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The Poor Knee. Caught between a Rock and a Hard Place

I’m sure sometimes the knee just wants to give up! Think about it. It’s designed to be primarily a hinge joint, like the hinge of a door functioning mainly in opening and closing.

What happens if the door hinge is crooked?

It means something shifted and is no longer aligned properly.

The door might begin to rub on the top or bottom depending on how it’s hanging right? Or possibly the hinge itself will wear out from the stress and break!

Like the door our knee is designed to mainly open and close or as we say flex and extend or you might say bend and straighten. This works great if the leg is straight such as in walking a straight line. What happens when we cross our legs or need to make a turn to go somewhere? That movement requires pivoting which comes mainly from the hip socket and even from the ankle. Those joints are built for multiple directs, 3D!

The knee is caught between a rock (the ankle) and a hard place (the hip)  with nowhere to go. The lower portion of the knee (tibia) is dependent on the ankle to tell it where to go.

If the foot wants to support the body to squat down to sit in a chair the ankle has to bend and the knee must obey. Just try to stand and bend your ankle without bending your knee! Impossible!

The upper portion of the knee (femur) relies on the powerful 3 dimensional ball in socket hip to tell it what to do. In the same squat analogy to sit down the hip has to bend and roll backwards.

Try to do this without bending the knee! Ha.

Now you just look funny!

So it’s fair to say that the simple act of sitting in a chair requires good communication between the hip and the ankle with the knee as the in between, monkey in the middle!

One false move on anyone’s part and the knee gets it!  

The more complicated the move the harder it is on the knee if the other parts aren’t doing their job. Most of us have experienced tightness in the legs or stiffness in the joints. What can you do about it?

How can we train the knee to be ready for all of these movements?

Like everything else you’ll learn from me there is a way to help these movement patterns and that is through 3 dimensional training using lots and lots of repetitions throughout the day to create Muscle Memory!!

Here’s a few pictures of some athletes in action showing just how much our knees actually do move and why it’s important the hip and ankle are ready for action.

There is one picture that shows an injury occurring that maybe could have been prevented with this type of training and there is one pic that, well, you just cannot prepare for!


Can you find them?

A video to follow will give you the start of an exercise matrix that is designed to prepare you body for movement in all directions. We use arm movements to drive the hip and knee into a change of direction. It’s in the deceleration part of the movement where the most benefit takes place.

If we can control our slowing down of a movement and control a sudden change in direction then we are well prepared and at less risk of injury.

Try performing these steps with each leg without the arms, then add the arms moving in the same direction as the leg (in sync), then opposite directions (out of sync), then try it at different speeds, then try it with a 5lb medicine ball and so on with your own creativity.

It seems simple but sometimes that’s what we need! You may be surprised at the results though. Enjoy!


Dr. Donna Copertino is the Director of Back in Action: Athletic performance training center and Founder and Lead Instructor of Move Better Perform Better.

For free Sport Specific Flexibility training we recommend this Youtube channel Standard of Flexibility.

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