Ever have these lingering knee pains? You don't really remember any moment where you injured your knee, but this faint pain seems to come and go as time passes. Where did it come from and how do you make it go away?
This article will deal with lingering knee pain that appears without apparent sudden trauma. If you fell off your bike and messed up your knee, don't read this and go see a doctor instead.
Lingering knee pain is often due to improper care of the two big muscle groups of the leg: the quads and the hammies. We'll take a look at the quads in this post and will cover the hammies next week.
The image below are all the quadricep muscles facing you.
Yes it's in french, but you don't need to read what's on the pic. The importance is to understand the shape of the quads, where they come from and where they go.
What I really want you to get away from this is:
1. All those muscles you see form the quadricep. They all originate from a different point at the top of the leg but connect at the same point above the knee.
2. What is between the red dots. That's your quad tendon. That is where all the different quad muscles meet up.
95% of knee pain I see in people is due to tight quads. If you notice, these muscles are huge, and they all form one tendon. If you let your quads get tighter and tighter, they will pull that tendon up and it will in turn cause knee pain.
Tight hip flexors
You can see that the further left muscle attaches at the bottom of the hip bone. If you have tight hip flexors, your hips may be tilted down more than usual, which would in turn shorten that muscle. Having it shortened for long period of time will hinder your leg movement when your need to use it at full potential like during running or hiking.
So yes, paying attention to your hip flexors is important.
Ok now that you have some general understanding about your quads, how to you go about making them better.
This is a great one for your hip flexors and quads. Get in the position above and make sure your spine stays in a neutral position, it should not be arched when you stretch. Keeping the spine neutral, you can either try to push up hips towards the couch, which will stretch the quads more or try to push them forward away from the couch which will stretch the hip flexors.
This is my favourite knee maintenance routine as it require zero equipment apart from a couch/chair and is the easiest one to do.
Learn to squat properly
Learning to squat properly, with your hips going below your knees and your spine staying neutral the whole time will ensure that all muscles of the legs and hips are working properly. I have already written articles about is here and here.
Make sure that squatting to proper depth is in your training routine. You don't have to lift heavy weights with it, but just make sure you do them properly.
Foam rolling can be seen as a sort of quick fix solution to alleviate pain. It is true that after foam rolling, you may feel less pain in the quads and the knee, which is great! But foam rolling alone will not make the pain go away.
That doesn't mean don't foam roll...You can use foam rolling to make your your knee pain go away before a good squat workout.
When you do foam roll, make sure you foam roll all of the quads. Look back at the anatomy pic above and notice how the quads are at the front of the leg but also on each side.
Start with the foam roller just above the knee joint on the inside of your leg. Roll up 2 inches and roll down 1 inch. Keep rolling like that, 2 inches up and 1 down until you reach the top of the leg. Repeat the same thing on the front of the leg and on the outside as well.
Knee flexion on roller
This exercise will make you flex your knee while stretching the quads. It's a great exercise to do before a workout because it will help your quads loosen up quickly.
Place the roller 1-2 inches above the patella. Keep your core tight and make sure your hips are in a stable position. slowly flex your leg as far as you can. Do 6-10 on the inside, front and outside of the leg.
Taking care of your quads
A typical knee pain quad release session could look like this:
1. Foam roll all quads
2. Knee flexion on roller 5 flexions on each quad muscle
3. a minute of couch stretch per leg
These will take you at most 10 minutes, and remember that consistency is key for this to work on the long term!
Get moving pain free!