29 May Overcoming that Dodgy Knee
For close to a decade I suffered from a chronic knee injury, which significantly impacted my ability to play the sports I loved so much. I saw every knee specialist there was. The most common answer I got was that I had a weak VMO (inner part of the thigh) and tight ITB (outer part of the thigh). This seems to be the generic advice most people receive when it comes to knee complaints. But is this really the solution to the problem or is there more to this picture?
Do I Need Surgery?
The original diagnosis did lead me down the path of personal training as I spent hours in the gym strengthening my quads and foam rolling my ITB. I trained so diligently that my jeans didn’t fit me and my legs looked like tree trunks, yet I continued to injure the same knee. I saw orthopaedic surgeons whose diagnosis was that my patella had a shallow groove to track in which was allowing my knee to partially dislocate. His solution was to cut off part of my hamstring and use it to attach my knee cap to my shin?! Luckily my physio and I decided this was not a great idea considering I was only 16! I did however have to wear a knee brace to help guide my knee cap in the right track. This helped slightly but I still continued to injure that same knee.
The frustration of thinking I was fixed only to be back to square one within a few weeks later was overwhelming. It gives me a real empathy for those who face this every day. However there was hope and through exploring cutting edge rehabilitation techniques across the globe I stumbled upon a guy called Gary Gray. He is known as the father of Functional Training. His philosophy was centered on a movement-based approach to rehab and training. Instead of looking at muscle strengths and weaknesses, we should focus on movement deficiencies. I soon discovered that the issues occurring at my knee were a product of a lack of movement at my ankle. By addressing my ankle with ‘mobs’, short for mobilisation exercises, I felt instant release at my ankle and much stronger at my knee. Today I have been 5 years injury free and my legs resemble matchsticks rather than tree trunks.
This is not to say the approach of targeting muscles doesn’t work, I know of people who have had success from rehabbing this way. However it most certainly didn’t work for me. Over the years I have found a movement approach to rehab has been super effective in treating a range of injuries including knee, hip, back, neck and shoulder pain. The key is knowing what to look for and how to replicate those movements so that you move more efficiently and most importantly are pain free.