In April’s edition I made a glib comment regarding knee pain. Predictably, ever since my ‘inbox’ has been full of emails about nothing else! So, the time has come to tackle the most difficult of subjects – the knee, but before I start, please remember that you can email me should you wish to ask any ‘easier’ questions!!!
It seems simple, the knee; a nice big joint which is placed conveniently in the middle of our lower extremity. It bends quite easily one way but not so easily the other. There is a small amount of rotation both internally and externally and a healthy mix of cartilage and ligaments. The icing on the proverbial cake is a complex group of powerful muscles, one of which even houses its own protective mechanism, (the patella or knee cap). So, no problem then – we’ll move on shall we? Obviously not, judging by the amount of knee braces and bandages we see on court there must be a problem. But what could it be? The answer, I’m afraid is very simple – vulnerability. The main problem with the knee is its sheer size and the amount of work that it has to do. From the moment we take our first steps to the very last verse of ‘Abide with me’ our knees are constantly being abused. In addition to this, we start exercising – hopefully from a very young age, (depending on the latest release by Nintendo/Bill Gates). As we increase our exercise levels, our muscles provide more stability, which is a positive thing. Unfortunately, this is outweighed by the hugely negative increase in compression that the knees are subjected to and this can lead to one of the following:
Osteoarthritis (‘wear and tear’)
Changes to the structure and formation of bone
Those of you that are reading this article that are familiar with the above problems are busily looking for a panacea for knee pain and I am sorry to say that a wonder cure has not yet been found. As with all musculoskeletal problems prevention is far better than cure and there are a few simple points that are always worth mentioning.
Wear appropriate footwear
Warm up/cool down properly
Schedule your exercise evenly
Consult appropriate professionals when injured
Use ‘cold compresses’ as a first aid measure (should you sustain an injury)
Most importantly, PAIN IS A ‘RED LIGHT’. If you start noticing a problem with your knee then you must STOP immediately and certainly do not use pain killers prior to or during sport.
The use of orthotics, knee supports and braces might help your plight but these should be fitted by a trained professional – you don’t ask the sales assistant in the motoring shop for advice about fixing your car and the same goes for the sales assistant in your local sports shop!
A final note – in contrast to popular belief, there is a name for the back of the knee. It is referred to as the popliteal fossa and scores pretty highly on a ‘Scrabble’ board!