Got Knee Pain? Find the Real Problem

by | Feb 11, 2016 | Lower Body

Siblings can be quick to tattle when parents are looking for the wrongdoer; I know this all too well because I have two. Sibilings can be quick to team up and make a loud and pointed declaration, “SHE DID IT. SHE DID IT!”  however, it is they who might be the true culprits.

The body talks to us in much the same way. Got knee pain? It might not actually be the knee that’s the real problem. Much like the troublemaking sisters, the knees may be shouting in pain, but when you take a closer look, the source may be elsewhere. 


Body Connections


Try this:  Give the corner of your shirt a tug and notice the wavy lines that form. Notice the effect from the point of your hand throughout the entire shirt and how the reaction changes as you vary the direction of pull. Just as a pull affects elsewhere, a tight or weak muscle can cause havoc in places you would least suspect.

Imagine this scenario:  A participant in a group exercise class reports constant knee pain. Now pull on your shirt, twist and hold it down.  Your pinned-down shirt represents tight hip flexors. This tightness limits the ability of the glutes to effectively generate the power needed for each step. But the participant has knee pain. So what’s the problem? The knee crying in pain, or could it be the hip?


Is it the Knee or the Hip?


Gary Gray teaches, “the knee is the hip, and the hip is the knee.” This can be explained as the bone of the thigh or femur, links up with the pelvis at the top of “the hip” and the tibia and fibula at the lower end “the knee.”  So it is true, “the knee is the hip, and the hip is the knee,” and where one goes, the other must follow.

In our example, the hip is not able to get through its optimal range because of tight hip flexors. Therefore, to propel the body forward when stepping, the knee may “help” when normally it shouldn’t. Overtime, limitations at the hip may lead to accelerated wear and tear, pain and perhaps injury of the knee. To really help the knees, try exercises that target the hips.


Working With Knee Pain: At The Pool


Start in the pool where buoyancy in chest deep water reduces forces up to 75%. For hip mobility, begin in a lunge stance, with the back toe as your anchor and heel lifted.

Reach the hand opposite the lead leg:

  • Front to back (5-10x) photo A
  • Right to left (5-10x) photo B
  • Rotate right and left (5-10x) photo C




Follow-up with a leg swing.  Strengthen the hip by moving the leg at a quick tempo:

  • Front to back (5-10x)
  • Right to left (5-10x)
  • Rotate right and left (5-10x)


Working With Knee Pain: Add Gravity


Movement on land doesn’t have to hurt. The key is finding the right exercise and moving in a comfortable range. When knee pain is intense, try movement of a body part far away from the point of pain feeding movement into the knees and hips. Lets try the head!

Stand with feet shoulder distance, knees soft and shoulders relaxed.

  • Slowly look up and down (5-10x), notice how your hips are flexing and extending. 
  • Next, drop your ear to your right, then left shoulder (5-10x), feel your body shifting side to side.
  • Finally, look over your right and left shoulder (5-10x), be aware of the gentle rotation all the way down to the ankles. 


Be in the Know!


The region of the body experiencing pain is not often the problem. Try exercises that target the joints above and below the pain…the source of the trouble might just surprise you!


Learn my follow-the-feel approach and get meaningful and lasting results from your workouts with me as your coach – join WECOACH Workouts.

This article was previously published in the December 2015/January 2016 issue of AEA’s AKWA magazine.
Laurie Denomme

Laurie Denomme

an exercise coach dedicated to helping you move better and be your best everyday.

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