Last week we looked at the habit many of us have of standing (and moving) with the pelvis drifting forward over the toes. This causes a lot of problems throughout the body, and has a big impact on the knees. It means the quadricep muscles at the front of the thighs are always on. And as they contract, they push the knee cap (patella) into the soft tissue behind it. The resulting friction causes inflammation, pain and the wearing away of cartilage. Instead, we look to relax the quads, get the weight back into the heels and stack the bones in a way that makes us stronger with every single step.
There is another habit we need to consider when taking care of the knees and that is always standing with the knees slightly bent. This generates inappropriate joint force and can damage both the hips and the knees. It is very common and we are almost always completely unaware that we are doing it.
So what does this all mean?
- there is a difference between locking your knee and straightening your leg
- practice standing with your thighbones all the way back, vertical without locking your knees
- the cartilage behind your knee caps will thank you for it!
- you will not be able to do it if your weight is over your toes, back your hips up, weight is in the heels
- work on this exercise without heels to really get the benefit, barefoot is great (reflect on last weeks blog - there are pictures!)
Restorative Exercise Specialist™ Barbara Loomis put this informative clip together to show you what we are aiming to achieve. There are instructions for the Knee Cap Release in the Daily Maintenance program below and on your handout.
It is not unusual to struggle with this exercise it at first. You can lean against a wall, with your feet a few feet away to make it a little easier or you can even do it in a chair. The more you practice the easier it gets. Remember you won't be able to relax the knees unless your pelvis is vertical to your knees and ankles.
Tight hamstrings and calf muscles make it harder to extend the leg without locking the knee too. Standing with knees always slightly bent really restricts circulation to the lower leg - so it starts to make sense why calf stretching regularly is good for most things - yes it even helps the knees (did I mention the calf muscle does actually go behind your knee? I didn't think so)....anyway, that leads us into your maintenance program so far:
Daily Maintenance Week 3:
(We are slowly working our way through the Restorative Exercise™ handout given out in Week 1)
Calf Stretch - 30 seconds to one minute each side, at least twice a day (if you don't have a 1/2 dome you can use a rolled up hand towel or something similar) - refer to handout
Foot Stretch - 30 seconds to one minute each side, at least twice a day - if the top of your foot is very tight you can try the chair version - refer to handout
Knee Cap Release - Start with straight legs and try to lift and lower your knee caps. Find a wall to lean against if you are having difficulty standing. Start off with the feet about 30cm away. Once you've achieved the Knee Cap Release here move a little closer. Over time (may take many months in line with all of your other exercises) you can back your feet up closer to the wall. Eventually you may be able to do the exercise vertically. You can do this one anywhere really. I often use it when I'm standing waiting for something (traffic lights, supermarket queue, calf stretch). It is a very quick reminder of whether my weight is back in my heels or not.
Many people enjoyed the foot sliders exercise we did in class last week. So here is a link to James Knight teaching it. It is a great one for establishing the link between what is going on between the soles of your feet, the back of your legs and your neck range of motion!