- Are you feeling older than necessary?
- Why stiff knees aren’t always inevitable OR simply down to arthritis
- Two exercise that worked for me
On Sunday I was building a robot for my daughter’s school project.
Sorry – erm – I meant to say that SHE was building the robot. I was just….helping… Dad-style..
Anyway, after about an hour of messing around with glue, cardboard and silver foil on the wooden floor of our living room I gave my kid the fright of her life.
As I stood up a pain shot through my knee.
It was as if they’d completely frozen while I was kneeling.
“AAAAAAARGH” I yelled (I’m not great at pain).
“Daddy what’s wrong?”
“Age!” I said, hobbling out of the room.
This should NOT be happening to me.
I’m too young for this, but I’m among the many people over 40 who have this problem.
It scares me, because my grandfather had a terrible time with his knees for over a decade – and it was an operation on his knee that resulted in MRSI and the heart-attack that killed him.
What’s more if there’s one thing that makes you feel old… and accelerates that ageing process… stopping you doing the stuff you used to do… it’s sore knees.
They’re often the first to go.
But we don’t – and shouldn’t – put up with it.
Is your knee pain inevitable?
A lot of people assume that it’s all part of life’s wear and tear… a touch of arthritis…
But do you really know why your knees hurt?
It’s easy to assume it’s unavoidable joint pain, then reach for the nearest painkillers … or put it down to the symptoms of ageing.
What if it’s not, though?
This was the gist of a recent article by Dr Mark Porter in the Times, who wrote “Stiff knees may not be a sign of arthritis – just that you need to do some exercise.”
As he points out, many people with osteoarthritis can stabilise their condition through exercise…
And for other people with sore knees, it’s often a case of doing regular exercise (being careful with higher impact sports like running).
For instance, he quoted a recent Norwegian study that showed that 12 weeks of strengthening exercises for torn knee cartilage were as effective as arthroscopic surgery.
I’ll give you a personal example…
And please don’t judge me on this, it was before I knew better…
When my leg started to waste away
When I was about 30 I had really bad knee pain – far worse than now. It hurt when I bent my leg and even hurt lying down.
The GP told me it was ‘probably a bicycle-related strain’ even though I insisted that I hardly used my bike and London (where I lived at the time) was pretty flat.
Truth be told, I’d been doing very little exercise.
Instead I was writing a lot of articles for my job and working on projects at night, too. When I wasn’t writing I was sat in the pub, or a restaurant, or in the cinema. (this was before children came along!)
Anyway, after a series of x-rays, tests, painkillers and physiotherapy….
…I was still in pain and none the wiser.
That was until I went to an acupuncturist. They took one look at me and said ‘It’s your posture’.
What had happened was this…
From sitting down too much my legs had strengthened on the outside of my thighs, but the muscles inside of the leg had atrophied.
I was literally wasting away!
Because of this, the taught ligaments on the outside of my leg were pulling the knee cap very slightly out of place.
This was the REAL cause of my pain.
The solution was to do strengthening exercises to rebalance the muscles.
I’ll pass on the two that worked best for me.
• EXERCISE ONE:
What you do is stand up straight with a wall or bar (not THAT kind of bar) in front of you that you can hold onto for balance.
Grab your right ankle with your right hand and pull it up against your right buttock. Be sure to keep standing straight and tall.
Hold for 45 seconds….
Then do the same on the left.
• EXERCISE TWO:
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you.
Rather than stretch your toes forward, pull them back towards you, so that your calves tighten.
Now try and bow your head towards your right knee, as far as possible, then hold for 45 seconds.
Then again with your left leg.
Now go back and do exercise one again, then exercise two.
I did these two exercises in combination every morning and night and the pain dissipated.
On top of that I started a course in Pilates to tighten up my posture so that all the ligaments, joints and muscles were working in harmony… rather than certain muscles and ligaments taking too much pressure and strain.
The lesson is?
• Your knee is easily affected by what is going on with the rest of your body, so try and address that before you go running to conclusions or hit the drugs.
• Your GP might not ask the right questions about your lifestyle, or understand how you live, so don’t assume their diagnosis is always right. Take control and sort it out yourself.
• Whatever your age, low impact strengthening exercise like Pilates, yoga, swimming and walking can do wonders.
Finally, if you want to be helped along by natural therapies as you tackle your knee pain, then an option is to try a pain ease wrap designed specifically for the knee, like this one here: pain ease wrap.
You can wear it under trousers, leggings or a tracksuit and it will release gentle micro-currents to both block pain and encourage healing.
Or for more pain relief ideas, please check out all my latest posts on the People’s Doctor website.
As for me, I need to go back to those exercises that helped me 15 years ago. I should never have stopped doing them in the first place!
Until next time, stay healthy and pain free,