Every part of your body is connected. When all parts are working perfectly, the body is a well-oiled machine that helps you bend, move, run, jump, and stretch in remarkable ways. However, a problem in one part of the body can severely limit your movement and make it harder to do the things you love.
Accurately diagnosing and properly treating the source of pain can be difficult because the pain you feel in one part of the body may actually be caused by an injury in another. Pain is not always localized, and it’s important to not only understand where you hurt but why you hurt.
Your knees are one of the most important junctions in the body. Because they’re connected to so many other injury-prone areas, pain in the knee can often be caused by an injury somewhere else entirely. Below we take a look at the areas most associated with knee pain and how to address pain when it arises.
PAIN FROM A DIRECT INJURY TO THE KNEE
Many bones and key muscles, including the quads, hamstrings, and calves, form a connection between the knee, hip, and ankle. It’s easy to injure any of these connected muscles, but it’s also possible (and very easy) to injure the knee itself. Injury can occur through a direct hit to the knee bone (the patella). However, the most common cause of knee pain is overuse or strain of the knee.
How can you avoid direct knee pain? Here are a few things to keep in mind as part of your active lifestyle:
- Always Warm Up and Cool Down: If you’re short on time, you may be tempted to skip the warm-up, but it’s one of the most important parts of your exercise routine. Always allow an extra 5-10 minutes before the workout and warm up with a little light cardio. Finish your workouts with a cool down, and stretch the muscles you used to increase flexibility and to prevent injuries.
- Avoid Doing Too Much Too Soon: An exercise routine is meant to be increased gradually. If you take on too much activity all at once, you can risk all types of injuries. A great way to manage your increase in exercise is to use the 10 percent rule. In general, you should not increase your training program or activity more than 10 percent per week. This allows your body adequate time for recovery. This rule also applies to increase pace or mileage for walkers and runners, as well as to the amount of weight added in strength training programs.
- Mix It Up: Doing the same exercise day after day is one way to end up with an overuse injury. Stressing the same muscle groups and performing the same movement patterns repeatedly (i.e. running) can put a tremendous amount of strain on muscles, tendons, and ligaments. To avoid these problems, vary your exercise routine and cross-train.
KNEE PAIN FROM A HIP/QUAD INJURY
Four muscles stretch from the knee to the hip, and these collectively make up the quadriceps. When the quadriceps that are attached at the hip become injured, pain can often travel from the affected area and manifest itself in the knee. In rare cases, this can be caused by a tear, but is most commonly caused by a strain from overexertion.
Here are a few more tips to help prevent these types of overuse injuries:
- Work It Out: The best thing you can do for injury prevention is to exercise and stretch the quadriceps. Exercises that strengthen your upper leg muscles and the joints surrounding them, such as your knees and hips, can help reduce the chance of a quadriceps injury. Using a foam roller on the quads, adductors, and IT band can also help alleviate knee and hip pain.
- Remember, It’s All Connected: It’s not just your quad muscles that need strengthening. Be sure to keep your abdominals strong as well. If you have a weak core, you’re making the quads work harder than they need to, which could result in a pull. It’s also important to keep your hamstring and hips strong so that the quads are protected.
- Take Time to Recover: A quad pull is usually going to occur from overuse over time — not from a one-day session. Recovery is a key part of injury prevention. Take time to properly rest your muscles between heavy use, incorporating cross training to work different muscle groups while you allow others to rest. Remember that “no pain, no gain” does not apply here. Any post-exercise discomfort should be short-lived and not carry on for hours or days.
KNEE PAIN FROM AN ANKLE INJURY
Along with the knees, the ankles carry a majority of the stress in your body. Just like the hip/knee connection, there are muscles that stretch from the knee to the ankle as well. These are known as the calf muscles. Because of their connectedness, an injury to the ankle, heel, or foot can cause pain to the knee.
Avoiding foot pain can be difficult due to constant use, but there are some helpful tips that can limit your exposure to possible injury:
- Stronger is Better: Like all the muscles in your body, the more you focus on improving your ankle strength, flexibility, and ankle stability, the greater your chances for preventing injury to the area. There are many simple and highly effective exercises you can incorporate into your routine to prevent ankle injury, and you can check out a few of them right here.
- Proper Footwear is Key: Finding the right footwear is very important. Be sure to avoid footwear without proper support. Take the time to go to a professional and have your feet analyzed. Keep in mind that most shoes only have about a 400-mile lifespan. If you walk the recommended five miles per day, that’s only 80 days until your shoes lose their support. Try to keep track of how old your shoes are. If your knees are hurting, it might be time for a new pair.
- Share the Love: Muscle imbalance is an issue with many active individuals. Over-developing certain muscles while neglecting others can lead to problems. When working on legs, if you focus solely on the quads but never target your hamstrings, you might have some knee issues. Be sure to develop all the muscles (quads, calves, hamstrings) connected to your knees to keep them strong, balanced and to prevent injury.
DON’T LET KNEE PAIN SLOW YOU DOWN
Knee pain can have a huge impact on your life. In fact, knee pain is so prevalent in the United States that one out of every three doctors’ visits for muscle and bone pain is attributed to it. While exercise is one of the best ways to help reduce pain and prevent it in the future, severe knee pain can often make it extremely difficult or even impossible to do.
At Airrosti, we specialize in fixing pain from head to toe — quickly and safely. We are experts at pinpointing the true source of your pain and targeting it at the source to rapidly relieve the associated pain. Our goal is to quickly get you back to a healthy and active lifestyle.
If nagging knee pain is keeping you sidelined, schedule your risk-free Airrosti appointment today.
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