If you're interested in reading more on ideas presented in the article below, I suggest reading Dynamic Aging. If you'd like movement instruction via video, start with Alignment Snacks: A Balanced Approach to Hip Strength.
Today is my mom's birthday. She is 60. Happy Birthday, Mom!! I love you. Thank you for everything you have ever done. It got me where I am today. Which is up at 5:30 AM writing this blog. Thanks a lot.
This is a picture of my 60-year old mom when she was living in some European communist country about 75 years ago.
I'm not sure why people used all-metal strollers or let their children pet wild animals back in the day. I love her shoes. I love that the monkey is on her stroller. I love that everything happening in this picture is highly illegal today.
Anyhow, during delivery, my mom broke her tailbone. I guess I broke her tailbone, although not on purpose. I didn't mean to break her tailbone, in the same way I didn't mean to break her brand new tile-top kitchen table when I was twelve. I must have accidentally bonked my head on her coccyx on the way out just like I accidentally threw my baseball mitt-with-the-ball-still-in-it onto the two-day old tiled top table.
What was not an accident was my setting the now-broken table in the middle of the afternoon to hide the cracked tile. I mean the whole enchilada too - place mats, cloth napkins, silverware, plates, glasses, and a filled water pitcher. At 3:30 in the afternoon. Also not an accident was my exclaiming "Wow! Did you hear that?" when my mom placed the casserole-from-the-oven onto the table about 7 inches from the covered crack. Another non-accident was me exclaiming "What'd you do?" when pulling back the tablecloth to reveal the crack in the table.
She thought she cracked it until I came clean about 20 years later. Just kidding, I'm coming clean now. Just kidding, I already told her, but she couldn't hear me over the broken tail bone. Just kidding, she doesn't have a tail so how could she have a tail bone? Just kidding, she has a tail bone and it's called a coccyx, which is why I wasn't allowed to call it that when I was young. Just kidding, I was never young. I was born this age, thirty-five. Just kidding, I was born young, but I was thirty-five inches tall. Just kidding, I was born regular sized, only my mother must have a gigantic tailbone that got in the way. Just kidding. Just kidding. Just kidding.
But you're reading this for knee tips, right?
So anyway, her broken tail bone caused some tucking that she only just began to work on about a year ago. So what happens after years of tucking, pushing the pelvis forward, and holding the body with the psoas and quads? Knee osteoarthritis.
In honor of mom, here are five things that you should do starting today, as often as you can, to save those knees!
1. Stretch, stretch, stretch your calves! This might be the single-best habit you could cultivate for healthy knees. And why the calves?
Why is it bad to have the quads tense all of the time? See #5. (I've always wanted to write a choose-your-own adventure book. Remember those? I loved them!) For a couple different calf stretches, check out this post (click).
2. Stop wearing heeled shoes. The research linking positive heeled shoes to increased risk for knee osteoarthritis is abundant. Here is a picture from my new book Every Woman's Guide to Foot Pain Relief:
Your knees and pelvis have to balance out the angle changes at the feet. Even a "small" heel as found on many a comfort footwear brand can change the loading angles at the joints by 20-30°. Boo. And for those of you who are always looking for something professional-yet-healthy when it comes to foot wear, someone sent me a link to these all-leather flats (click). They seem expensive, and probably not suitable for serious weather, but I like to give you guys options. And they are beautiful. I'm putting the copper or nude ones on my Christmas list. I hope someone in my family actually reads my blog. Probably not.
3. Get off the couch and onto the floor. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is, you need to decrease the amount of time you spend in the 90° hip/90° knee position. Seriously, you're in it for hours a day. Sitting on the floor helps the joints articulate in new positions, which provides relief for old ones as well as stimulates different muscle groups. Also, when you're on the floor more, you just start stretching more. See if you can go all-floor after dinner time. Try it. It's awesome. Can't figure out which way to sit? Why don't you take a look at some of these positions used around the world!
4. Don't use this machine at the gym...ever.
Last year there was an article including this piece of machinery -- What NOT to use at the gym. The article had great references, yet the online commentary was ridiculous. Personal trainers spouting off "Well I do it all of the time and I have great knees". Wow. This kind of commentary makes me want to poke stuff in my eye. Hey, you, don't argue with joint kinetics, ok? This machine causes very high and inappropriate forces within the knee. It should NOT be on the floor of a gym nor should it be found in any sort of knee-rehab program. There are much safer and better ways to strengthen your knees.
5. Relax your quads. The tighter your quads, the more their upward tension pulls the patella (knee cap) back into the joint space increasing friction and then inflammation. See?:
It is important to learn how to relax the quads while you are standing. It is not enough to stretch them -- you need to learn how to turn them off at will. Not thrusting your pelvis is the first step. Are you a pelvis thruster? Click (here) to see what's inside the Ancient Mummy Castle!
Biomechanical considerations in patellofemoral joint rehabilitation. American J Sports Med June 1993 vol. 21 no. 3 438-444