Have you ever watched yourself in a mirror or looked down at your legs whilst performing certain exercises and thought that your knees are wobbly, unbalanced or buckling in? Just about every day I have a client with a lower leg problem such as knee pain or ankle pain, which can be provoked by something as simple as a set of stairs or something as difficult as gymnastics. One of the recurring signs that I see within these patients is that when performing lower limb exercises, they’re allowing their knees to buckle inwards towards the midline of the body. Below, we look into why this biomechanical issue can cause serious pain and injury and how we can turn it all around.
Two main results of a knee buckle:
Altered ‘Line of Pull’ or ‘Force Transmission’
These two terms describe how force is produced and absorbed through the muscles, joints and ligaments of the body when under load. If the knee isn’t flexing/extending in a neutral or optimal position, it places extra load through some structures around the knee, and less load through others. This causes muscles to tighten and/or become over developed whilst others become weak which in turn affects the tracking of the knee cap which can result in significant pain. Also this biomechanical deficiency can affect the load absorbed by the patella tendon which results in tendinopathy (recurring tearing and aggravation of the tendon) which is a very tricky condition to manage and treat. The ankle may then become involved because it has to compensate for the force translation and then may result in some injury.
We have all seen those nasty injuries where a person’s upper leg goes one way and the lower leg goes the other, resulting in severe damage to the ligaments and structures within the joint. These types of injuries can have 12-month long rehabilitation periods and have been known to end careers. Imagine your knee buckling in whilst landing on the ground and how this would put more pressure on the ligaments or menisci of one side of the knee and not the other. The instability around the knee predisposes you to having serious structural knee injuries because of the extra pressure placed through the supporting structures of the knee.
How can we go about fixing the problem?
The gym or workout areas with mirrors aren’t just there to be able to watch yourself pump iron and see the arms or booty grow. They are primarily, or they should be, for correcting technique deficiencies and adjusting your position when loading up the body so that we can attain correct ‘line of pull’ and ‘force transmission’ through all of our joints. This will prevent injuries and begin to strengthen the correct muscle groups.
Strengthen Those Glutes and Hip Stabilisers
The knee buckle is a result of some poor control from above at the hip. If you can train yourself to activate the glutes in functional positions that will translate to better control of the knee position when under load. When we lose control at the hips it affects everything down the chain through the lower leg. The rotation and abduction components of the glutes help to draw that knee away from buckling inwards and maintain neutral alignment.
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