Love your knees!!

Beautiful knees. Alas, not mine!

I have been lucky enough to survive my entire 38 years on earth without ever having experienced any knee pain, until these past 2 weeks that is! The moment I boarded the plane for our family holiday an ominous aching in my right knee started up and continued throughout our holiday. I have heard many stories from close friends about their various knee injuries, associated pain and discomfort and equally I see within the yoga classes I attend that many modifications are offered for those with varying degrees of knee pain and restrictions but I had never experienced it myself, not even the slightest twinge!

However, for fear of causing permanent damage I haven’t been able to get on my mat for the past two weeks. I don’t remember anything popping and there does seem to be a little improvement so I am hoping this is just a friendly warning from my knees to take better care of them and I definitely will. I can only attribute the pain to having attended a variety of circuits and resistance-type classes in the two weeks previous to leaving for my holiday (last minute bikini panic!) and perhaps too many weighted squats for my knees’ liking!! Whatever the reason I now certainly know better!

I have to say though that this discomfort has been eye opening for me, ESPECIALLY in terms of wanting to be a yoga teacher. I will now understand other people’s discomfort a little more and be more mindful of this. I don’t know exactly what I did to my knee and have been busy researching the various possibilities as to what I might have done and it turns out the knee is a complex part of the anatomy and there are various parts that one might injure. Here comes the technical part (courtesy of internet research): the knee is the meeting point for 3 bones – the femur (thighbone), the tibia (shinbone) and the patella (kneecap). In addition to this there are two crescent-shaped pads of cartilage wedged between the tibia and the femur, each called a meniscus which act as cushions between the bones and shock absorbers during movement. And that’s not it, two sets of ligaments strap all three bones in place – the cruciates and the collaterals. Confused yet? Here’s a picture (click on it to enlarge):

Anatomy of the knee joint

As complicated as it all seems to those of us (i.e. me) who maybe didn’t pay enough attention in science class, it is also fascinating and so important given that this is our body and to understand how it works equips us with the tools to look after it better. I’m no doctor so I can’t give advice on knee pain itself but my partner who is very much into sports and has suffered many a sports-related injury suggested the R.I.C.E method of pain relief for my knee – which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation so I incorporated this by putting my feet up wherever possible, applying an ice-pack at times and I am currently wearing a knee support which I have actually found the most help of all. However, it is difficult to treat something properly when you are only guessing the cause. Probably best to get off to the doctors if anything severe is suspected. I think I can attribute mine to slightly over-zealous pre-holiday exercising so I’ve laid off that!

Now that my interest in my knees has been stirred up I hope I will be able to offer more “yoga for the knees” type information once I start my anatomy and physiology. One thing I will say is to listen to your body when exercising, whether that be yoga, running or any type of sport. I don’t think pain during exercise can ever be a good thing – being worn out, yes, but pain, no. It is one surefire way for your body to tell you something isn’t right. As far as the knees go, any twinge or pinching during yoga would be your first indication to ease off the asana. Take it one step back and let your body guide you. The knees play such an important role within yoga that keeping them healthy has to be one of our priorities- it will certainly be one of mine now!!

9 Comments

  1. I hate to say it, but you’re also just the right age to start noticing wear and tear in your knees… We just put our knees through so much when we’re young, without giving them a moment’s thought! (Remember that Baz Luhrman ‘song’, everyone wear sunscreen?!).
    I’m 42 now and after a bit of a panicky ‘dooom I’ve ruined my knees’ period, they’re ok again. I don’t go running or wear heels or do high impact aerobics any more. And I look after all the muscles around them. And constantly remind folk in yoga classes to respect their knees and never twist them or do a pose in which they feel joint pain!
    I’m sure it makes us all better teachers, having understanding of pain, limitations, modifications, etc.

    1. Hi there, thanks for stopping by! The key – as you said – is looking into the muscles that support the knee and I shall be doing just that!! What has been interesting is being able to put myself in the shoes (knees ;-)) of someone with knee problems and understanding how I could offer modifications and in which poses you feel the pinch which I wouldn’t really have understood beforehand- having said that I don’t want to start feeling aches and pains everywhere just to be a better teacher 😉

  2. I know what you mean…I’m sure my wonky skeleton has helped me make yoga more accessible for the average Scot in my classes…But it would still be lovely to flow effortlessly into some of the asanas I may never achieve!

    1. I had physiotherapy for idiopathic scoliosis this year as I was getting constant back pain and I literally grilled the physio for info 😉 This has given me great insight into both my own back pain (which has pretty much disappeared after a year of daily pain!) and also understanding how to support the back, so my wonky skeleton has been of great help too 😉 Let’s not give up though – practice makes perfect!! 😀

  3. Remember to look at your hips. Research is showing that a lot of knee pain is generated from hip mobility, stability, or strength issues. The result is extra stress on the knees when you are doing loaded knee flexion activities such as stairs, squatting or running. Have your physio check you out for hip weakness.

    1. That’s a very interesting thought. I’m still learning the ropes with regard to anatomy and physiology so this is all new territory for me. I will certainly look into this. Thanks.

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