Knee pain is a common issue. A quarter of adults are said to experience regular knee pain, and almost all of us have felt some sort of pain in those joints at some point in our lives, whether an instant, sharp feeling or a recurring injury. So what causes knee pain, and how can we combat it?
Achy joints can sometimes be a mystery. But except in terms of sustained injury or trauma, knee pain is often down to three things: inactivity, tight muscles, or poor form.
A lack of exercise can result in stiff joints. Motion is lotion. During exercise, the brain stimulates the body to send more blood to the working muscles, and this fluid increase lubricates the joints. A more sedentary lifestyle means our joints receive less fluid, causing them to become stiff and dry.
Muscles can be tight whether you’re active or not, but stretching after exercise will really help. Failing to stretch or roll out the muscles will cause them to tighten further until they, or something else, starts to hurt. This is all too common in the knees, a joint that the quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles all connect to.
When a muscle is too tight, it will pull on the attachment point and cause inflammation. In order to isolate the muscle that hurts, try performing a movement that uses the knees (such as a squat or lunge), stretch one of the muscles, then perform the same movement and see if the pain occurs. This will help to identify which muscle is causing the problem.
Incorrect form can debilitate our joints. If you’re not engaging your muscles correctly, the joints will take the load. While joints can handle a lot of weight, after time this poor posture will pull on the tendons attached to the knee and cause inflammation and pain.
Now you know what’s causing the pain, you can try and correct it. First, if your knees are stiff from a lack of movement, then the first few exercises may be slightly painful. We tend to believe that we should stop moving if we’re experiencing pain. While this is true for a lot of cases, light movement with very low impact on the joints will actually help you in the long run.
Start with movements that utilize the knee joint but have low impact, such as cycling or swimming. Exercises like a glute bridge can also help your knees get the nutrients they need to recover.
In order to stretch the muscles out, we’re looking at mobility exercises paired with foam rolling and classic stretches. Releasing the tension in the surrounding muscles will relieve the pain in the knee. Use a foam roller on your leg muscles two to three times a week. Even acute pain can be improved momentarily.
Before going for a run, try foam rolling your legs first, and see if the pain improves.
Thirdly, correcting your form will help you to activate the right muscles and get the most out of your workout, while also preventing the wrong muscles from working and pulling on the knee joints in a painful way. Learn the correct form from a health and fitness expert or personal trainer, and you’ll reduce your risk of knee pain or injury in the long term.
Remember, these tips are merely general advice. For more serious knee pain issues seek a professional opinion to diagnose your individual case.
Maddy has worked in the health and fitness industry for 5 years. She has a bachelors in Exercise Science and has recently received her Masters in Exercise Physiology. She has worked with a wide demographic of clients as a Personal Trainer and loves helping people reach their goals and continue to grow. She is an outdoor enthusiast and dedicates her workouts to rock climbing, hiking and whatever new experiences may come her way.
Main Photo Credit: Piyawat Nandeenopparit/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Igor_Kravtsov/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Just Life/shutterstock.com