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This morning, over 100 million Americans had some knee discomfort and woke up with knee pain. It’s the most common joint problem experienced by boomers and seniors.
Why is it such a big issue? When someone has pain in their joints, especially their knees, it affects literally everything.
They are less physically active. They give up their favorite activities like walking, gardening or golfing. Even their independence may slowly erode in fear of their pain getting worse.
It’s a real problem for many, many people.
Sadly, western medical professionals often default to drugs ridden with side effects or costly, invasive surgery.
In 2004, however, two Orthopedic surgeons and researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine asked some hard questions.
“Why do some people get knee pain and others don’t? Is it really just genetic? Is it over-use?”
They found something startling… After years of research, they realized that since the knee joint is a hinge (only meant to move in one directional plane) problems often started when the joint became “misaligned” with the rest of the body.
In other words, the ROOT problem for many people, was a small misalignment in the knee with the rest of the body.
Why is this bad? Well, instead of the weight of your body transferring to the ground (like it should), the knees take much of the force.
And hear this… the researchers found that even only a 5% misalignment could add up to 80-90% EXTRA stress on the knee.
It’s kind of like driving your car with your tires out of alignment. If you drive every day like that, eventually something’s going to wear down and break. Same thing with the knees.
Take a look at the picture below. Knee misalignment can happen in several different ways. And it usually happens over time and is often barely noticeable. But the end result is that it causes serious problems.
As a knee rehab specialist, this has been my “holy grail” for helping people with knee issues. One of the major keys to becoming pain-free is to first get the knee back into alignment.
For anyone struggling with knee pain, no matter if they have bone-on-bone, joint inflammation, or an old injury… knee alignment is so important.
Why? If your knees aren’t aligned with the rest of your body, every time you step or stand, it can aggravate your knees making rehab really difficult.
But knee alignment helps relieve pressure on your knees, making activities easier to do, especially rehab exercises.
Today, I’d like to share with you my 3 favorite stretches to help improve knee alignment and ease knee pain.
These postures are a simple way to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the knee. And they can be done even from your couch tonight!
I generally recommend doing them daily for at least 1-2 weeks to start feeling relief.
Table of Contents
3 Stretches to Relieve Knee Discomfort
The 3-Part Thigh Rub
You’ll love this one. It feels really good and helps relieve tension in your thigh muscles and IT band (outer part of the thigh).
Most knee alignment issues happen when the patella (knee cap) shifts toward the outside. So loosening up those outer muscles helps release them and relieve pressure on the knee.
Place your leg on a couch or chair. Take a firm, smooth object like a vitamin container.
Place it toward the top of your thigh in the middle.
Press downward until you feel a fair amount of pressure (without pain).
Now, slowly massage down your thigh until you reach just above your knee cap.
Do this 3 times.
Now put the container an inch toward the outer part of your thigh and massage down the thigh just like before.
Do this 3 times.
Finally, shift the container to the very outer part of your leg in the location of your IT band.
Massage downward 3 times.
The Seated Penguin
This stretch is considered an active stretch as it includes some light strengthening of the inner thigh muscles. It’s important because after you finish Stretch #1, your muscles and tendons will be loose.
This exercise will start pulling that knee back into alignment.
Sit on the edge of your couch or chair and turn your toes outward at a 45 degree angle on one of your legs.
Lift your leg up 2-3 feet. You’ll feel the muscles in your inner thigh tighten to keep your leg up in the air but may also feel a stretch in the back of your leg.
For added strength, place your palm on your thigh and press downward. This will help your thigh muscles tighten more and increase strength. Hold for 5 seconds.
Repeat this exercise 10 times.
The Seated Towel Press
The above two stretches help improve alignment in the front of the knee. This next one helps improve alignment in the back of the knee and is again an active stretch.
Sit on your bed with your legs straight out in front of you.
Take a large rolled up towel and place it directly under your knee. Push downward on the towel for 10 seconds, then release.
Do this 5 times total for each leg.
**NOTE: none of these exercises should be done through pain. While yes, there may be some discomfort from learning a new movement, you should not be gritting your teeth to perform these exercises. Go as far as your body allows.
The 3 stretches above have helped many people ease knee pain because they help bring the knee back into alignment and they can help you too!
If you’re ready for more knee exercises, click here.