Those who know me will agree. I’m a pretty active adult when it comes to exercise. I always have been. It is who I am. I frequent the gym practically every day participating in all sorts of things from cardio machines, step aerobics, interval, and kickboxing classes. I also lift weights and I go to those barbell resistance classes. I do Pilates and a lot of yoga. Not only do I take classes, I often instruct them as well. But it’s not all in the gym, I also like to walk my dog especially on nice days and since I live in Colorado I often hike during the summer.
All this activity takes a toll on my knees. Sometimes I feel tenderness in my knees. At other times, I can be in a lot of pain usually around my knees and thats no fun. I can even say that on occasion, walking down the stairs really hurts. Overall, pain came and went. No one can continue like that for long. Nope, not even me.
Oh, I’d go to the doctor and he/she would say rest it up and here is a prescription for Motrin. Apparently, I hadn’t broken or tore anything. Really?
But my knee really hurt. In talking with active others as well as doing research on my own, I know that I am not alone with my knee issues. I also understand that my situation is unique to me. However, some of the things that I present below may be right up your ally and thus I share.
I have learned that there are things or self care measures that I can do to alleviate the knee pain or at least lessen the pain intensity. And all of these techniques are 100% doable and in my control (or yours)!
1. Patella Brace:
In my late 30’s, I’d gotten to the point where I couldn’t fully teach step aerobics class doing moves like “Across the Top” because that really hurt my left knee during the move. Sometimes, it felt like my knee cap was slipping off. It also hurt to run which was a problem because at the time, I was in the Air Force and being fit as well as running is a job requirement. Plus, I really like step aerobics and being fit. Instead, I had to cue vs. do and as such I was frustrated big time! In my mind, something had to change and fast.
Long story short, a coworker introduced me to the “Patella (Runner’s Knee) Brace” and well I was desperate enough to give anything a try. So I did. It wasn’t an overnight cure by any means but I did notice shortly after introducing it that I could get back to the exercise intensity that I strived for and not be in pain.
All in all, it is a little strap that I secure under my knee cap and it provides the support I need. I can do all the intensity cardio and experience way less to no pain during as well as after exercise. Now, I swear by the brace when I do any intensity cardio. I won’t do that type of cardio without it! Nice thing is that it is an under 10 dollar fix and you can easily find them at Walgreens and sporting goods stores. I have several and I highly recommend it!
2. Modification/Lower Intensity/Less is OK:
I’m in my 40’s so I feel sore and suffer pain much more so after doing high intensity moves than I did when I was 20 something. But I like to do interval or Bootcamp like classes at least once a week because they are challenging and effective. And I do own the “Insanity” DVD exercise program. However, I just need to listen to my body (something I learned in yoga) and choose the best option for me.
So instead of jumping alternate lunges, I do the lunge without the jump. Instead of box jumping for a full minute all out, I do several then a few step ups and then back to the box jumps. Same thing applies to those tuck jumps. Also, I realize that it is not smart for me to do this type of workout more than once or twice a week. I think you get the idea.
3. Extra Padding:
In yoga, there are quite few poses that are done with your knees on the floor. Mats are usually on wooden floors. Things like “All 4’s” and even “Child’s Pose” really put uncomfortable pressure on my knees. What I’ve learned is that I needed extra padding under my knees but the whole mat didn’t need the extra padding. Now I use two mats. One is folded in half and the other is laid on top of it. Now on the knee poses no longer present painful moments and my yoga practice is the way it is supposed to be.
4. Tightness Elsewhere Presents Issues in Knees:
This is something my personal trainer brought to my attention and advised as well as showed me the importance of a foam roller. Roll out and hit all areas of the leg above and below the knee. Just know up front that rolling out can be intense; however, the foam roller is a wonderful tool to loosen up those tight muscles.
5. Exercises/Stretch it Out:
Any Yoga poses and stretches that focus on stretching the hips, hamstrings, calves, and Iliotibial band (IT band) definitely help. Stay in these for 10 breaths which is approximately 30 seconds.
Pigeon: All the versions are great hip and gluteal stretches…prone, supine, seated in a chair, and standing.
Angle Pose: This is different than a lunge because both feet are on the floor and it presents a wonderful calf stretch.
Half Lord of the Fishes: The bent leg crosses over the straight leg.
Butterfly: This is a great inner thigh stretch.
Dancer or Half Bow: This is a wonderful stretch of the quads or front of the leg.
Seated Head to Foot/Knee Pose: This is great for the hamstrings. Make a figure 4 with your legs and fold over your straight leg. (You can even do forward fold both standing and seated).
Crossed Legged Fold: Cross your legs and take arms overhead and pursue a side bend (If left leg is in front, side bend towards the left so you are actually stretching out the right leg which is behind) then come neutral and fold forward. This is awesome for the IT band!
So there you have it, five things you can do in addition to doing R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) or taking a less intense day. Using a brace, modifying intensity, providing padding, rolling it out, and stretching it out are all easy to do self care strategies with regards to easing knee pain. Because let’s face it, not moving is NOT an option!
All tried and true by yours truly, namaste,