Our knee joint is a common site of acute or chronic joint injury that may significantly alter the normal daily activities since it plays an integral role in maintaining smooth limb mobility. The chronic knee pain may be a consequence of moderate to severe injury to the knee capsule, ligaments, muscles, joint cavity or other connective tissue elements. A number of medical studies and scientific surveys suggest that the most common cause of knee pain is osteoarthritis (and less commonly other inflammatory conditions of the bones and joints).
According to the data presented by MT Hannan (2), the overall prevalence of knee pain varies significantly in different populations. Hannan randomly selected a sample of individuals with highly variable age group (from age 25 to 74 years) and studied 6880 individuals on the basis of 3 classic indicators of osteoarthritis. After deliberate study, he concluded that:
- The overall prevalence of knee pain in the study population was 14.6%
- Radiographic bone changes were reported in considerably fewer subset of population (3.6%)
- Physician testing revealed that 25.6% of the entire population has some degree of arthritis
What Causes Knee Pain?
By far the individuals who are most mobile are at highest risk of developing knee injuries (for example athletes, sports personnel and runners). However, every individual who is exposed to following risk factors can develop chronic knee pain:
- Highly mobile individuals like soccer players, athletes and body builders are at higher risk of trauma that leads to knee joint deficits. This include fractures, ligamentous tear (most commonly anterior cruciate ligament) and muscular sprain presenting as knee pain that may be acute or chronic. According to the study conducted by L.S. Lohmander (1), almost 75% soccer players reports symptomatic knee pain and about 42% report bone changes on x- rays and bone scans (after at least 10 years of active participation in sports like soccer).
- Use of certain drugs can also increase the risk of knee pain due to de-mineralization (diuretics) or inflammation (steroids are notoriously known to cause weak and vulnerable ligaments, joint cavities and other connective tissue elements).
- Physiological aging increases the risk of age-related wear and tear degenerative changes due to osteoarthritis. In addition, menopause also increases the risk of symptomatic knee pain due to estrogen depletion and resulting bone de-mineralization.
- Obesity or body mass index higher than 28 kg/ m2 increases the intensity of wear and tear changes and aggravate the process of osteoarthritis.
Best Yoga Poses For Knee Pain Relief
According to the recommendations and guidelines of The American College of Rheumatology (ACR), non-pharmacological options are far more superior and effective for knee pain relief when compared to pharmacological or surgical options. Although exercises and different postures are recommended by most healthcare providers today, little is known about the actual postures or poses and therapeutic benefits. This article will discuss the 8 most important and effective yoga poses to alleviate knee pain.
- Supported warrior
To relieve chronic knee pain due to inflammatory or degenerative bone disorders, follow the simple steps:
- Stand in front of a wall and place your hands on the wall (at the level of shoulders)
- Take your left foot a step closer so that your toes are partially touching the wall or at least stretched in the forward direction as shown in the picture
- Stretch or extend your arm (right arm along the right limb and left arm along the left lower limb as shown in the picture)
- Take two steps backward from your right foot and flex your left knee a little
- Hold your breath for at least 15 seconds and then extend your left limb to repeat the exercise with your right lower limb.
Follow the steps in schematic fashion:
- Sit on a clean mat in lotus position as shown in the picture
- Now gradually fold your legs gently and use your fingers to hold the big toes of respective feet while maintaining the position of your lower limbs, try to lie on the floor by extending your back
- Touch the ground with your head, hold the position for a few seconds and sit back in the original position
This yoga pose is extremely help for the optimal nourishment of your knee joint. Follow the steps closely:
- Stand straight and place your feet firmly on the ground
- Keep your back muscles straight and maintain slow breathing
- Maintain steady breathing (by inhaling from your nose and exhaling from your mouth)
- Place both your knees and both your hands on the ground (also known as cat pose as shown in the picture)
- Now slowly try to sit on your back and fold your legs inwards
- Fold your hands and position the wrists along your stomach
- Now breathe deeply and relax your muscles, joints and ligaments
- Triangle pose
- Stand straight and extend your legs as shown in the picture
- Balance your body by stabilizing your muscles and joints
- Now stretch your right arm in the air, while at the same time try to touch the ground with your left hand
- Hold your body in this posture for a few seconds and release gently
- Repeat the pose with right hand on the ground and left arm in the air
These yoga poses are helpful in alleviating knee pain and discomfort by strengthening and stabilizing knee joint. However, if you experience undue pressure, stress or strain in any part of knee joint, you can stop the exercise and perform alternative poses to prevent any injury.
- Reverse triangle pose
- Place both your feet on the floor at least 2-3 feet apart (or as wide as you can stretch comfortably)
- Bend your trunk forward towards your knees and extend your right arm along your left and hold the position for a few seconds
- Release and repeat the same pose with other knee (left arm along right knee) for at least 10 times
- Camel pose
Follow these steps:
- Kneel down on the floor in such a way that both your thighs are perpendicular to the floor
- Rest your shins on the floor and slowly approach your pelvis with both your hands
- Lean backwards and slip your hand to hold your heels as shown in the photo below
- Maintain the posture for a few seconds and release
- Reclining knee bent twist
- Lie straight on your back and bend your knees so that your feet rest comfortably on the floor
- If this position is not comfortable for your head or upper chest, you can always use a folded blanket or pillow for support
- Now slowly and gently roll the left lower limbs towards the right side of the body
- Make sure to gently stretch your knees while rolling and hold the pose for a few seconds
- Release and repeat the same pose with right limbs
Why Yoga Therapy Helps To Relieve Knee Pain?
In order to study the benefits of yoga poses for the management of chronic knee pain, Sharon L. Kolasinski (3) conducted a study in which participants practiced modified yoga poses for 90 minutes (once a week) for a period of 8 weeks. After the completion of this period, author concluded that:
Yoga may provide a feasible treatment option for previously yoga-naive, obese patients more than 50 years of age and offers potential reductions in pain and disability caused by knee OA.
Research conducted by investigators of Duke University Medical Center concluded that yoga poses are helpful in managing bone and joint conditions caused by osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and other chronic inflammatory disorders. There are a number of logical explanations with which yoga therapy decreases the intensity or severity of knee joint pain. A few are listed below:
- Controlled breathing helps in decreasing the production of toxins. Most of the inflammatory and infectious conditions of the knee joint are caused by toxins and inflammatory mediators
- Relaxing and stretching the inflamed tissues gently that helps in promoting circulation, thereby promoting knee pain relief
- The gentle stretches helps in promoting natural healing process to alleviate medical, surgical and traumatic conditions of lower limbs
The above recommended yoga poses are also helpful in conditions like:
- Medical disorders: Gout, pseudogout, Osgood-Schlatter disease
- Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis, septic arthritis, osteoarthritis
- Joint conditions: Patellofemoral pain syndrome, osteochondritis dissecans, runner’s knee, Iliotibial band syndrome
- Injuries to the knee joint: Knee bursitis, patellar tendonitis, torn meniscus, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), ruptured ligaments, torn cartilages as a result of certain knee exercises
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