Art in Action is a weekly post: a short, practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how you use them and how you translate the ideas into action.
I’m no doctor or physical therapist, but when I wrote the Knee-Ahh post in 2013, I included 4 tips that I use in my own body and practice to take care of my knees. In the meantime, I’ve continued to explore resources and practices for knee health. Below are 5 more of my favorite keys to happy knees.
1. Patella Tracking
One of the most common causes for knee pain and ultimately knee surgery is improper tracking of the knee cap or patella. Here is an excellent article that defines, explains and addresses knee tracking issues. It’s focused on yoga postures, but of course, it holds true no matter what you do. And here’s a shorter, more general article that is also helpful.
2. Knee Posture and Stepping Form
The body is designed to be stacked along the mid-line so the structures of the feet, legs and spine can hold us in standing with ease. The truth is, though, most of us habitually hold our bodies out of that alignment which causes strains and stresses – and no where is this more true than in the knees. Many of us (including loose-ligamented me) tend to stand with locked knees. Check out these two (kinda goofy but sweet) physical therapists as they talk about proper and improper knee posture.
In addition, notice how you place your feet when you walk and how you hold your feet when you stand. The first movement of The Nia Technique is the Heel Lead and for good reason. By leading with the heel when we step forward or to the side, not only are we protecting the joints and skin of the feet, but the knees automatically align properly. When you’re standing (or walking), do you turn your toes out or in? If you do, your knees (and hips) are being pulled out of alignment. Observe yourself with curiosity and stand and walk with the intention to heal.
Whenever you have pain in your body, look to what’s happening above and below it. If you are experiencing knee pain, it’s likely that the muscles above (quadriceps and hamstrings) and below (calf and shin) are either weak or tight. I love this exercise (What’s not to love? It’s called Knee Dancing!) for strengthening the quad muscles without hyper-extending the knee.
Similarly, muscles above and below points of pain can be over-tight and pulling on the knee joint. Stretching, particularly the calves, hamstrings and quads can offer relief to tender knees. I like these simple stretches for doing just that.
5. Ice and Liniment
Sometimes, despite our best efforts and intentions, our knees just hurt. When that happens, it’s important to give them the attention they need. Ice is always a good bet even as a preventive measure to keep inflammation down and if you can tolerate it, an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen might also offer some relief. I also use several liniments that help my knees feel good including:
– Dr. Christopher’s Comfrey Ointment – My herbalist friends swear by the healing properties of the external use of comfrey (which is also known as “knit bone”) and I’ve found it works wonders for me.
– Biofreeze – which works particularly well for me as a pain reliever.
– And Arnica, an herb which has been used for centuries as a healing salve.
If you have other approaches to knee happiness, please share them in the comments below or on the Focus Pocus Facebook page. May you and your knees be happy, healthy and at ease!