Strong supporter muscles, particularly around the knees, are key to maintaining longevity and good quality of life, says Nolan Ferraro, a personal trainer and owner of Salire Fitness and Wellness Studio (214 N. Jefferson Davis Pkwy., 821-4896; www.salirefitness.com). Because the knee is responsible for stability and movement of the leg, problems associated with that joint can inhibit daily activities. "Not only playing sports, but also walking, sitting and climbing stairs are going to cause pain and limit what we can do," Ferraro says.
A variety of injuries and conditions can cause knee pain, including a floating kneecap, tight quadriceps and weak ankles. Ferraro says the type of exercise needed to treat the knee pain depends on the injury. "A 22-year-old guy who gets injured playing flag football may have trauma to the knee," he says. "That's different than an elderly person with ankle stability issues."
Regardless of the source of the problem, stretching the muscles surrounding the knee is critical to strengthening the joint and preventing further weakening or injury. Ferraro says a lot of knee problems not caused by specific trauma could be healed if the sufferer would stretch his or her quadriceps, hamstrings, calf muscles, hips and buttocks.
One of the most common causes of knee pain across the age spectrum is runner's knee (patellofemoral syndrome), a condition characterized by pain in the front and/or rear of the kneecap, Ferraro says. In this example, his client is suffering from patellofemoral syndrome that has been assessed to be caused by a weak ankle with limited ankle eversion/pronation and dorsiflexion. To treat it, he recommends exercises (using a manual reaction technique) to strengthen the knee and stretch the surrounding muscles as well as some functional exercises to assist in creating some ankle flexibility.
Christopher Gillispie of Salire demonstrates a simple exercise to treat runner's knee, particularly knee pain due to a lack of eversion/pronation in the ailing left ankle. Start with your feet apart. Move your left leg forward, ahead of your right leg, with your left leg slightly bent. Extend your left arm straight in front of you; keep your right arm at your side. Use your right leg for stability only.
Slowly reach across your body with your left arm. If your are working with a trainer, have him roll your left ankle inward to assist with the eversion/pronation of the ankle.
Return your left arm back to starting position.
Reverse legs and repeat the set six to 10 times (omitting the ankle roll if that is not a problem).
Start with your feet together, both legs slightly bent. Raise your right leg 2-3 inches off the floor, and extend it.
Standing on your bent left leg, slowly move the fully extended right leg outward, away from your body. Return your right leg to the starting position. (This will once again put you in a position where you will have to stabilize from the left affected knee and ankle by opening up your hip, forcing the ankle into eversion and dorsiflex while stabilizing).
Repeat 10 times.