Knee pain is no stranger to athletes of all kinds. Running, in particular, often gets a bad rap for creating knee pain. However, knee pain isn’t created from running, it ‘s more about the biomechanics while running, cycling, hiking, skiing, and even sitting.
What you do in your daily life makes up your biomechanics. So if you have a desk job, most likely you are stiff and tight in your hips and hamstrings from the continuous habit of sitting. After a long day of sitting, it is challenging to immediately open the hips and lengthen the hamstrings. So if you head out for a run right after a day at work, you will most likely lean your upper body slightly forward to compensate. You may not even feel it until reading this article and begin to notice. You may even simply jet your head out slightly which will have the same affect. Such a slight bend forward will allow the hips and hamstrings to remain tight which then pulls on the knees. It is utterly impossible to lengthen your leg behind oneself with tight hips. So the tight hips and hamstrings, keep the knees slightly bent which increases direct pressure through the knees. So is it really the running, or sitting at the desk all day that brings pressure and pain to the knees? The same goes for avid cyclists and skiers. Both of these activities tighten the hips due to the incredible demand on quadriceps and hamstrings. In fact, cycling can be the worst because you never get to fully extend the leg while spinning. Many specialists suggest cycling will help prevent knee problems. I heartily disagree if you don’t properly stretch after a ride or spin class. In fact, sitting on a bike with the hip area closed for long periods of time not only tightens the hips tremendously but tightens the hamstrings, which directly adds pressure to the knee joint.
Over a period of time, without proper stretching, the knees can begin to feel stiff and painful when you have lost the ability to fully extend your leg. I know, how many times have you been told to stretch? Many. So stretch. It is critical to stretch all the muscles deep in the pelvic area to avoid knee pain. In addition, as I mentioned earlier, it is critical to open up the mid-back, thoracic spine area to keep the knees pain free. Think of the entire body. To notice, feel and become aware of how you feel in your upper body as well as your lower body. Are your shoulders rounded? Does your head feel forward? Are you able to extend your leg fully behind yourself?
There are several ways to stretch effectively. One is to go to a stretch class, or a yoga class. Secondly, you can stretch on your own. To do so, you must make the time; go slow, and be consistent. What is most important is to stretch after the activity whether it's running, skiing, cycling, or just a long day at the office. Here are a few simple “active” stretches you can do at home: