At first glance the influence of the gluteal muscles on knee health is everything but obvious. However, if you scrutinize the function of the gluteals closely, there will be a big aha-moment. In short, the gluteus maximus and posterior fibers of the gluteus medius are responsible for producing hip external rotation and abduction (moving the leg to the outside as in side-lying leg raise). Both are vital for knee health and here is why.
In the last post we looked at a basic postural problem at the hip, anterior pelvic tilt and how to fix it. The topic of this post is the rotation of the femur and specifically you will read about internal rotation of the femur, since this is a usual side-effect of anterior pelvic tilt. If you haven’t yet read the article on pelvic tilt I suggest you do so now, because the knowledge will come in handy.
A healthy hip is very important for efficient movement, since most of the power athletes display is generated at the hip. Jumping, sprinting or deadlifting: without a strong hip you won’t excel at these activities. If we look at posture the hip is just as important, since many times wrong posture can be traced back to adaptations at the hip. It is therefore only logical to start looking for postural problems at the hip, because many other postural issues will improve automatically, as soon as you “fix” the hip.
There are over 200 bones and more than 600 muscles in the human body. Some muscles can be voluntarily controlled; others are used without us contributing much. When it comes to movement however, we have to learn everything from scratch. So when we were born, we already had the hardware to move around, but were missing parts of the software. That basically means the central nervous system needed to learn how to control muscle contractions and how to coordinate them to create controlled movement. This stuff is stored for later recall, since it would be a pain in the ass to have to learn everything again the next morning.
Now think about this for a moment here: the CNS learns how to control and coordinate hundreds of muscles at the same time! The amount of computing power, bandwidth and storage capacity needed for that is unparalleled even by the most sophisticated computer. However, there’s a small caveat. The CNS will adapt your body to whatever you do for longer periods of time.
For most people stretching is the ultimate solution. You can fix tightness and thereby prevent injuries and pain, right? Well, sort of. Tightness in a muscle is just a result of previous behavior. Dr. Perry Nickelston points out that it is usually “a by-product of inefficient movement patterns where muscles unnecessarily have to compensate or work overtime to help you achieve the objective.”.
Ankle sprains, the common curse of basketball, have caused a curious evolution of the sports shoe. The basketball sneaker, once made of canvas and a thin rubber sole, turned into a piece of high tech equipment. Today shoe companies market their product with claims of better protection and smarter shock-absorption and yet, as many observers of the sport will know, knee and ankle injuries are still very common.
In a previous post we’ve already covered how shock-absorbing shoes cause knee pain through faulty running mechanics. To recap: the cushioned shoes actually don’t absorb anything except the information necessary for our body to move properly. As a result our running mechanics undergo a subtle yet fundamental change and we turn into heel-strikers. Now, if you’re wearing high top shoes with cushioned soles you run even higher risk of knee pain.
In part 1 of this series we looked at the passive structures in human anatomy that are relevant to the knee joint (Anatomy of the knee – part 1: passive structures). In this post we will investigate the active stabilizing structures surrounding the knee. On the front of your body this would be the quadriceps and on the back it’s the hamstrings, gastrocnemius, as well as the popliteus. Let’s get acquainted with the quads first.
There are many interesting books you come across while reading about knee pain or exercise. One book which bridges this gap while also being very well written is Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. This book is about McDougall’s own quest to fixing his running-related injuries and the original people he meets on this journey. “Born to Run” caught me slightly off guard I have to admit, because I expected the book to be more science-y and although it’s non-fiction, strictly speaking, it still reads like a novel. A novel you can’t put down until you’re through. Even if you’re not into jogging I highly recommend this book, because it’s not only entertaining, but also educating the reader. How does all that tie in with this post’s topic you might ask?
The human body is like a complex machine that is able to adapt to all sorts of environments. No matter whether you want to run an ultra-marathon or climb the highest mountain on earth, the body will find a way to adapt. The only problem with this wondrous machine is that there is no manual. There’s no one book that gives all the answers about what to do if things aren’t the way they should be. Concerning knee pain this means that finding and fixing the problem can sometimes be tricky and to understand pain, you need at least a basic understanding of anatomy.
At some point in our lives we will experience pain. After an injury it’s easy to understand why you should give your body time to repair the damage, either by resting or by doing active recovery (activities that promote healing without aggravating the injury or stressing the body). What if there is chronic pain though? Say you’re experiencing pain whenever you’re performing your sport, what do you do? Here are two stories that illustrate how you could handle things in these situations.