Experiencing chronic knee pain? You’re not alone. Knee pain plagues many adults, both athletes and non-athletes, and is reportedly the second biggest complaint when it comes to seeing the doctor for chronic pain. When it comes to keeping up with your yoga practice, don’t let knee pain sideline you.
Common Causes of Knee Pain
The knee joint is an impressive joining of three major bones – the thighbone (femur), shinbone (tibia), and kneecap (patella). A comprehensive network of ligaments, tendons, and cartilage help the bones synchronistically operate with a fluidity and strength that powers everything from your everyday walking, to running, working out, doing yoga, and more.
When it comes to diagnosing knee pain, the most common culprits aren’t necessarily damage to the bones of the joint, but rather degradation, inflammation, and damage of the connective tissues and cartilage. Common causes of knee pain include:
Arthritis: Millions of people experience painful joint inflammation from arthritis, but specific types of arthritis including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis specifically afflict the knees. A degeneration of the knee joint, bone deformities, and damage result in stiffness, swelling, and pain.
Tendinitis: Weak and inflexible tendons in an around the knee, especially the patellar tendon that connects the kneecap to the shin, can strain, tear, or rupture leading to pain, stiffness, and swelling.
Meniscus tear: When the cartilage which cushions the knee joint tears or dislocates, pain, tenderness, and inflammation result, making it hard to complete a full range of motion with your leg.
Bursitis: Little fluid-filled sacs in the knee joint that help make for fluid movement are called bursae. Swelling of the bursa sacs can cause discomfort and painful movement.
IT Band Syndrome: If your iliotibial band (the thick tendon which runs from your hip down the thigh to the outside of your knee) is too loose or too tight from overuse, it can rub on the femur and cause leg and knee pain.
Addition injuries, like those to ligaments in the knee like the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or the medial collateral ligament (MCL) can result in more severe pain and immobilization, and can even require surgery.
Yoga Practice for Knee Health
Yoga practice actually plays an important role in lowering your risk for knee pain. How exactly? Well factors that put you at greater risk for knee injury include being overweight, inflexibility, poor technique, wearing ill-fitting shoes, and playing high-impact sports.
Barefoot yoga practice is considered a low-impact exercise that hones stretching and flexibility skills, as well as strengthens key muscle groups that reinforce good knee health. Yoga can also reduce stress levels and help you maintaining a healthy weight. A knee brace for working out, whether at yoga or in the gym, may also help support your physical exercise while stabilizing the knee joint and reinforcing proper range of motion.
Yoga Practice for Knee Pain
If you are currently experiencing knee pain, you might be wondering if you should avoid yoga practice while you heal. Experts say yes . . . and no. There are many yoga poses that place added stress on the knee joints, especially those which involves single leg stances, that you want to avoid.
Experts recommend, however, modifying yoga poses to adjust to knee pain, and also avoid common yoga pose mistakes that can exacerbate knee pain to begin with. These mistakes include:
Locking the knees in the joint (in Triangle pose, for example)
Pressing too hard back in the knee joint (in Tree pose, for example)
Not engaging key thigh and calf muscle groups
Not using the aid of bolsters for strenuous hip – knee poses (like Pigeon pose, for example)
The best choice you can make when working through knee pain with yoga practice is to ask for the help and guidance of an expert instructor. They will able to modify poses for you, provide recommendations and advice, as well as incorporate other healing elements into practice (essential oils, music, meditation, etc).
Guest post by Joe from Vive Health.