The following article describes exactly the same exercise we often do in our classes to strengthen our knees. Our version though works on our balance, too!
Strengthening The Knees
(Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, vol 25(9), 1993)
Almost every athlete gets knee pain from time to time. And in Taiji we have to be particularly vigilant regarding our knee joints. The first and foremost principle regarding knees is to keep the knee and toes aligned. It is quite easy when holding static poses (be it from Taiji or Qigong) but we tend to forget about proper alignment when moving through the form.
The knee pain is usually caused by a "gliding patella" (knee bone). Its decision to glide randomly around your knee joint is probably caused by weak quadriceps femoris muscles (the "quads"). Specifically, if one of your vastus medialis muscles is weak (the vastus medialis makes up the inside portion of the quadriceps femoris muscle in the front of the thigh), the patella tends to slide laterally during exertion, rubbing unnecessarily on various parts of the knee joints. Over time, the friction between the patella and joint produces irritation, swelling and pain.
Patella taping may help if you suffer from knee pain during exercise. However, a possibly better pain prevention strategy, which is very easy to carry out, may strike at the actual root cause of knee pain by strengthening your vastus medialis muscles. To add a bit of oomph to each vastus medialis, simply sit in a straight backed chair and extend one leg so that it extends straight from your body, parallel to the floor. Then rotate the leg so the inside edge is facing up. Hold this position for one minute, and then do the same with the other leg. Repeat as often as you can stand to do it. Over time, your vastus medialis muscles will become considerably more rugged, and their new found strength should help stabilise your knees and reduce patellar pain.
Exercise Beats Rest For Bad Knees
(Copyright 1997 UPI - copied without permission from PointCast - January 2, 1997)
CHICAGO (UPI) - A study of painful knees with osteoarthritis shows that exercise is better than rest.
The research, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that regular exercise reduced pain and improved people's ability to move. Based at Bowman Gray School of Medicine, the study of 439 people showed that both weight training and aerobic exercise made modest, but consistent improvements. The school's Walter Ettinger, in Winston-Salem, N.C., says that the study also demonstrates that exercise is safe for the millions of Americans plagued by the degenerative joint disease. Before the study, doctors disagreed about the safety and benefit of moderate workouts for painful knees. The new research tracked the effects of 18 months' of exercise sessions three times a week. A comparison group just listened to health lectures by a nurse. The researchers, including collaborators at the University of Tennessee in Memphis, warn that people need to stick with the program to get the benefits.