Wobbly Knees

Whether they are a bit unsteady, unstable, or buckle it does not give one a feeling of confidence on their feet. 

My buckles can be so quick and forceful I would swear it is a backwards buckle.  My leg returning from the buckle or straightening is what I notice most.  I labeled them my knee knocks. 

Then I found that soft touch on my calves or knees could also trigger them.  A bit troubling but despite the trigger it was a matter of finding a way to manage it.  It would be wonderful if this turned into a symptom, which did not occur more than very sporadically. But as with any symptom first you need to assume it won’t as matter of safety, safety in this case means avoiding a fall.

When my knee knocks began I tested my legs thoroughly before every run.  When I say thoroughly I am not kidding you.  I had a variety of tests, which I still use when I am in doubt of my leg strength. What are my legs response to different foot landings and their response to foot landings with force? I stand on one-foot bend my knee and bring my body weight back up.  I do this several times on each leg.  I call them my one leg sort of squats.

I also test my leg response time.  Do I recover it quick enough to keep my footing, balance, and coordination?

My goal, ascertain if my legs had the strength to recover from my knee knock.  I also tested my legs during the run.  What were triggers, landing on my heel during a slow down, or running downhill when the force one leg bears is more than my body weight.  These are just two examples.  So I learn what to do, what to avoid, what to pay closer attention to as well as what will make the run feel more stable and comfortable.

The calf soft touch was not my primary concern during the run.  That is until I met my first unleashed dog.  No runner appreciates a dog running free. You can be certain their next move is running right there with you or after you.  This cute little toy dog was not too threatening.  But I tell you his little wet nose was.  I managed the cold wet touch to the side of my calf.  It only tripped up my stride a little.  This was a mental trip up verses physical.  The barking and the little wet nose against my calf were a bit too much for this runners flow.  

As I found with many of my leg issues in time my techniques to manage them become inherent to me.  So whether it is a symptom I can expect to continue or one that is sporadic my body is trained to handle them, as my mind is well trained to avoid the trigger where possible.  The dog’s little wet nose is a good example.  However, I do test them periodically.  I will intentionally brush my legs against some weeds overhanging the sidewalk to see their reaction.

Onto leg strength, I will share some ideas, which may help combat those nasty knee buckles or simply wobbly knees.

What leg strength should be built?  All leg muscle strength is important to stay on your feet when a buckle occurs and it can be complimented with core strength. That will be another posting.  I cannot emphasis enough how much core strength can help, but since this is a subject for another posting I will move forward.

I concentrate on the muscle above my knee and my calf muscles in particular.  If you think about it, your calves carry your body weight.  So if your knee should feel unstable for any reason your calf strength will aid your leg in supporting it.  The muscle above your knee directly aids in the knees movement. It works with the calf muscles to bring your leg back to a straight position.

However it is worth repeating, strengthening all your leg muscles will assist a rescue from a knee buckle.  As anyone who experiences knee buckles you know there isn’t a lot of reaction time between the buckle and some means of staying on your feet.  Additional muscle strength will help bide the time between the buckle and your reaction to support yourself.  For example relying on additional support from a cane or walker.

I will share a few simple exercises that can be used to build strength in these muscles.  They are attached.  I ask you to humor me with the stick people illustrations.  This is my artistic talent in action.  I also attached a sample exercises I picked up from a Runner’s World Magazine.  Ironically the exercises are performed on what is called a wobble board.

The attachment labeled calves & above the knee-sitting includes very basic sitting examples, calves-standing is a basic standing example. The attachment labeled Wobble Board is from Runner’s World.

General Rule:

Do these exercises slowly.  For example bring your leg up slowly and back down slowly. 

Remember whatever you are able to do will still strengthen your muscle, for example in the “knee lift” (attached) if you are unable to lift or straighten your leg completely do whatever you can.  You are still working the muscle.

Try to build upon what you are doing very slowly.  Add weight or resistance if or when you can.

Where to start?  Picture whatever you think your physical ability is and then start a bit beneath that.  It is too easy to overestimate how much you can do.  Start with only a few repetitions.  See how your muscles feel the next day or two.   You may experience some muscle soreness.  That is okay.  If it is severe or lasts more than a couple days cut back a bit next time.  Try cutting back not only the repetitions but on how far you take the movement.  If you had only a little muscle soreness and your muscles are sore after the second time take it back a little on the third.  See how that feels the next day or two.  Repeat the same process as you add more to what you are doing.

The wobble board, bare foot is the way to do it.  If you cannot balance standing use it sitting you will still strengthen the calf muscle and keep or increase your ankle’s range of motion.  If you can stand on it and balance, wobble front to back, and side-to-side great.  But to start hold onto something for support.

The wobble board is great.  It strengthens all the muscles in your legs.  It is as easy or as hard as it looks depending on how you look at it.  You will get results, but you will also feel it, so use it with care, especially if used while standing.

Most important, don’t get discouraged.  It can be hit and miss.  Your body will be your guide.

These are some examples there are others.  This is a place to start.

Please let me know if you have any questions and what results you see when using them.

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