Knee & Ankle
I was attending a college football reunion that dates back some 44 years ago and I noticed that most of the former athletes were walking very similar to me. I then began to ask them if they had some knee or back pain. I was interested in the responses based on the positions they played. It was quite remarkable how the running backs and wide receivers were experiencing very similar problems with their joints. The most common complaints with the fullbacks and tail backs and wide receivers was ankles and knees. When looking at the pressure and the pounding that happens on these joints, you can understand the increase in pain.
When looking at the condition of the knees you find that letting ankles and knees sway inward, and kneecaps that rotate inward instead of facing straight with the feet, become bad habits that contribute to knee pain. It is not a “condition,” it is something you can take control of by using your muscles to hold your ankles and knees straight.
Allowing your knees to sag and to rotate in an uncontrolled condition is a hidden contributor to bad kneecap tracking. The knee cap can start to move sideways instead of up and down each time you move your knee to walk. The sideways motion causes a rubbing on the cartilage on the inside of your kneecap. The uneven rubbing can eventually break down and wear away the cartilage. This condition is called degenerative change. Many people are told by doctors and trainers to just accept meniscus tears and degeneration as simple aging, or inevitable from their sports, along with all the pain and disability that comes along as you grow older. They may be told they are flat-footed, or have a problem called over-proration (too much pronation, which roughly means turning inward) or letting the ankles or knees sag inward so that your knees angle toward each other, called “knock-knees,” But often, the cause is avoidable, letting the foot and knee sag, and or rotate, is easily corrected by using your leg muscles to keep comfortable healthy position. It is the same as not letting your shoulders round forward. Sometime the actions of trying to walk without pain leads to a further degeneration causing more pain over the long haul.
When looking at the tracking of the kneecap and the ankles it is very similar to the tires on your car. If the tires are not tracking straight forward it will create wear patterns on the inside or outside of the tire causing it to wear out prematurely. The cure for tire wear is not to stop driving (giving up activity) or change the tire (wear orthotics or have surgery). The cure is to check why the tire is crooked and fix that. Learn to hold your leg in healthy straight position. Then, unlike tire, your heal.
How to Check for Sway and Rotation. Stand and look at your bare legs in a mirror. See if your knees angle greatly or your kneecaps tilt or turn inward instead of facing the same direction as your feet. Notice if it is from letting your body weight sag inward or rotate inward at the knee and/or flattening the arch of that foot. Check both legs. Some people slouch on one side and not as much as the other.
Notice if you hold kneecaps straight ahead when standing still, but sag the moment you put them under load of your body weight. Check standing on both feet and check again when standing on one foot. Check if the knee of that leg starts to rotate inward to face the other leg more. See if you flatten the arch of that foot.
How To Fix Sway and Rotation. Where needed, move the knees using thigh muscles so your kneecaps face forward in the same direction as your feet. If your knees are tilting and sagging inward, see if not allowing your weight to fall inward works – pull your knees to straighter position. If tilted sagging knees are coming from tilted sagging ankles, use your muscles to deliberately lift your weight off your inside arch, gently to the whole foot, without rolling too far to the outside of the soles – don’t overcompensate.
Practice correcting your own leg position until you can walk with healthy, straight, comfortable leg positioning that keeps weight on your leg muscles, not on the cartilage and joints of your knee. Like any new habit it may feel strange at first. It should not hurt to stand straight. Don’t force.
This method of healthy functional movement exercise prevents cartilage from wearing away faster than you re-grow it. Your body repairs a certain amount of cartilage with the right exercise. You will stop causes of pain using this healthy movement mechanics method, and stop hurting while your body does normal repairs. Position Is Trainable. Many people are told that turning ankles in and letting arches sag cannot be fixed or that if you try to hold straight you will cause harm. Think of a beginning skater. They let their knees and ankles sag inward until they learn to hold their feet and ankles straight in healthy position. It is simple practice in holding position, not something that cannot be changed.
I hope that this helps your knee and ankle pain. A strong muscle is better than a weak one and can be used to your advantage to solve some of your aches and pains.