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Treatment Tips That Helped Me to End Years of Chronic Pain in My Knees From Tight Muscles

woman stretching her knee
  This is my favorite stretch for sore knees.


Background

My knees used to hurt all of the time. When I would be standing straight with my toes pointed forward, my knee caps would be shifted inward towards the inside of my legs instead of in the middle of the leg like they are on normal people. When I walked up and down stairs my knees would creak very, very loudly. My orthopedist made a diagnosis of Patella Femoral Syndrome and sent me to physical therapy. With physical therapy, my knee pain became much worse than it had ever been before. It got to the point where my husband and I were looking for a new one story home because it was becoming impossible for me to walk up and down the stairs of our two story home, especially trying to carry something like a laundry basket.

man with knee brace

According to Dr. Leon Chaitow, A London osteopath and author of Maintaining Body Balance Stability and Flexibility, knee pain may be caused by an actual injury to the knee. Other less obvious causes may include imbalances and constrictions at different points in the body, such as the pelvis, back, hip or foot.


The initial physical therapist I saw for knee problems had me taping my knees into place with tape, icing my knees with ice bags and using ankles weight to strengthen my knees to build up my stamina. This whole daily process was very time consuming, and yet none of these treatments helped me one bit. In fact, I was lucky to be able to walk by the time I was done with my "therapy". The knee taping took forever to do and really hurt my skin. The exercises just tightened already stressed muscles. Knowing what I know now about muscle imbalances and body alignment, it is hard to believe that someone who had a degree in physical therapy would recommend such not only ineffective but damaging treatments.

Using ankle weights to strengthen my knees just made them worse. pysical therapy session using ankle weights They hurt because the muscles were already too tight, not too weak.

I dropped the orthopedist and physical therapist I had been seeing since I was getting worse under their care, and tried a number of other different health and alternative health practitioners for my Patella Femoral Syndrome and litany of other orthopedic problems. Eventually I came to understand why my knees creaked and pointed inward, how to stop them from hurting and creaking and why physical therapy made them worse.

What Really Worked

After finding a physical therapist with a background in muscular alignment and from my own research in reading books on body alignment, trigger point therapy and yoga, I realized that the cause of my knee pain was postural and muscular imbalances in my body. As with many of the other conditions listed in my web site, when I started doing trigger point therapy and yoga to balance and align my muscles better, my knee problems cleared up simultaneously along with my TMJ, neck pain, back pain, sciatic pain and many of my other orthopedic issues.

My knees were in pain not because there was anything wrong with my knees per se, but because tight muscles in my legs and other parts of my body were exerting pressure on my knee caps, pulling them out of alignment towards the inside of my legs. When I would try to bend my knees during normal walking, they would hurt and creak. At times my knees would lock, and I would have to shift them around a bit to get it them snap back into place in order to bend them again.

Specific Treatment Ideas

In the end, the things that ended up helping my knee pain were the same treatments that ended up helping most of my other orthopedic problems - gentle yoga exercises and trigger point therapy. The initial physical therapy I had didn't work because the PTs focused only on strengthening knee exercises. My knees were where I hurt, but they were not the cause of my pain. The cause of my pain was unbalanced muscles and trigger points and tight muscles in my thighs, feet, calves and ankles. The strengthening exercises made me worse because my leg muscles were already overly tight in places, and the exercises just tightened up even more.

The specific treatments that did help me were:

1. I did more leg stretches. The one stretch that helped me the most was really easy to do. I just stood in front of a chair on one leg. I bent the other leg backwards and up, holding the ankle behind me. Often my knee would feel better immediately after this one stretch. (This stretch is pictured at the top of the page.)

2. I did trigger point therapy on my legs. I had a lot of trigger points (tiny contraction knots) in my outer thighs, inner thighs and the inside of my calves. Massaging my trigger points each day really helped to release muscle tightness in my legs and to help my knees move back into their normal position. My knees look perfectly normal these days, and no longer are pulled inward towards each other.

One thing I found especially helpful was to sit on the floor with one leg stretched out in front of me, put a tennis or massage ball under that leg and then roll my leg around on the floor, letting the weight of my leg on the ball massage my trigger points. This was especially helpful for me because I also have problems with my hands, and saves some repetitive stress hand movement in doing the trigger point therapy.

I also bought a massage tool that is made of hard plastic and in the shape of a dolphin. It is easy to hold on to and you can place the nose of the dolphin right in to any tight trigger point areas. The areas that helped me the most were on the back of the knee, near the lower inside corner.

3. I took up yoga. While I've found a number of books helpful to try to solve my various orthopedic problems, I think the book I would recommend the most for knee pain would probably be Structural Yoga Therapy. I found it very helpful for understanding the cause of my knee problems and how to correct them through therapeutic yoga exercises.

It always seemed odd to me that I was diagnosed with so many different orthopedic problems when my husband and friends had none (or at most one or two), but the doctors I went to see always treated my neck, shoulder, back, TMJ, fibromyalgia, ankle and other problems as distinct and unrelated health issues. This book was one of the few books I found that helped me to understand that my knee pain and other problems were most definitely interrelated, with one structural imbalance in one part of my body leading to a compensating imbalance somewhere else.

Included in this book is a series of yoga poses called the joint freeing series, which I found good for freeing up locked knees as well as other joints. The book also contains a section specifically on knees with diagrams of common knee problems such as hyperextended knees, knock-knees and bowed legs. Besides the joint freeing series, the yoga poses from this book that I felt helped my knees the most were:

  • Groin press ( I did this on my back instead of on my stomach, as shown in the book)
  • Upward stretched legs
  • Energy freeing pose
  • Head to knee pose
  • Spinal twist
  • Camel
  • Bound Angle
two people walking on a  flat trail   Walking on flat trails, instead of hiking uphill, helped my sore knees.

4. I avoided hiking uphill or climbing a lot of stairs. While my knees were in pain, I stopped hiking uphill for awhile and stuck to the more flat trails. This prevented my leg muscles from getting even tighter than they were. I could ride by bike okay, but as with walking, I had to stick to the flat trails and avoid anything uphill. One thing I had been doing that really cause my knees to hurt had been using an elliptical trainer at the gym. Those machines are great for tightening up muscles. On the plus size I started wearing a size 6 jeans, on the downside I could barely walk my knees and legs were in so much pain. So these days I'm far from a size 6 but not in any more pain and my knees don't pop and creak. I stick to less strenuous forms of exercise now like yoga, dancing, biking and walking.

Walking outside seems to be okay, but for some reason treadmills are also a problem. For me none of the gym machine really work because of repetitive motions.

5. I wore high quality, low heeled shoes. My favorite brand is Easy Spirit. If the shoes didn't fit well, I noticed that my feet would wobble around inside them and after awhile my knees would begin to hurt. For sandals I would wear Teva sandals or a similar name brand. Anything I bought at REI was usually okay, as they tend to only sell high quality, sturdy sports and walking gear.

 

 

 

Related Pages:

Hyaluronic acid - chicken soup for the knees?

How to Prevent Swollen Ankles

Popping Jaws, Creaky Knees, and Cracking Necks - tips to prevent snap, crackle, pop, crunch and other assorted sounds from your joints.

Natural therapies for sciatica.

Visit my home page or my site map to use my search feature, and see information on connective tissue disorders and related features.

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