This proximity of the knee is quite complex. You can’t pick your parents, but you can pick you knees. Genes play a huge part when it comes to structure of the knee, as wall as other joints. Also, the articular cartilage has an immense memory. So, what can you do about it?
We will talk about the genes first. Individuals have no control over the cards that they are dealt. These are usually called set ups. The determination of angles of the quadriceps, Hamstrings, connective tissue, and other placement of skeletal parts covering the knee are mostly up to the genes. These set ups are the leading cause of most injuries. The ability to be able to use disadvantages to your advantage is the key to proper joint health. Knowing the family health history is also important. Does your family have a pattern of illness? I know that some time in my life I will have to deal with high cholesterol, so I know to take care of that issue now before it’s a problem. Same goes for joint health.
Joint health begins with what I call “Lotion for the motion” protocol. Just like an old car, if it is taken care of, the mileage is there. With that said, we are only human. We will all break down sooner or later. Sorry for the bad news. But the time will be greater on the road than stuck in the garage. Lotion for the motion refers to the “oil” in the joint. Every time that the joint is flexed, extended, or rotated will produce synovial fluid. This is the oil that I’m referring to. Arthritis of the joint is the rubbing of the bones. The oil is no longer lubricating like it should. Compare oil to water. Which will you lubricate with? One of factors involved is the decreasing of motion. Notice the connection, one depends on the other. The entire body is never independent. Think of baseball, which team will win, the team win the all star or the team with 9 average players. Any sports fan knows this. The team has to work together or they will lose, or in the body, it will die.
Another interesting part of Chondrocyte cells that we need to cover is their extraordinary memory. When you traumatize a joint, it might look fine the day after. You might not see a difference in 5 years, but research has proven that chondrocyte cells will deteriorate prematurely, most of the time without warning. Back in the day when doctors went cast crazy, recovery was horrible. You heard of the term "Use it or lose it", well, you lose it! Muscles atraphy, this also goes for the connective tissue. Think of a lead pipe left outside. The pipe rusts from the outside in, the pipe will never be as strong, no matter what you do. We are lucky that most tissues have the ability to rebuild. Some cannot do to the lack of blood supply. That may come in a later discussion. Injuries as young children, or older adults, can and will come back to haunt you earlier than you think. I know that some injuries are not preventable, but think of what you are doing. Protect your frame, treat it like a family. Once replaced, you will never get the original back.
Now we can see the light at the tunnel! Even though there is not a magic pill for cures, I will go over some exercises that may help in your recovery. Follow these simple rules. First, recovery should be simple, low stress, and effective. When it comes to the knee, this is very important. You use your knees all day long. Rule number 2, when starting strength exercises, begin with the affected side. This will help by not creating a muscle imbalance. Only do the same amount of reps on the non affected side as you can on the challenged side. Remember, you can fill a pothole in the road, but that pothole now has a weak spot. Work slow, controlled, and use proper form.
As always, start from the ground up when it comes to assessments. One of the most popular neuromuscular training exercises, the Stork. This exercise only needs a place to hold onto, if needed. Stand up straight and extend your arms out to the side. Once this is done without wobbling, lift the sole of your foot up to your leg. Stop when you make a the letter P. Hold for at least 20 seconds. If this is not plausible, continue your neuromuscular program. The ultimate goal to maintain balance of 20 seconds.
The next exercise promotes healthy leg strength, dynamic flexibility, and neuromuscular control. The single leg squat. With the single leg squat, proper form is a must. I will go over form after the description of the exercise. Start out by standing upright with your foot raised. Sit down about 45 degrees, keeping the back straight. Do 10-15 reps. Note, the slower the exercise is performed, the increased benefit. Once this becomes easy, add hand weights to increase the challenge. Now the safety. Pay close attention to your form, as you may be putting extra weight on the joints if performed incorrectly. This exercise may be performed in front of a mirror to see the alignment of your frame. Another tip is to learn the Single Leg Squat with bare feet. This will make those little subtle biomechanical flaws more visible. as early detection is always better. While performing this exercise, look at the knee. Always make sure that it remains directly over the planted foot. Next, do not let your knee cave in or rotate inward. This also goes for the thigh and the ankle. This improper form will put unnecessary weight supported by the joint, not the muscle, leading to further damage. An easy way to do a self-check is to line up the ankle to the knee, knee to the hip. All joints will be in proper alignment.
As we finish up, I hope you get the basic idea of the knee and the frame in general. Some points to remember, every joint in the body is created equal. (Very important) Create a plan that involves balance, strength, cardiorespiratory, proprioception as well as flexibility. The best advice for anyone is to be safe. I will talk more about the joints as well as the other aspects of the body in my next blog. So until then, live well.