When it comes to joint pain, the knees tend to top the list of people's biggest complaints. Creaking, cracking, sore, achy knees are common symptoms I hear of in my clinic on almost a daily basis. When it comes to weight-bearing joints, a little self-care goes a long way. That's where Qigong massage for knee pain can do wonders and can help bring a smile back to those unhappy knees!
Why do we get sore knees?
When we think of the structure of the knee, we have to take several different tissues into account. Pain in the knee can be due to problems with bone, connective tissue, muscles or a combination of many.
But no matter what tissue is the source of pain, one of two factors is always the cause…. Poor mechanics or poor nutrition.
What are the muscles that affect the function of the knee?
As a hinge joint, the first place to explore is the muscles that act on the knee. The hamstring muscles on the back of the upper leg(qigong for leg strength) flex the knee, while the quadricep muscle on the front of the thigh, extends the knee. Both compartments need to be balanced to keep things working smoothly.
However, those two muscle groups don’t work in isolation. In Fact, it is often the muscles that act on the hip joint that are the cause of issues in the knee. This is why using TCM’s holistic approach to joint pain paints a very different picture than simply looking at the knee in isolation.
It is important to be aware of those muscles that create rotational movement through the leg. Both internal and external rotation of the leg to an excessive degree will lead to overuse of certain muscles, and underuse of others.
To put it simply, there are those of us that turn our feet out when we walk, and others that turn our feet in. Both can create problems down the leg if not addressed properly.
Exercises to strengthen and balance the muscles that turn the foot out, namely the quads, glutes, piriformis and TFL, as well as those that turn the foot in such as the hamstrings, adductors as well as deep internal rotator muscles of the hip, with make sure that it's not the muscles who are to blame for that pain in the knee.
What is the connective tissue that makes up the knee joint?
You basically have four strong not-so-elastic bands called ligaments, that hold your knee together. One on either side of the knee, and two that run through the middle. This team of four has the very important job of making sure that your thigh bone stays connected to your shin bone (I know you sang that in your head, didn’t you?).
In addition, at the ends of the thigh and shin bone, you have some cushioning material, what's called cartilage, to offset the pressure of gravity pushing down on you as you move. They are the crunchy bits you love to chew on when you eat those greasy chicken wings.
These pieces of connective tissue form the scaffolding that provides stability to the knee. These are also the guys you don’t want to hear are “torn” when chatting with the dude (or dudette) in the white coat.
The muscles and connective tissue have a specific relationship when it comes to strength, stability and function on the knee. Strong muscles move the joint, while ligaments assist to hold it together. However, the weaker the muscles, the more strain the ligaments have to keep the joint intact. That's why exercise to maintain the strength of the legs is so important for healthy knees.
Surrounding all those tissues, you have a nice tight natural tensor bandage called a joint capsule. This adds one more layer of protection and support to the structures below. This “knee container” is filled with synovial fluid that lubricates the joints, making sure that everything slides over everything it should.
As I mentioned before it is either poor mechanics or nutrition that is the root cause of your knee pain. From a mechanical standpoint, the knee needs strong, stable intact ligaments to maintain the stability of the joint. The muscles need to push and pull in balanced opposition with strength as well as flexibility.
Lastly, the joint itself needs to be moved through large ranges of motion on a regular basis to ensure turbidity and debris within the joint capsule are naturally removed and recycled and fresh blood and nutrients are delivered.
How does our Diet affect joint pain?
Maintaining our bio-machine is reliant on the type of energy it’s provided. Inflammation, Irritation and degeneration of a joint is often a symptom of more system-wide inflammation. System-wide (body-wide) inflammation is always a result of one thing…. Gut inflammation.
So the simple remedy….. Stop eating things that cause inflammation. (wow earth shattering!)
Our body is much like the environment. We don’t have to save the environment, we just need to stop polluting it, and its natural regulatory mechanisms will bring things back into balance. Our body has the same ability to self-regulate, but only if it's not constantly being poisoned.
There are five main inflammatory food-like substances that are to blame. Now, I say food-like substances because the biology of our body is not really designed to digest these items. Hence the problems they create.
- Processed Sugar
These five bad boys are the cause of the vast majority of the chronic illness we see in the western world. All of them cause an inflammatory reaction in our body. None of them are really “food” for our machine.
