Got Knee Pain?

A recent study at the Mayo clinic looked at some interesting insights to knee Osteoarthritis.  As most of our clientele averages around the age of 50 we meet plenty of individuals who suffer from some sort of knee pain and cringe at the sound of the words “squat, lunge, or deadlift.”  And as you might know, we are fond of these movements. They might claim that they ‘can’t’ do them or it hurts their knees when they do them and that they can only do leg extensions and leg curls (Grrrrrrrrrr).  Then, we run them through our infamous movement screen and dynamic warm-up (The JTLC warm-up and mobility routine) which puts them through a series of drills to see how they move, bend, etc (And thus in 5 minutes of knowing them we determine their ability to squat, deadlift, or lunge).  The final piece of the warm-up is a basic body weight squat.  And walla, we see how everyone’s natural inclination to squat with their feet close together, weight in their toes, and sit down pushing their knees straight forward…ouch! It makes MY knees hurt.


Osteoarthritis involves deterioration of joint cartilage and bone, formation of fibrous tissue in the joints, and abnormal joint lubrication.  Increased muscle mass and strength helps stabilize the joints and prevents abnormal motion that causes further deterioration.  This is true of nearly all joints.

Do you have back, hip, knee, or shoulder pain?  Most of the time with the appropriate posture and form you can clean these issues up with basic strength training to strengthen the surrounding musculature taking stress of the compromised joint (of course, appropriate rehab/pre-hab/adjustments/manipulations may be necessary, but long term care and management lies in the hands of regular exercise, namely strength training).

A 30 month Mayo Clinic study of 265 men and women with knee arthritis showed that good quad strength reduced knee cartilage loss, pain, and disability.  Those with the greatest strength also had the best knee joint function.


Although very enlightening, I feel that this study missed an important point.  Experienced weightlifters (Lab Rats) know the importance of glute hamstring strength and proper squatting mechanics in sparing the knee joint (as they have the terms: ” weight in your heels, butt back, and knees out,” burned into their heads).    And most people are quad dominant when they sit in a chair or squat (Do you stand up in your toes? Are your knees nearly knocking when you stand up? Do you get knee pain/ache as you move this way?).

Posture Hold Position: Squeeeeeze! Make diamonds.

This puts excessive stress on the knees and back and probably contributes to knee arthritis later in life.  Strong quad muscles are VERY important, but also building the posterior chain muscles and learning proper movement mechanics would probably me more effective for preventing knee arthritis pain, than simply building the quadriceps muscles (and doing many isolated exercises on machines).  Which is why we do so much back and posture work staring with the dead lift and it’s variations.    Learning to move and engage muscles correctly is what “holistic” weight training is all about.  They need to function optimally in integration (with many muscles at once in ‘functional movements’) AND in isolation (on their own or fixed in singular plane as with a machine).  Optimizing and training these movement patterns will make your movements pain free and more functional for years to come.  Likewise, this can prevent further pain and diminishing integrity of the cartilage, bone, surrounding connective tissue, and muscle tone (other than the natural aging process, part of which is expedited by lack of exercise!).

(Arhritis & Rheumatism in press: cited in ScienceDaily, January20, 2009)

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