Treat or be Tricked by your Knees!
Tricky knees are a bit like bad pennies… Not in the sense that the pennies hurt, but rather the whole “They just keep coming up” thing. As a fitness professional, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in a casual conversation at someplace like Starbucks, listening to the self-taught gym-goer divulge their expertise with a statement like; “I haven’t squatted in years! It’s just not good for the knees.” Sometimes I just nod and pick up my Cold Brew, but usually I can’t resist responding with something like, “maybe it’s how you’re squatting that’s hurting your knees?” In any case, the tricky knee makes another appearance. Obviously, there are a lot of factors that contribute to this epidemic and a good coach really needs to get to work on things like finding out if there is movement dysfunction in the hip, assessing single leg stance, have a look at ankle mobility etc. There are important differences in dealing with a functional movement pattern that provokes pain vs. a dysfunctional one… science and stuff… but we’re not going that deep today. Instead, as it is Halloween, perhaps we can give our tricky knees a treat, and they might not be so tricky! This certainly doesn’t work in all cases (see the statement above about science and stuff) but it’s worth a few minutes of your time to try and see if it makes your knee feel better. If it does, well then enjoy your treat.
Many of you out there might be familiar with the concept of referred pain; i.e. pain felt in a part of the body other than its actual source. It turns out there are actually a few things going on in the hip that can refer pain to the knee, so let’s address one of them here today. The Gluteus Minimus muscle is the little fan-shaped culprit marked with the “X’s” in the picture below.
Those red “X’s” mark the spots we want to hit with some self-myofascial release. They are the trigger points that refer pain to the areas marked in red. A little rolling around on a lacrosse ball, tennis ball, or one of the many specially designed trigger point release balls can knock down the referred pain in the leg quite a bit. If you start out by lying beside your ball, and putting it right beside your glutes, you’ll be set up to find the right spots.
The trigger point areas will be quite noticeable when you find them with the ball you’re rolling on, because they are very tender to the touch; almost like an area that feels bruised. Ease your way into rolling this spot, breathing deeply and abdominally, applying pressure with your bodyweight, and try to imagine the sensitive tissue melting into the ball. Spend some time there, thinking happy thoughts, and when the tenderness dissipates appreciably, you’re done. Switch sides and give some love to your other gluteus minimus.
Self-myofascial release is no replacement for a good clinician who can get really deep into treating areas like this with techniques like Graston, or A.R.T., but consistent work on your own can definitely help relieve some discomfort.
And there you have it; tricky knees treated for Halloween. Enjoy!