Knee issues? These exercises will help.

It seems as though everyone and their brother has or has had some form of knee issue. You can't watch a sporting event without some player suffering an injury to something in the knee!

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Naturally, when something gets injured, rehabilitative work is usually focused on the area that was traumatized. But what if I told you that the vast majority of knee issues, from the slightest ache to some of the most gruesome injuries, could be prevented by strengthening other areas of the body to better support the knee? 

Now, it should be made clear that certain types of injuries, including some to to the knee, are unavoidable; if your foot is planted and someone else slams into your knee and pushes it somewhere it shouldn't go, there's not much that preventative maintenance can do to prepare for that. 

However, if after activity your knees are screaming at you, your knees just ache constantly, or you can't even participate in activity due to knee pain/discomfort, there is hope! 

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The knee is, in many ways, like the marker on the rope in a tug-of-war competition. If the little flag moves past the marker, is it because the flag was unfairly inclined to move that way? If the rope snaps in the middle, is it because the rope was too frail? Or should we be looking at what is pulling on the rope? 

Imagine one team pulling on the rope as the muscles at the hip and torso, and the other team as the muscles of the foot and ankle. If there is disproportionate pull from one team, the middle of the rope has to move by necessity. If we want to keep the rope from moving, we need to make sure that the teams are pulling equally and not so hard that the rope is going to snap (the muscles and ligaments controlling the knee being forced to do things they aren't built to do). 

In more ways than one, the knee is a dummy at the mercy of what is going on in joints around it. If we can stabilize and balance the hip/torso and the foot/ankle, people seem to feel much better and experience less issues. Several studies indicate a strong inverse relationship between hip/core/foot/ankle strength and knee injuries/issues.

The best way to ensure this stability and strength is through a combination of Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT) and precisely personalized strengthening exercises, systematically removing the imbalances that cause compensation and then strengthening the body in this more balanced state. 

However, general home strengthening exercises can also work wonders! I have put together a simple list of exercises with explanations and pictures that you can use on a daily basis to increase stability in your core, hips, and feet/ankles that will not only help your knees feel better, but will help your whole body work and feel better throughout the day!

I have used these exercises with my clients to great effect in combination with MAT, and even on their own, they will help tremendously. 

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Seven Exercises for Healthy Feet

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You may not think about them all the time, but most of the time your feet are the connection between the world around you and the rest of your body. They are your base, and when a base is unstable, the effects reverberate up the chain and wreak havoc throughout the rest of your body. 

Plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, ankle sprains - foot and ankle ailments are some of the most annoying out there! 

Luckily, specific strengthening exercises can help to prevent these issues from plaguing your feet and allow your foundation to remain solid and healthy. 

Here are seven easy exercises you can do almost anywhere to help keep your feet healthy and functioning properly!

For each of these exercises,

  • Set up in a seated position with the foot flat on the floor. Try to keep the foot pointed forward or slightly out.
  • Slowly move into the position shown in the picture and hold it for 6 seconds. Perform each hold 6 times. 
  • Begin count after reaching the position.
  • All movements into and out of the position in the pictures should be done slowly and under control! 
  • LISTEN TO YOUR BODY if you begin to cramp, relax immediately and rest for awhile before resetting, perhaps in a lesser amount of motion. If the problem persists, move on to the next exercise and try it again another day! 


Big Toe Extension

Drive little toes into floor and lift big toe up. Keep little toes down. MODIFY by using your hands to hold the little four toes down and pull big toe up if need be. 

Little Toe Extensions 

Drive big toe down into floor and lift four little toes up. Keep big toe down. MODIFY by using hands to hold big toe down and help pull little toes up if need be.

Short Foot

Keep all toes in contact with floor and try not to let them move. Contract the bottom of your foot, increasing the arch. A little bit of toe sliding on the ground is okay as the arch increases, however the friction of your toes and the ground should prevent most motion.

Tibial Internal Rotation.jpg

Tibial Internal Rotation

In a controlled manner, spin your right foot and lower leg inward, so that your toe is pointing towards your other foot. Do not allow knee to move to side/side or front/back. 

Peroneal Push

Starting with foot flat, contract muscles on the outside of lower leg to pull the outside of your foot up and away from other foot. When foot is flat, small toes are slightly below big toe. Now big toe should be even with or slightly below little toes. 

Ankle Dorsiflexion with Toes Up.jpg

Ankle Dorsiflexion

Keep heel in contact with the floor and lift the top of the foot up towards the knee. For the 1st version, curl the toes once the foot is raised, without letting the foot drop. For the 2nd version, drive the toes up even more once the foot is raised. 

If you have questions or concerns about the exercises, please reach out and I will do my best to help you out! Happy exercising!