The knees and hips are two common areas of discomfort in people who sit down for long periods (e.g. at the desk or in front of the TV) and people who participate in physical activity (e.g. cycling or running). There is nothing wrong with sitting down or doing physical activity – both are necessities for our well being – one is rest and one is movement. It’s how you are doing it and what you need to do to make sure you avoid any discomfort from simply resting or moving.

The common symptom one may feel with pain or discomfort in these two areas is an aching, burning or shooting pain down the outside of your thigh and across your knee. Some people also report a feeling of something pulling on the kneecap. This may occur anytime during the day and can also persist throughout your activity. If you have been sitting down during a movie or in front of the TV for a long time, you may find discomfort in your knee or the outside of your thigh as you begin to rise out of your seat.

These symptoms can suggest a tight Iliotibial band (ITB). The ITB is a part of the Myofascial system in our body. This system is the web that holds everything in our body together so we can move efficiently and freely. It exists within and around all the soft tissues in our body from head to toe and keeps them supported so they virtually don’t fall out of place. Without fascia, we would crumble to the ground.

The ITB is the fascia that exists along the outside of your thigh, sealing all the muscles in this area securely. When you are in a healthy state, the ITB permits smooth movement in your thigh and hips so you can carry on pain free. When it becomes tight – as it would with any unaccustomed, prolonged or incorrect movement – the fascia thickens and shortens – thus inhibiting healthy movement in this area (and producing any of the above symptoms mentioned earlier). As the fascia around this area thickens it reduces the amount of blood and oxygen which would normally flow here and consequently deprive the muscle of the nutrition it needs to move, grow and repair. This will result in a nutrient deficient muscle and then the cycle begins. It will become more tense and tighter until something is done to reverse the cycle. Your muscle may begin to spasm (involuntarily contract) continuously until it becomes fatigued. This is a protective mechanism and also occurs when stress is placed upon the body. Another term that you may have heard of is ‘Trigger point’. This is a local tenderness along a tight/taut band of muscle that results from a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the area.

If there is stress in the body (or mind) your nervous system is on ‘over-drive’ and can stimulate the muscle spasms which can lead to the trigger points.

So there are three (there are more!) measures that can be taken to address the discomfort you are feeling in your hips and knees. Massage and stretching are a great and proven way to promote health in your muscles and fascia allowing ease of movement amongst many more benefits. The third is relaxation. This can be achieved with the above two and thus promoting a holistic approach which is always the better approach.

Massage will release the tension in the fascia and muscle. This will encourage circulation of blood (nutrients and oxygen) to flow efficiently through your muscles and allow them to move, grow and repair to the best of their ability. Massage also promotes warmth in your body – we are warm blooded beings – and with massage we can enhance our body’s natural healing ability.

Stretching your muscles promotes flexibility and elasticity which also allows for efficient circulation and movement. It is important to stretch for these two reasons, especially for healthy movement in your hip and knee areas. These are weight bearing joints and if you experience any tension or discomfort around these areas – chances are you’re not moving to your potential!

Relaxation will clear your mind and reduce any nervous tension.

Less nervous tension = Less muscle spasm = Less pain.

In my clinic I offer massage treatments and also teach stretching – a great way to unwind. If you need help for your hips or knees and would like to make an appointment call 02 92 333 800 and ask for Gloria. You can also email me at gloria@backonyourfeet.com.au