Knee Pain. A Common Culprit.
If you have pain when squatting, or going up and down stairs, one possible problem you might be suffering from is Chondromalacia, which is a softening or irritation of the cartilage underneath your kneecap. While you would be a fool to attempt to self-diagnose, let me fill you in the some information about this common knee dysfunction.
When you bend and straighten your knee with various activities, such as squatting down to grab your shoes, your kneecap, properly called the patella, slides up and down over the two bones that make up the knee joint. These bones are your femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone), and if your patella does not slide in a straight line, it can eventually cause irritation to the cartilage on the under-side of it and cause pain. This pain is often felt underneath your kneecap while squatting, ambulating stairs, and even while sporting your favorite pair of high heels.
Many times this is the result of an imbalance of strength in the muscles of your thigh, called the quadriceps. When the muscles on the outside of the thigh become stronger than the muscles on the inside, it can pull your kneecap to the side a little bit, which takes it out of the track it is supposed to slide in. This eventually leads to irritation and pain. Women’s hips are also wider which places your femur at a slight angle, and this can also contribute to this problem.
If you want healthy knees, strengthening the quadriceps muscle that is on the medial side of your thigh is a great place to start. There is an entire series of exercises that I would usually perform with a person to target this muscle, but an easy one to describe in print is a Wall Squat. Simply lean your back against a wall and then slide down until your hip joint and knee joint are both at 90-degree angles. This means your femur is parallel with the floor and your knee is directly over your ankle. I also want you to squeeze a small ball or rolled up towel between your knees as hard as you can. Hold this position for as long as you can tolerate the burn in the thighs, then rest, and repeat 3-5 times. Beginners might last 15 seconds and an advanced person can go over a minute. Again, this is just one of a series of exercises needed to bring the strength of this muscle to 100%.
While many people get an ache or pain and avoid activity and stop exercising, I have a different opinion. While I strongly believe that you should avoid all activities that cause unwelcome pain, the proper exercise program may be the only thing that is needed to solve the problem and should not be avoided.
I have lost count of the number of people who I have helped cease chiropractic visits or avoid surgery. Your body is an amazing machine and if all of your muscles have a good balance of strength and flexibility, many of the aches and pains will simply go away.