Knee Pain & Tight Quadriceps
There is a strong connection between knee pain and tight quadriceps. Tightness in any part of the body will have a detrimental effect on a neighbouring area at some. It is vital to keep these muscles strong, but without adequate stretching, these muscles become short and bulky and whilst there may be many causes of knee pain (poor technique, for example), lack of stretching is often the main offender. People are still not spending enough time on this important component of fitness, seeing it as a waste of time or not fully understanding the link between inflexibility and injury.
Before I get on to the quadriceps specifically, there are many reasons for knee pain. The most common causes of knee pain are:
- Poor Technique: As mentioned above, poor technique during exercise will put a great deal of pressure on the knees. The basic rules, not matter what the exercise, are to keep knees behind toes and in line with toes. I have seen many soft tissue injuries resulting in surgery from forward moving lunges, a favourite of the boot camp style classes. They are often done far too fast which makes good form extremely difficult to maintain, especially when people get tired.
- Wrong shoes: A client’s son avoided sports at school due to pain on the inside of his knees. He pronated (flat footed) which meant that as his feet rolled in, strain was put on the inside of his knees resulting in pain and damage to cartilage. The pain went once he started to wear decent trainers.
- Iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome: The iliotibial band is a piece of tough tissue that runs from your hip down to the outer part of your knee. If it’s irritated by overuse or other problems, it can become inflamed and cause pain on the outer side of the knee. This demonstrates very well the chain of events I talked about above, in that the gluteal muscles (buttocks) attach to the ITB and if these muscles are tight, they will pull on the ITB resulting in this syndrome
- Overuse/intensity: We all want fast results and often spend too much time on one movement to improve a certain area and/or increase the intensity too quickly. This will aggravate the soft tissue, sometimes resulting in tendonitis and risking other types of injury.
- Tight quadriceps: If you have discounted the above, then this, the simplest of reasons and often the most overlooked, is well worth exploring. The quadriceps are a group of four muscles (as the name suggests) located at the front of your thigh: rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis and sartorius. All four muscles influence movement at the knee. The pain you experience could be from generally tight muscles or from muscle imbalances where one or two of the four muscles have been overworked. All of the above common causes can produce muscles imbalances, but it could just be that you don’t spend enough time stretching out after a workout. Strength + length = balance and I would always recommend that you spend as much time stretching one way or another as you do strengthening.
Try Thigh Dancing in the video to strengthen, but also lengthen, the quads!