I will dive into the reasons why in an in-depth article on the Microbiome, but for now let's just say that 10 days after you completely remove these from your diet, inflammation levels drop dramatically. Test it out sometime if you don’t trust me. Don’t worry, you won't perish if you don't get your bagel or slice of pizza for two weeks.
The amazing thing about it is, two weeks after completely removing these poisons, your body will begin to change……. And I mean in a huge way. As inflammation levels drop, you will;
- Sleep(Qigong for Sleep) deeper and longer
- Wake feeling more rested
- Have much less pain in your body
- Less headaches
- Less skin irritation
- Less digestive discomfort
- Anxiety will decrease
- And WAY more energy
Not a bad trade-off I would say!
Next, let's delve into self-care. Today I’m going to teach you four different Qigong massage techniques to ease that pain in your knees and get you back in the game.
Four Qigong Massage Techniques for Knee Pain
Acupressure point massage
There are six different acupuncture meridians surrounding the knees. The stomach, spleen, liver, kidney, bladder and gallbladder. All of which have an effect on the functioning of the joint.
- Spleen and stomach energy affect the health and function of the muscles
- The Bladder and Kidney energy affect the health and function of the bones and joint
In choosing which acupressure points to focus on, we look to the fascia (sinew in TCM) that most directly affects the function of the knee. The Stomach sinew channel mirrors the track of the superficial front line of the fascia that travels down the front of the leg, over the knee and down to the top of the foot.
That being the case, there are four acupressure points that can be used to promote the movement of blood and oxygen through the tissue to help it alleviate pain and heal the injury.
Stomach-34 - This is a pain-relieving point, for any acute discomfort or dysfunction along the course of the stomach channel. It is fantastic for any sharp or achy pain in the knees. The point lies two thumb widths above the knee aligned with the lateral border of the knee cap (outside).
Using a thumb or index finger to apply gentle pressure for a few minutes is all it takes to start the healing process.
Spleen-10 - This is a point that helps to nourish blood that feeds the knee. Any knee pain that is due to weakness or deficiency, this is a go-to acupressure point. The point lies once again two thumb widths above the knee, this time aligned with the medial border of the knee cap.
And again, using a thumb or index finger to apply gentle pressure for a few minutes is all it takes to stimulate the blood to do its magic.
Xiyan - These twin points which are known as the “Calves nose” lie in the small indentations just beneath the knee on either side of the patellar tendon. Used together they stimulate the body to flood the joint capsule with fresh blood and nutrients, reinvigorating and lubricating the knee joint.
Using a thumb and index finger simultaneously to apply gentle pressure for a few minutes is all it takes the creaks out of those cracks.
QiGong Massage For Knee Pain: Kneading the Knee
Knee pain is often due to tissues outside the joint itself. Adhesions or scar tissue in the fascia surrounding the knee is the cause of a lot of the pain people experience. Using the pads of your index and middle finger, you can knead out any ripples or wrinkles in the tissue.
Using a circular motion press your finger against the tissue around your knee. Next, use your fingers to move the tissues around in a circle. If the fascia is healthy it will move freely. If there are any wrinkles, ripples or ropes in the tissue…. Knead away!
Slowly explore the tissue all around the kneecap and then all around the entire joint itself. Spending a few minutes ironing out the fascial adhesions can make a magical difference for knee pain.
QiGong Massage For Knee Pain: Empty Palm Patting
Using a cupped hand, clap your hands against either side of your knee. As opposed to a slapping motion which will create a sharp sensation, a cupped hand will create a deeply penetrating vibration. This Acupressure massage technique called Empty Palm Patting is a powerful stimulant to the Qi of the knee.
This will help to break up stagnations of energy in the six meridians that travel through the knee joint. By alternating nine pats to the front and back of the knee, with nine pats to the sides, you can wake up and move the stagnant Qi leading to those painful knees.
QiGong Massage For Knee Pain: Rubbing the Knee
Finally, spend a few minutes giving the knee a nice deep rub on all sides. This will finish up your self-treatment by sending a little extra blood and oxygen to all the tissues of the knee joint.
The wonderful thing about using Qigong massage for knee pain is that it is available to you wherever you go and whenever you need it.
These techniques can be used as often as you like and will go a long way to keep your knees healthy, happy and pain-free….Give it a Try
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