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What Do Knee & Back Pain Have in Common?

[ read time < 3 minutes + VIDEO ]

This post is a sequel to “Celebrate Life Without Back Pain."

Bill (not my client’s real name) had been diagnosed with Chondromalacia Patella or softening of the cartilage behind the knee cap. He had pain on the front of his knee when he squatted to pick something off of the floor or when he walked down a flight of stairs.

During one of our sessions together, Bill was lying on a variable incline plane and squatting with roughly a third of his body weight. It was an easy exercise for him. So when I noticed a faint wince cross his face, I asked him what he was feeling.

“It’s nothing,” Bill assured me.

“Nothing?” I asked.

“Well, it doesn’t hurt very much. I don’t need to stop.”

“But it hurts a little?” I clarified.

“Yeah. And I feel this click near my kneecap,” he added.

“Hmmm…” I paused, as Bill kept squatting on the variable incline plane. “What happens if you squeeze your hip muscles together?”

Bill tightened his hip muscles and commented that it felt awkward to do so, and the uncomfortable “clicking” remained.

“Alright,” I continued. “Try tightening your core-- like you’re inflating a balloon-- similar to how we’ve practiced.”

Bill stopped squatting and tightened his core muscles, re-tightened his hip muscles, and then resumed squatting. “I think the clicking is gone,” he said, somewhat surprised. After a few more squats, “And I’m not feeling that pain anymore!”

By turning on his core muscles, Bill had eliminated his knee pain (at least when he was squatting with roughly one third of his body weight).

Exercising the core muscles is more often seen as valuable among those with back pain rather than those with knee pain.

Many studies have shown that people with back pain can’t make their core muscles-- including the transverse abdominal muscle-- work as well when they are walking. And they can’t turn their core muscles on as quickly or with as much force when they are experiencing back pain.

While this may not be surprising, it turns out this impairment in core muscle recruitment also occurs among people with knee pain. A study was published in 2016, in which researchers asked 60 women to stand and quickly raise up onto their toes. Half of the women had knee pain, and the other half were pain-free. The ones with knee pain were not able to use their transverse abdominal muscle (one of the core muscles) as promptly.

Turning on the core muscles is critical to alleviating knee pain--something Bill learned while working with me.

The first step is effectively recruiting core muscles in static or still positions. I share how to do so in this video.

Then, the core muscles must be trained to work as the body is moving. Watch the video below to learn how to begin this type of dynamic strengthening:

To determine if working with me is a good fit for you to restore your active life, schedule a Strategy Session by clicking here.

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