refer out people with pronated or “flat” feet to physical therapists. They just suggest orthotics. When I became a corrective exercise specialist, I learned how to re-build the arches of the foot. The reason why feet go flat is because they are out of shape. Walking in shoes and on flat surfaces with no variety has caused the arches of our feet to atrophy. Much like sitting in chairs all day can atrophy the muscles of our back, most of our chronic muscle pain is due to inactivity more than anything. Wearing special shoes or a back brace is like leaning on a cructh. You’re relying on an external object to make up for your own weakness. There are exercises you can do to fix muscular skelatal problems.

Unfortunately, like obesity, the greatest cure can’t be taken overnight. If you have surgery, it might cure a skeletal issue but if you don’t keep your muscles strong, that part of your body will just get re-injured. If you use liposuction to suck out your fat, but continue to eat more than you are burning, that fat will creep back on. The only pharmaceutical drugs prescribed to lose weight only work along with “diet and exercise”. We can cleanse the damage we do to our heart, blood and organs by detoxing on a high vegetable diet, but if we go back to our old way of eating, those problems come right back. We need to start getting real about how we maintain our health.

These days I’m back to doing all the things I love. I run, practice martial arts, jump and hike. But I also keep up a steady practice of muscle strengthening and stretching. The frailty of old age happens when we lose muscle and bone but all of this can be prevented if we take proper care of ourselves. My job requires me to be in top athletic condition and I sometimes get little tweeks in my knees, or other joints, but the good news is that I know what to do if these obstacles arise and they are usually ironed out in a few days. I’m currently in the best shape of my life because I’ve taken the time to address my weaknesses and work out smart.

A lot of people come to me after class, asking about their aches and pains, so I’m having a workshop specifically on corrective exercise in September. If you are interested in taking this workshop, click here for more info.

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