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Who Knew that Ankle Tightness Causes Knee Pain!
Surprised me and as a fitness trainer I thought I’d heard just about everything when it comes to what to do about knee pain!
Knee pain afflicts most people who exercise regularly so it makes a great deal of sense that tightness may be one, if not the primary, cause.
And a simple stretching exercise can relieve it!
Have a look!
The Importance of Stretching Your Hamstrings, IT Band, and Ankles
One of the greatest joys of life is to not only be healthy, but also pain-free with unrestricted range of motion….
To this end, you’d be wise to incorporate flexibility training in your fitness regimen. For example, did you know that tight ankles might be the cause of knee problems? Ditto for your iliotibial (IT) band.
As noted in the featured article, stretching is not just for athletes and competitive runners:
“… [I]t may come as a surprise that it also helps patients with conditions such as diabetes and depression,” Dr. Timothy Miller writes. “In fact, recent studies by my colleagues at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center show that stretching during yoga classes can even benefit women who are battling breast cancer.”
The reason why stretching is an important part of fitness is because it actually does more than just elongate muscles and tendons. It also:
Boosts blood flow through your tissues
Increases oxygen levels
Helps deliver nutrients to your muscles
Facilitates the removal of metabolic waste such as carbon dioxide, ammonia, and uric acid
When Should You Stretch?
Here are a few pointers with regards to stretching:
Warm up first, then stretch. Avoid using static stretches as your sole form of warm-up. Also be mindful of the fact that static stretching is not as effective and beneficial as dynamic or active stretching. I’ll discuss dynamic stretching later in this article.
Avoid stretching before strength training, as this may actually be counterproductive.
Do stretch prior to running, doing sprints, or other high-intensity exercise. Failing to warm-up and stretch prior to any kind of sprinting exercise can very easily result in painful injury.
Stretching afterward can also help you recover faster and prevent injuries, as by then your muscles are already nice and warm and loosened up….
How to Stretch Your IT Band, and Why
Your IT band runs along the outside of your leg, attaches at your hip, and just below and on the outside of your knee. It helps stabilize your knee joint during movement.
One of the most common sports injuries, especially among runners, is iliotibial (IT) band syndrome, which occurs when this ligament becomes tight and/or inflamed.
When your IT band is tight, just about any kind of knee movement can become painful as the IT band is pulling your knee out of alignment. Stretches that can help prevent this situation include:
Cross-legged stretch: Standing on the floor, hook your left foot behind the right. Bending forward at the waist, and pressing your left big toe down into the floor, twist your body slightly to the left while holding on to your right leg with your hands.
Done correctly, you’ll feel your IT band stretching on the outside of your right leg. Hold the stretch for a moment, then uncross your legs and repeat on the other side…..
Are Your Ankles Too Tight?
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t pay much attention to your ankles — until or unless you end up with an ankle injury. But, as explained in a recent Time Magazine article, stretching your ankles is important for a number of reasons:
“Apparently, not being able to move your ankles in their full range of motion can wreak havoc on your knees every time you pound the pavement… Here’s why you should consider your ankles, too, whether you’re a runner or not: ‘Your body needs to lengthen to absorb force,’ explains David Reavy, a Chicago-based physical therapist and owner of React Physical Therapy.
‘If your ankles have limited or restricted range of motion, minimal forces are absorbed causing the force to travel up the kinetic chain to the next joint, your knees.’ Tight ankles can also affect the range of motion in your hips, calves, and feet as well as prevent you from developing those glutes.”
One common cause of ankle tightness is the habit of walking with a forward lean. Many walk with their heads jutting out, which causes tension and tightness in your anterior chain and a weakening of your posterior chain due to chronic overstretching.
This imbalance results in a chain reaction that extends all the way down into your ankles, reducing range of motion and mobility. To determine whether your ankles are too tight, stand with your toes about five inches from a wall, then bend your knees until they touch the wall. If you can successfully do this, you’re fine. If you cannot, your ankles are too tight.
Five Simple Ankle Stretches
Shin release: Kneel on the floor, and place a lacrosse ball beneath and to the outer side of your left shin (the top of your shinbone should not be directly on the ball). With your hands leaning on the floor in front of you for stability, roll your leg backward and forward across the ball. When you come across a tender spot, stop and flex your foot up and down for 30 seconds until the muscle releases. Repeat on the other leg.
Plantar fascia release. Standing on the floor, place a lacrosse ball or golf ball beneath the bottom of your left foot. Gently roll the ball beneath your foot, backward and forward. When you locate a tender spot, stop and flex your toes upward and downward. Continue rolling the ball for about a minute or two. Repeat on the other foot.
Soleus release. Sit on the floor with legs outstretched. Place a lacrosse ball or foam roller beneath your lower left calf. Cross your right foot over your left, and roll yourself up and down over the ball/roller. When you locate a tender spot, stop and flex your foot up and down for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
Mid-foot pronation and supination. Stand on your right leg with the knee slightly bent. Keeping your foot flat on the floor, transfer your weight to the front part of your foot. Hold on to the back of a chair or table for balance. Next, twist your body from right to left while keeping your foot flat. Do 10 to 15 repetitions. Then, shift the weight to your heel and repeat the above steps. Repeat on the other side.
Calf raises. Holding a workout ball in both hands, rest the ball against the wall, so that you’re leaning your chest against the ball. Keep your legs out behind you with heels off of the floor. Shift your weight to your left leg, and hook your right foot around your left ankle with the right knee slightly bent. Your left leg should be straight. Go up on your toes, then come back down. Repeat this motion several times, first with your foot pointing straight, and then with your foot turned outward. Repeat on the other side.
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