5 simple steps to pain-free knees…
As a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Strength Coach, I’ve seen a TON of knee pain in my professional and personal experience.
Everything from patellofemoral pain and ACL tears, all the way to full-blown knee replacements.
This includes a wide mix of athletes and general pop clients.
But for most people dealing with some good ol’ mechanical/musculoskeletal pain (think general cranky sore knees), I have 5 really simple steps to help out anyone suffering with that form of knee pain.
*Note: I have not evaluated you nor know your history. The advice I’m providing is strictly from my own experiences as a licensed clinician. This may or may not be right for you. Please consult your Medical Doctor or Physical Therapist prior to engaging in any activity below :)
Ok now onto the good stuff!
The below strategies are what I have seen help a TON of clients over the years suffering from mechanical based knee pain.
Some might seem like common sense, but don’t overlook the potential. I explain my reasoning and how it can help.
They are as follows, in no particular order:
1) Stretch your calves - The calves are a group of muscles that connect from the back of your knee to your heel bone. If the calves are “tight,” forward movement of your knees will be more difficult and the front of the knees tend to get achy real quick. Stretch those calves in straight and bent knee positions. This can be done throughout the day and prior to exercise. Sustained static-stretching or smooth ankle mobilizations can work here.
2) Slow down the tempo of knee dominant movements - Knee dominant movements refer to movements with a high degree of knee bending. Think squats, lunges, step ups. Slowing down the tempo, aka slowing down the movement as a whole, allows you to focus a bit more and use your actual muscles to support the lift instead of your knee joints. Slowing things down also causes you to build muscle… good problem!
3) Shorten the range of motion - For those knee dominant motions, don’t be afraid to shorten how deep you go. It’s ok to not go full depth. Let me say that again… YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO FULL DEPTH. If you have pain during “full” motion then stop doing that, it’s not doing any good. Partial range of motion still allows you to hit the same muscle groups while avoiding unnecessary pain. Over time you’ll be able to creep back into going full depth.
4) Maintain a “full-foot” position throughout the movement - What this means is don’t allow the knees to cave-in to the point where you are now standing on the inner edge of your feet. If this happens it’s because you’re either going too deep for your body, your calves are super “tight,” and/or you lack mobility and strength elsewhere. Solution: See the point above about shortening the range of motion. I’d rather see your feet flat and stable in a quarter squat versus trying to go full depth and performing an ugly looking squat.
5) “Feel the heel” - Make sure you’re working in plenty of hip dominant movements. These are movements that improve your ability to load your backside. Think hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles. Movements like Romanian deadlifts, good mornings, box squats… you get the point. By feeling your heel throughout these movements you’re immediately taking stress off the knee and placing it in the muscles on the backside. WIN-WIN. When I say “feel the heel” that doesn’t mean lift your toes (that’s another bad habit we don’t want to form). What I mean is have conscious awareness of your heel throughout the movement and pay attention to when you start to shift your weight toward your toes. Don’t let that happen. You want “quiet toes.” Unless you're jumping, the weight shouldn’t be shifting excessively to the toes.
6) BONUS* - Invest in a pair of amazing knee sleeves aka the E26 [6mm] Knee Sleeves.
At 6mm in thickness, the E26 knee sleeves provide you with the compression/stability necessary to perform your heavy lifts and the flexibility needed to move quickly and efficiently in your WODs.
So if you have some cranky/sore knees, these are definitely something to look at in addition to implementing the above tips. Warmth, compression, blood flow, and stability in the bottom of a squat, they’ll take you one step further to reducing that knee pain and upping your performance.
To check them out, click the link below.
And any questions about the tips above or the E26 Knee Sleeves, email us at email@example.com and we'll take care of ya ASAP!
Written by: Phil Gauthier
Phil is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.
He is also an Owner and Co-Founder of the performance gear company, Element 26 (E26).
E26 prides itself on developing functional gear for the functional athlete to help you "Destroy Your PR's, Not Your Body."
To reach Phil or any member of the Element 26 Staff, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will respond to you ASAP!