In todays society more people are sitting at desks in front of computers, have longer work hours, commutes and move less on a daily basis. This way of living produces more nonfunctional people and leads to increased risk of injury. There has bee a rise in low-back pain, knee pain, knee injuries along with other musculoskeletal injuries.
When I first start working with a client, I do a movement and fitness assessment. Part of that assessment is a overhead squat. There are many physical compensations I look for that guide me to identify muscle imbalances. I use these findings to take special consideration when designing programs. The one I will be focusing on in this post is the Knee Valgus, also known as knocked knees. Knee Valgus is indicated by either the knees coming inward when squatting or performing any motions using the lower body. You might have seen this on someone else or noticed it in yourself. Knee Valgus really has nothing to do with the knees, although if you do nothing to try and correct it, it can lead to knee pain, ACL tear and iliotibial band syndrome. It is caused by hip adduction and hip internal rotation. The adduction and the internal rotation are caused by a muscle that is over-active (tight) and the opposing muscle being under-active (weak). In this case your adductors, the muscles you think of as the inner thigh, are tight. Their job, actually, is to bring the legs together, but in this case are overactive coupled with the Glute Medius and TFL (Tensor Fascia Latae) muscles being weak or under active. Their job is abduct the hip which just means move it away from the body. I do not want to geek out on you with all this. Just wanted you to have a basic understanding and with that in mind I will give you a basic fix for it. One exercise to loosen the tight muscle and one exercise to strengthen the weak muscle.
Release the Adductors
Position the roller mostly parallel to the length of the body and roll side to side from the innermost point of your thigh to just above your knee. Slowly roll until you find a tender spot. The entire area might be tender. This is most likely a knot or a trigger point. Hold on that tender area for 30 secs. This is helping to remove adhesions within the connective tissue (fascia) and bring blood flow to the muscle. If you can handle it, stay on each side for 2-3 minutes. If you do not have a foam roller you can use a basketball or a medicine ball. I do suggest investing in a foam roller.
Strenghten the Glutes & TFL
Now that you stretched the muscles that are pulling the knees in we need to strengthen the muscles that pull your leg out and bring balance to your body. One simple exercises is the lying straight leg raises.
Lay on your side, bend the bottom leg, as this will give you more stability, fully extend the top leg and turn the toe down. I want you to lead the leg lift with the heal. You do not have to lift the leg very high to feel this exercise. Prepare to feel the burn. Complete 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions to start.
It is also common, for those that display knee valgus, to have flattened feet during the squat. Note the middle image on the picture up top this post. If this is you then additional work needs to be done. With corrective exercises it is best to release the tight muscle fibers first then strengthen the weak muscles. Here are two basic exercises:
This is not a quick fix and in order for change to come about you need to perform them at least 3 times a week. Try them when watching TV. You can can roll the foot on a ball or do the scrunches while siting at the computer. You can fit in the time to do them!
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