Friday, March 16, 2012

Knee pain...

...and something you might actually be able to do about it.

Knee pain can come in many forms and can come from many sources.  It can mean big problems, or it can just mean wear and tear.  There is a fairly common cause of knee pain, which we can manage on our own, and largely relieve with just a little manual intervention.

The truth is that the kneecap doesn't quite move in a perfectly straight line when we bend our knee, and the muscles in our lower quads are responsible for helping it along its path properly.  They do so by having almost a tug of war in a left/right direction to keep the kneecap on track.  If those muscles are in an imbalance, and one side begins to win or lose the tug of war too much, then the kneecap mistracks, and pain ensues.  The pain ensues because the kneecap really does move along a track of cartilage, and if it's pulled off track, it's kind of like getting the fabric of your jacket caught in the zipper...it'll go, but it's not smooth, not easy and not right.

Mostly, we tend to discover that the inside quad muscle is unable to keep the kneecap on track for whatever reason.  Often, that reason is that the outside quad muscle (vastus lateralis) is too tight.  It's holding on to too much of a resting contraction to allow the inside quad muscle (vastus medialis) to pull the kneecap into proper tracking.

That's a picture I took of myself.  Or not.


Luckily if this is, indeed the case, it's a pretty easy one to treat on your own.  You need to get the vastus lateralis to release some to reestablish the balance between it and vastus medialis.   You need to get a self massage tool of some sort, either The Stick, or a foam roller, or just your hands, and work out that vastus lateralis.  It will probably take a good bit of pressure, which can be hard with The Stick, and you might have to work through some serious discomfort and trigger points on a foam roller, but stick with it.  Give it some time.  Work on it a couple days in a row.  If it is a patellar tracking issue, you may feel some degree of relief in a single effort of just a few minutes, but it could also take a couple days before you really notice a difference.

If you are having knee pain when you  are coming up out of a squat, or running or standing up at the end of a movie, then give it a shot.  The odds are that you're not going to do yourself any harm whatsoever.