I was a runner for many years – running a minimum of 5km a day until I could no longer run because of excruciating pain on the inside of my right knee that started when I was high school.
During my last high school hockey game ever, I took a slap shot and my knee collapsed and it wasn’t the same for many years. I saw many physiotherapists and chiropractors to help but everyone was focusing on my knee and nothing was changing. By the time I was 25, I finally got my first X-ray and MRI where I was diagnosed with moderate-severe degeneration of my kneecap and all the bones of my knee. I was told to get a new sport, because I will never run again….
So I stopped running. And it was devastating to me. Anyone who has been told they can’t do something they love understands that feeling well.
Around this time, Dr. Thom and I started dating and he got me interested in lifting weights in the gym. He saw my weak squat and deadlift and taught me proper mechanics. It took me months to learn how to squat better and to increase my weight capacity. I started focusing on my hip strength by doing specific exercises to strengthen them since I had a ton of asymmetry between my two sides. But amazingly, at the same time, my knee pain was going way. I started running again without pain for the first time in 7 years!
I tell you this story because this is incredibly common.
If the muscles surrounding your hips, pelvis and core are weak and tight, there may be increased stress placed on your knee or other areas of your legs resulting in increased pain and possible injury.
Why did strengthening my hips and improving my squat and deadlift help?
There are many muscles surrounding your pelvis and hips. Many of us have heard of the gluteus maximus muscle which is the strongest and largest muscle in the human body, also known as your buttock muscle. You use this muscle to stand up from a chair (during squatting), climb upstairs or when walking.
There are also two other important muscles in the hip region that are especially important during walking or running: gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. They function to pull your thigh directly out to the side (also known as hip abduction). This is the motion of your leg while performing a jumping jack. They also work to rotate the thigh inward.
Your gluteus medius muscle is super important for walking. This is because during walking (or running) there is a period of time where you are standing on one leg as the other leg moves forward. If this muscle is weak, your hips will become uneven and higher stress will be place on certain parts of your legs (hip and knee included) and your lower back.
When your gluteus medius is weak it usually shows up in one of three ways:
- Knee pain on the inner or outer knee – Because you are unable to properly control your thigh bone and it will fall too far towards the midline of your body putting more stress on your knee.
- Low back pain – a weak gluteus medius causes an unlevelled pelvis which means that your spine will have to compensate and so will all the muscles. This can increase low back pain.
- Illiotibial band syndrome – As stated before, a weak gluteus medius causes the thigh bone to fall inwards when you are standing on one leg so there will be more stress placed on the IT band that runs down the outside of your thigh.
Also know that when you are squatting and deadlifting properly, you are strengthening your quadriceps, hamstrings, all gluteal muscles, calf muscles and your entire core as well. These exercises are a necessity if you want to be healthy since they are required in so many of our activities of daily living: sitting, sit to stand, getting in your car or picking something up.
If this article is speaking to you, please talk to us and we will either find the right person to help you strengthen your core and pelvis properly or personally give you some exercises you can do at home to help out.
Also please note that there is hope but it will require some work to get your body where it needs to be. There is no quick fix but it will be worth when your able to do more of things you want in life.