Among the most common injuries of the body are those involving the knee. They can result from an accident, where damage is instantaneous, or as a result of long-term overuse, which undermines the tissues that support and move the joint. Another often underestimated cause of knee problems stems from the poor functioning of the hip and ankle joints. Misalignment of the joints above and below the knee, coupled with activities that involve repeated movements, e.g. running, cycling, high impact exercise classes, can lead to increased wear and tear of the knee joint tissues. Those most prone to damage are the tendons that stabilise the knee cap and the shock absorbing menisci on either side of the joint. Early signs of wear and tear in the knee include grinding, clicking and locking. Without rehabilitation, such changes to the knee can lead to poor joint function and in the worst cases, debilitating pain.
Pilates can help those suffering with their knees in two ways:
– as a means of assessing the nature of the problem, i.e. understanding how the joint chooses to move and why, and
– as a source of treatment, i.e. encouraging the relevant muscles etc around the joint to activate in the right way thereby ensuring the knee moves correctly, fully and with control.
The Pilates Method’s holistic or ‘whole body’ approach to exercise means it is ideally placed to address knee problems which arise from the poor functioning of the joints above and below it. Let’s consider the role of the hip in the way the knee works. The knee joint’s primary movements, the ones it is most comfortable performing, are flexion and extension. Turning the knee in or out actually involves rotation at the hip joint. If the hip is not working properly, there is potential for the knee to be twisted out of alignment, regardless of how strong the muscles around the knee are. Pilates can help maintain control and alignment at the hip joint to ensure the knee is positioned correctly between the hip and the foot. This will avoid a twisting action at the knee joint when a person is running for example, or perhaps bending their knees while lifting weights in the gym.
In conclusion, the Pilates Method is an effective way to treat or at least control a knee problem. It does this by minimising the destructive forces causing it and allowing time for the tissues to heal. How long it takes to recover depends on what tissues have been damaged and how badly, how long the problem has existed without treatment, and to what extent other parts of the body have over-compensated to cope with the weakness in the knee. Pilates may not be able to reverse all the structural changes that can occur as a result of injury or long-term misuse, but it can assist people in improving the way their knees function as they go about their day-to-day lives.