Happy, Healthy Knees the Easy Way

As a dancer I began to suffer knee pain after an accident in rehearsal in which I severely strained my quadriceps (thigh) muscles on my right leg. We were five days away from opening night, and I was a featured dancer. I was whisked off to physiotherapy (this was Holland, 1978), and underwent treatment that enabled me to compensate enough to open the show. Several months later, however, my knee began to hurt.

I was told that I had torn my medial meniscus. I had it surgically repaired, and went back to dancing. My left knee mysteriously began to hurt about a year later, despite the fact that I never had an accident on that side in my life. Then my right knee began to ache again. I underwent an experimental surgery to repair ligaments that the doctors said were too loose. At the time, I was only 22 years old and in peak physical condition. The surgeries still didn’t help, and I continued having sore knees on and off for the next two decades. It became difficult for me to sit on my knees or to sit cross-legged.

My knees stopped hurting when I discovered Hanna Somatic Education.

But how did Somatics help when traditional medical practices didn’t?

Hanna Somatics taught me what my client, “Lisa” learned last week: the problem with my knees was less a knee issue  than it was a problem with tight muscles in the center of my body. Lisa came to me with posture that showed a Trauma Reflex: a side-bending and twisted posture that resulted in leg muscles that no longer coordinated properly. Her waist, hip, and leg muscles had learned to stay tight. Her body was out of balance, and her knees were feeling the strain.  Note the muscles of the leg in the photo on the right. See where they insert at the knee on both sides? Notice the muscle tendon that goes over the knee and attached underneath. Imagine what could happen to your knee if you were bent to the side and you had more pressure on one leg than the other.

If the muscles of the leg are overly tight, they will pull on the knee and can cause pain.

The muscles of the leg had become tight, pulling on their insertion at the knee, which resulted in pain. Lisa’s knee pain disappeared once she learned to self-correct, relax the muscles of her waist, stand balanced on both feet, and move her pelvis when she walked.  We methodically pandiculated the muscles of her thigh, and reset the muscles to a comfortable, relaxed length. This caused pain from the hip to the outside of the knee, and pain from her groin to the inside of the knee to disappear.

8 thoughts on “Happy, Healthy Knees the Easy Way

    • I’m not quite sure I understand what you mean. Do you mean that I should comment a bit more on this subject? Please let me know. I’m happy to do so!
      Thanks ~

  1. Hi Martha,

    I would be curious to read more on this subject. I have had bilateral knee pain for almost two years. My pain is very localized to a spot on the quad tendon just above the kneecap and I have tried just about every form of therapy imaginable, limited success. (i.e. deep tissue work, eccentrics, laser, muscle activation, prolotherapy, and now ASTYM) I would be interested to read more of what you have to say on chronic knee pain/tendinopathy, how/if that might relate to muscle problems and perhaps ways to address them.

    Thanks for the great blog!

    • If you’re sure, through diagnostics, that you don’t have a tear, then I would say that there are two things going on with your knee pain: a) sensory motor amnesia in your quadriceps specifically and b) improper weight bearing and tightness in your hips/trunk rotators, which is causing you to use your quads in a way you wouldn’t normally. What kind of injuries/accidents have you had – going back years? What do you do for sport/exercise? How does it feel when you walk? In Hanna Somatics the first rule is go back to the center of the body to look for the problem. When the center of the body is tight, or there’s sensory motor amnesia (SMA) in a specific full body reflex (group of muscles that act together to respond to stress), that will affect the periphery – the feet, ankles, knees, legs, arms, hands, neck). If that particular area – in this case your quadriceps – still feel painful/weird/strange after addressing the SMA in the center of the body, then we pandiculate the range of motion of that specific muscle group directly.
      I would be happy to do a one on one Skype session to help you out with this problem. Here’s the link on my website that describes what we do in Skype sessions. I’ve gotten good results via the Internet, even though I can’t do proper clinical work and pandiculations with the participant: http://essentialsomatics.com/index.php?/hanna-somatics-sessions-workshops/online_video_session
      I hope this helps. By the way – do you have my instructional DVD? If not, you can buy it here: http://essentialsomatics.com/index.php?/hanna-somatics-book-dvd
      It shows you how to do the most basic movements in Hanna Somatics that will begin to teach you to figure out what your problem is. Thanks for getting in touch. I’ll make a point to write more about this problem.
      Best to you,
      Martha

  2. Hi Martha,

    Thank you for the response! We’re pretty sure I don’t have a tear, but I as far as diagnostic imaging, I’ve only had x-rays, not an MRI. The ASTYM physical therapist I’ve been working with has found a lot of scar tissue in the quad tendon and has been chipping away at that, but I also think I have some broader muscle pattern problems, like you suggest. I developed this problem while I was doing a lot of olympic lifting and high intensity intervals for conditioning. As far as injuries go, just a lot of sprained ankles in high school and a torn shoulder labrum that was surgically repaired in high school after a LOT of dislocations. Walking feels ok (doesn’t hurt), but if I walk or stand for longer than ~15min the tendons become much more tender if I try to squat or go down stairs. If I am sitting for long periods, I don’t have the same problem. I can usually work the stiffness and pain out of them enough to exercise as long as I take it easy, but I would love to be completely pain free. Also, I know I have very tight hip flexors, especially rectus. I have been working on that for…2 years…and they haven’t responded well to consistent stretching and mobility.

    I looked at the Skype session and tried to purchase one and it said there was a problem with your website when I clicked the “buy now” button. I would like to try and set one of those up when it’s convenient for you. I don’t have your DVD yet (poor grad student and all that), but it looks like I need to purchase it yesterday.

    Thanks again!

    Dave

    • Hi Dave,
      So sorry about the Skype PayPal button. It’s been fixed. You can now choose between a 60 minute and a 90 minute session. The difference in price is $25 for the longer session. If you’re a poor grad student, you might want to buy the DVD and learn the movements on it. Watch them several times and then do them slowly for about a week or two. Apply the concepts of pandiculation and of awareness of how you sit (it’s a killer!), and see how you do. If, in two weeks, nothing has changed, then there’s probably a deeper problem going on that I can help you with. OR let’s just set up a Skype session in order for me to look at you, watch you walk, and make a proper clinical assessment of what I see. Both are useful. The one on one sessions are great and can give you guidance in order to help you to get rid of your pain. Your choice – just let me know.
      Best to you,
      Martha

    • Hi Angela,
      I am planning to start a training in Clinical Somatic Movement Edcucation in November 2012. I am still working on logistics for the training. Once I get this training started I would be happy to go to Austria or Switzerland to train people.
      Are you looking for Hanna Somatics trainers in Europe, or Certified Hanna Somatics practitioners? We have a couple of CHSEs in Europe – Christopher Lowndes in Shropshire, England, Brian Ingle in Dublin and Manuela Kraus in Munich.
      We also have practitioners who’ve been trained by Brian Ingle as Somatic Movement Educators, and who know how to do the clinical protocols and teach the movements of Hanna Somatics: Tanya Fitzpatrick and Lisa Petersen. You can contact them at Alignsomatics.com in either London or Dublin.

      I hope this helps! I look forward to bringing this work to more and more people worldwide. Please let me know if you’d be interested in applying for my training.

      All the best,
      Martha

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