When your knees are in need

Relieve the pain of strains with leg lifts and nature walks


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Oh, my achin’ knees. if you do any thing physical on a regular basis, chances are you may have knee trouble from time to time. And what a pain.

Knees take a lot of strain. You only have one pair, so once they’re shot you may never be the same again. I hurt mine years ago, and now the owies pop back up to haunt me occasionally, reminding me never to get too cocky.

Footwear is important. And the way you carry yourself can make a big difference. Be gentle with your knees and they will thank you. And remember the knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone, the hip bone’s connected to the pelvic bone… wait, is that right?

What the experts say

“When people have knee problems, I look at their gait. How are they walking? Knees are affected by the feet. I find a lot of people walk like ducks, just putting their feet down. Moving through from the heel forward and actually lifting off the ball of your foot and through your toes is one way of managing knee problems. To be with your knees, pretend you’re riding on a bus , standing and holding the pole or strap, and allow that subtle bouncing . This can really help bring awareness to keeping the backs of your knees soft.”

NADINE FELDMAN , certified Trager practitioner, Toronto

“The most common complaint is patell0-femoral syndrome, pain behind the kneecaps. This can be the result of a problem with alignment or mal-tracking of the kneecap in its groove. It can also come from overuse or landing on your kneecap. The symptoms are pain climbing stairs, sitting with bent knees or squatting or kneeling. It’s treated with exercises to build up muscles around the knee and improve flexibility. Things that happen more suddenly are ligament tears. The most problematic is the anterior cruciate ligament, which can tear if you plant your foot and then quickly change direction or pivot. Once it’s torn, it stays torn. There are exercises, but if you want to restore your knee, we do a reconstruction to make a new ligament .”

IAN COHEN , sport physician, David L. Macintosh Sports Medicine Clinic, University of Toronto

“Walk on uneven surfaces. Our knees get pounded and overused because we tend to lock them when walking on hard, flat surfaces. Many people have stiff and inflexible ankles because of restrictive and unsupportive footwear. Flexible ankles take the brunt of impact off the knees. Softer knees will not only help protect you from knee problems they are also a great benefit for the back. Try leaning against a wall with your forehead and hands. Place one knee in the crook behind the other . Gently encourage the front knee to bend by pushing the knee in back forward. Let your hips sink and your head slide downwards on the wall. Then walk a little and see if there is more bend in your knees. Find time to walk in nature on softer and more varied surfaces. ”

JUDY KATZ , Feldenkrais practitioner, Toronto

“Over-stretching can cause ligament injuries. Cartilage tears are caused by pressure from twisting and turning, usually during sports like squash, skiing or anything that involves short, quick turns. Tendon strains tend to happen more from overuse. Incorrect athletic training, poor equipment and footwear can lead to knee problems. Change your footwear frequently if you’re a runner. And muscle balance around the knee is very important. Strengthen the inside quad and stretch the outside portion of the quad . Tight hamstrings can lead to knee problems. You shouldn’t sit at your desk all day, then work out without stretching. You also want to make sure the calf muscles are stretched .”

DEIDRE PRETLOVE , physiotherapist, Personal Best, Toronto

“A great exercise for achy knees is to strengthen your inner quadriceps muscle , also called the vastus medialis obliquus or VMO. Sit in a straight-back chair with your feet on the floor. Straighten one leg so your ankle is in the air. Slowly turn your toes out and continue to hold your leg up and foot out for five seconds. Alternate with the other foot and repeat five times. If your knee pain is new and not severe or disabling, start by resting and icing the affected knee. If you don’t notice any improvement in three to seven days, see your doctor, chiropractor or specialist in sports medicine .”

KAREN JONGEDIJK , chiropractor, Oma Chiropractic, Toronto

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