Knee Exercises for OA, degenerative meniscus, and poor patellar tracking
Do you ever get sore knees? So many people do. It's such a common problem. Our knees have a large range of motion, take the force between the ground and our body, and allow us to pivot, get lower, and frankly, get around. It is also common for people to stop exercising because they have sore knees. And really, our knees need strength and flexibility, so stopping the exercise doesn't usually help. We just have to be smart about it.
Let’s stay focused on overuse or degeneration injuries. Overuse/degeneration happens when wear and tear on a structure cause breakdown. This often happens when we are not moving properly. This breakdown means the structure cannot function properly causing pain. Osteoarthritis causes the knee to be achy almost all the time. There is a decrease in the amount of fluid in the joint, so the cartilage breaks down and becomes exposed. Arthritic knees need some strengthening of the quads and glutes (bum) to help keep them in alignment. Unloading braces can help with severe breakdown, and manual treatments can help relieve the symptoms.
Tracking issues, or patellar/femoral pain syndrome, really just means that the knee cap (patella) isn’t travelling straight up and down when the knee extends and flexes. Usually it drifts off to the outside. The biggest culprit here is muscle imbalances. The outside thigh muscles (quads, IT band) are too tight, while the inside of the thigh (adductors, VMO) are not tight or active enough. Lastly, the meniscus can degenerate as well. The meniscus is separate from the cartilage, it is a buffer between the bones to help the knee glide smoothly and absorb shock. The breakdown can cause pain in movement. Strengthening and flexibility are needed here.
The unifying problem with knees is this: the big thigh bone (femur) creates a joint with the hip and the knee. The femur is mostly controlled by the glute muscles. If the glutes and core muscles are not working well, then the femur rolls inward. This causes a lot of tension in the knee joint. Now from the bottom: if the arch is collapsing too much when you walk or run, then your lower leg bone (tibia) rolls inward. This also creates tension on the knee. If you can master having a strong pelvis, glutes, and feet, then you are helping to keep your knees in the right alignment. And this minimizes stress and pain.
Let's focus on some basic exercises that will help you control your hip and your foot. Your knee will reap the rewards of a balanced lower leg.
Knees need love, they are important for getting around and take abuse in many sports.