Knees are one of the most important and easily affected joints of the body.
In the modern day, we see more and more cases of knee joints getting incapable due to injuries and ailments like arthritis.
Thus it becomes imperative for the modern human being to take steps to prevent and manage any afflictions to the knee.
Yoga offers a perfect solution as it helps to strengthen the ligaments and muscles around the knees. These scientifically crafted practices help to increase mobility and flexibility of the joints.
But before we delve into how Yoga can help knee pain, let us understand the anatomy of the knee.
The knee is the largest joint and one of the most important joints in the body. It plays an essential role in movement related to carrying the body weight.
The knee is a hinge joint. The femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone), and patella (kneecap) make up the bones of the knee. The knee joint keeps these bones in place.
One of the main aspects of the Knee joint is Cartilage. These are crescent-shaped discs that act as a “shock absorber” so that the bones of the knee can move through their range of motion without rubbing directly against each other.
Apart from the cartilage, the knee joint is supported by ligaments, tendons and muscles.
Ligaments are tough and fibrous tissues; they act like strong ropes to connect bones to other bones, preventing too much motion and promoting stability.
Tendons are similar to ligaments, but instead of linking bone to bone, they connect bone to muscle
The quadriceps are four muscles that straighten the knee. The hamstrings are three muscles at the back of the thigh that bend the knee
Although they are not technically part of the knee joint, the hamstrings and quadriceps are the muscles that strengthen the leg and help flex the knee.
Now let us look at some of the common ailments that occur due to knee damage or weakness
We saw how the components of the knee joint include bones, cartilage, ligaments and tendons. Any sort of knee issue is caused due to damage to one or multiple components of this structure.
The most common ailments we hear about are:
- Ligament Tears/Injuries
- Meniscal Tears
- Tendinitis/ Tendon Tears
- Osteoarthritis/Rheumatoid Arthritis
These ailments are very different from each other in terms of symptoms and treatment. Injuries like Ligament tears and Fractures may require surgical procedures to fix, while some other ailments may be fixed with Yoga.
These ailments are more often than not caused due to one of the following reasons:
- Excess weight
- Lack of Flexibility
- Lack of Exercise
- Improper Nutrition
- Impact Injuries
Except the case of impact injuries, Knee ailments can be prevented before their onset in most cases. But if one suffers from these ailments, how can Yoga be useful?
THE ROLE OF YOGA
Yoga is a scientific practice, which helps to strengthen muscles, ligaments and tendons. It builds flexibility and enhances muscle health.
In the long run, yoga helps to develop mindfulness. A practitioner becomes more aware of the movement and working of his/ her body. One learns to observe and control the functioning of every muscle. This awareness helps in prevention of any injuries.
For afflicted joints, yoga offers pain relief and comfort. The slow and steady movements help practitioners relieve pain and improve pain threshold. Special Knee practices help to strengthen and improve functioning of the knee joint with practice.
Many forms of arthritis, especially autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, involve inflammation, a process that causes joint swelling, redness and pain and eventually destroys the joint components. Yoga may be a gentle, soothing form of physical activity for someone ailing from this.
Yoga’s emphasis on introspective thought – pinpointing the sources of pain or anxiety and learning to relax them – is useful for people with arthritis.
Recent scientific studies of people with various types of arthritis show that regular yoga practice can help reduce joint pain, improve joint flexibility and function and lower stress and tension to promote better sleep.
The experience of pain also has a lot to do with the mind. An agitated mind experiences far greater pain than a calm and relaxed mind. Pranayama practices help calm down the mind, supply an extra much needed dose of oxygen to the whole body playing a vital role in providing pain relief.
So which practices do we recommend for someone going through chronic knee pain?
- Dynamic practices focused at the knee joints
- Asanas such as Hasta Padasana, Janushirasan, Anantasan which give a good stretch to the hamstrings, thus strengthening them
- Pranayama practices such as Anulom vilom
- Guided healing meditation
- Mantra chanting
These practices are a general list, and we encourage people with complex ailments to consult a Yoga Trainer for choosing practices best suited for them.