Knee Cap Pain
The Pain- Aching or sometimes burning pain over the kneecap. Prolonged sitting (AKA moviegoer’s knee) often brings on pain. Other activities such as squatting, crouching, stair climbing and running can also bring it on. Your kneecap may make funny noises such as grinding or popping.
The Causes- Knee pain over the anterior or kneecap area of the knee is extremely common in the aging weekend warrior. Possible causes are an increase in weight (ouch!), weak quadriceps (thigh muscles), arthritis under the kneecap and malalignment of the leg (mostly in women).
The Basic Stretch- Hamstrings- The basic towel stretch. Lie on your back. Holding the two ends of a bath towel loop the towel over the bottom of your foot. Keeping your knee straight pull back . Your leg should be at approximately 90 degrees with your body and in line with your body. If you are doing this right you should have a good pull on your hamstrings. Quads- Kneel with your feet underneath you and your buttocks resting on your heels so that you are sitting like Ken Watanabe in the “Last Samurai” at a Buddhist shrine. . Lean back keeping your knees and feet on the floor until your thighs get tight and stretch.
The Basic Strengthening exercise- TV quad sets. When you are sitting watching TV, straighten your knee until it locks. Hold it like this until you get a good burn in your quads. Relax. Repeat 2-3 times a day. You can do a similar exercise in the gym. Set the leg extension machine from full extension (knee locked straight out) to about thirty degrees of flexion (or knee slightly bent). Put on enough weight to get 10-12 repetitions. Do this two to three times a day, three time a week.
Bracing /Splints- The basic treatment for these type of problem is stretching and strengthening. However, you might consider some support in the form of a brace or splint to facilitate your recovery. You may also need these braces to help you participate in certain activities. If you want minimal bracing and maximal benefit then I would recommend the classic Cho-Pat strap. This will allow you to pursue most of your activities without weighting you down. For those needing more secure stabilization of the kneecap with activities then the Corflex-J brace would be my recommendation.
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When to worry- With any knee pain, catching or locking especially with squatting activities is a serious concern. If this happens, get thee to a doctor. Your symptoms should start to improve with your program in three to four weeks. If things are not improving or getting worse by four weeks this also should prompt you to find a friendly doctor’s office. If at any time you develop sharp shooting pains, numbness, tingling, swelling or discoloration of the limb please call your doctor for an appointment. My mantra for medical problems is “When in doubt, check it out”. If things don’t feel or look right talk to someone who knows.
Other things- If your running shoes are over six months old, change them out.
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