Any athlete knows that the knees tend to me the most injured joint because it is the biggest joint in the body. Knee injuries are also the most common reason people visit their Doctor’s according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Visit www.orthoinfo.aaos.org for more information. Typical knee injuries are fractures, dislocations, sprains and ligament tears. The knee is made of tendons, cartilage, ligaments and bones. There are three bones that meet at the knee. They are the fibula (thigh bone), the tibia (shin bone) and the patella (knee cap). The knee has articular cartilage, which allows the knee to have flexibility with bending and movement. The meniscus is the cartilage made of tough and rough material which divides the joint. It also provides absorption against shock and stabilizes the joint. A meniscal tear could be medial or lateral and is often sports related. This happens with sudden motions like twisting, pivoting, or upon being tackled. Aging and arthritis weaken the meniscus making getting up and out of a chair a difficult task.
The collateral ligaments live on the outer region of the knee. Ligaments connect bone to bone in the body. The medial collateral ligament is the most inner part of the knee. This ligament controls sideways motion. The cruciate ligaments governs the internal knee joint. This ligament helps with forward and backward motion. A common sports injury to the ligament is to the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). This happens when the knee is forced in a particular direction with sudden movement. It can also be damaged with explosive jumping and landing movements. An injury to the MCL (medial cruciate ligament) is when the outer knee takes a direct blow of impact. Tendons connect muscles to bone. The quadriceps tendon connects muscles in front of the thigh to the tendon and the patellar tendon connects the knee cap to the shin bone. A tendon tear usually occurs in those who are middle aged from running or with sports that require a lot of jumping. Injuries to the tendons are caused by over stretching of the tendon, direct force at the front aspect of the knee, or landing in an awkward motion.
In any event, if you hear popping, experience severe pain, can’t move, start limping or notice swelling please see your Doctor. If you don’t have access to medical attention right away, just remember RICE. Rest, ice, compress and elevate the injury until you can see a medical professional and your acupuncturist!
Chinese Medicine View of the Knee
The kidney qi governs the knee, bone and will power. Three major ingredients for any athlete or active person to keep moving in order to reach your physical goals. Qi is the life force or energy which flows within the meridians or channels in the body. Qi and blood in the body work together to maintain a natural balance and strong blood flow. The kidneys are the home for the reservoir of qi called “Jing”. The jing is the essence in which you are born with. It is manifested during conception. It governs the growth and development states in the body. If your mother and father had a strong essence or jing, they pass it on to you. However, depending on how well one takes care on one self, the jing may be weakened. Jing will be used up as aging occurs. When the body dies, so does the jing and the qi is no longer. Weak kidney qi or jing is a result of over doing it, meaning, burning the candle at both ends, standing on feet for long hours, over exercising, indulging in too much sexual activity or perhaps you have a predisposed condition passed down from your ancestors.
With regular acupuncture care, you can cultivate and maintain the kidney qi. Thus, allowing for faster healing time and recovery for those who desire to live a physically active lifestyle. Acupuncture alone can aide in pain reduction, flexibility of tendons and ligaments, strength and support of joints and decrease in inflammation. Depending on how often you train or push your body will determine how many treatments you may need.
Fish oil, turmeric or glucosamine are important supplements to decrease inflammation. Du huo ji sheng tang is an excellent classic formula used in Chinese Medicine to heal and strengthen the lower limbs of the body including the low back and hips. Each herb has an energetic property of building the kidney qi and moving the blood flow. However, herbs and supplements and acupuncture only work if you are consisitent with them. As I train my body for a half marathon in a couple of months, I want to protect my joints and be as pain free as possible.
Written by Ignacia Genco L.Ac.