Do you really need a knee replacement? If you have ever watched the BBC’s Trust me I’m a Doctor, you might recall the episode where the details of an interesting study on joint pain was presented. The study lead the team to conduct an experiment which demonstrated that the most beneficial thing (for most people) was to do specific exercises that strengthen the muscles around that particular joint.
Get Active and Activate!
With knees for example, movements that activate the quad and the hamstring work really well to improve strength around the knee joint.
Understand Your Body
It’s incredibly important to take control of your own wellbeing and recovery and learn about your own body. I say this because, in my 20 or so years of teaching Yoga, I’ve known many people, who, at the first sign of a niggle – whether it’s a stiff spot in the spine or a weak wrist or a sore knee – freak out and stop practising.
As if that will make a difference.
Never Stop Moving – Yoga On!
The reality is, it’s not what you do, but the way that you do it. You can’t stop life, so undo some of those faulty movement and postural habits and keep practising Yoga!
It’s also the case that complete rest is useful if a part of your body is actually broken or sprained, but if something is weak or stiff, rest is not useful at all. In these instances, deeper inquiry and work is necessary to improve things.
Not All Joint Pain is Serious. Get it Checked Out; Take Control
A few years ago, during a freezing winter like this one, I was hunched at my desk working with my legs crossed to keep warm. This obviously went on for long enough that I noticed my inner knees started to get really sore (it’s really common for “sitters” and often related to internally rotated hips).
Being very body-aware, I realised that due to continually tensing my inner thigh muscles in my efforts to keep warm, those muscles had got very tight and short. The result was, my knees became very niggly.
Not surprisingly, I had to spend a bit of time and effort to undo it all, but it’s easy to see how someone who is used to going straight to the doctor might think, that’s it! All is lost! My poor knees! Maybe I need a knee replacement!
However, in reality, for many people, the source of annoying problems with the knees can be caused by stiffness in and around the pelvic region. It’s the result of chair culture. And it’s the kind of thing we address in our Yoga classes.
What Do Knee Exercises Look Like? You Might be Surprised…
If you come to Yoga and you remember the episode of Trust Me.. that I’m talking about, you might also recall that the “knee” exercises demonstrated in the program, pop up again and again in my classes – whether we are lying down or standing up (as in the image shown here).
Did you realise that (among many other amazing things) you were strengthening your knees in this posture though? Probably not. You might even imagine you need special equipment to improve your knee health.
The fact is, even if you can only raise your foot a cm or two off the ground, the quads and all the other muscles around the knee will switch on. This activation strengthens the knee (as demonstrated in the program). Just give the thigh a poke above the knee while practising this posture to see how firm all those muscles become).
When your leg is lifted in the opposite direction – hip extension – (ie it goes backwards not forward), this firms your hamstring. And any exercise that naturally engages the hamstring, works to protect the knee joints over the long term.
Body Weight Workout
And let’s not forget that due to the shift in gravity, your balancing leg is having to support up to 10x your actual body weight. This is a superior way to strengthen the ankles, knees and hips. It’s actually the perfect body weight workout.
Basically, you get All The Things and no special equipment is needed.
So don’t give up. Instead, continue to strengthen and lengthen in safe and appropriate ways. Your body will thank you (and maybe you can avoid that knee replacement). x