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Can shiatsu help my knee pain?


Can shiatsu help my knee pain?


Oh knees, poor suffering knees, I see all sorts! The interesting thing is it's rarely the knee's fault. Knee's are the lynch pin between ankles and hips, your back muscles, your calves, your hip flexors, hamstrings and the inflexible IT band; all get involved. For women there is also the pelvic floor and groin muscles, and let's not forget the bottom clenchers; it all affects your knees.! This month my blog is Can Shiatsu help my knee pain? I'm going to look at some of the ways in which your knees become painful but it's not due to knee joint itself.



Let me start by telling you about my knees, I was a daily knee sufferer from the age of 5/6 when I was told repeatedly through my whole school life that it was growing pains. However I was such a bad knee pain sufferer in my 20s, when fully grown, that noone could help me, not even the cranial osteopath made headway. He did resolve all back, neck, pelvis issues and more, he was brilliant. Just not my damned knees.



They were so bad that I'd awake in the night and know that the weather had turned, they would be excrutiatingly painful, I couldn't move them unless I manually moved them. I lived on non-steroidal antiinflammatories as I was told that was better than painkillers. Now, I don't know the damage I've done to my ligaments, tendons and lost calcium absorption to my bones due to this. I couldn't sit in the cinema or theatre for 2 hours, and I couldn't sit down easily, I'd get to a point then collapse. I felt defined by my knees and what I could do.


Then I signed up to take my shiatsu course, and we had to kneel all day - this was my worst nightmare!


Quickly though I could kneel, and the lifelong pains went, I can't even tell you when, only that whilst learning shiatsu within next to no time I didn't have knee issues anymore, they dissappeared. All those reasons I'd had from experts that teenage accidents had led to my knee problems, that I probably had early onset arthritis, or I'd just have to live with it. What a load of rubbish they were all talking. I was once even told I had grumbling appenditicitis, referring pain down my hip; when I told this to another Dr he said there was no such thing! You can see wny my faith in conventional medicine is scant. They don't know, I was told rubbish and expected to believe it, and sadly for 20 or so years I did; not knowing any better.


Thank heavens for Shiatsu, how did it help me relieve my knee pain and what is going on with your knees?





What can cause knee pain if it's not the knee?


Here are some of the common issues that I have come across that cause the knee pain I see in my clients. When the issue is not caused by missing cartilage, or a tear or physical damage you can walk out of your treatment with less to no pain.


I've mentioned below the issues I had too, you can see it was a bundle, so it was only ever a holistic therapy that was going to be able to unravel and resolve my knee issues:



Pelvis out of alignment


You're walking around with one leg longer than the other, or you may feel it as shorter. I definitely have had this many times. You may feel this as back or pelvis pain, or may not and it refers directly to the nerve coming out around the knee. If you find yourself standing on one leg with the other stuck out to the side but still on the floor that is a sign that your pelvis is out. Also if you're fond of crossing your legs, also a sign of a wonkly pelvis. For women especially a misaligned pelvis can cause a host of urogenital issues. It's worth having a shiatsu if you have incontinence too.



Weak muscles especially the front of the thigh


I had this too! If you can't sit down without dropping into your seat you may have weak, tight or impaired thigh muscles or hip flexors. Specific exercises and releasing and rebalancing with shiatsu can get all of this back on track. Can you stand against a wall and slide down in a controlled manner? To the point of sitting against the wall? This is a good indication of the strength of your thigh muscles. I also found that tennis improved any knee pain niggles I was getting in the winter (when playing less tennis) as the randomness of playing, along with springing around strengthened the cross-muscles.


Exercise like running and biking only strengthens muscles at the front and back of the legs, you'll need to think about types of exercise that create twisting actions to ensure all thigh/groin muscles get a work out. Maybe dancing around you kitchen?




Tight muscles on the sides or the groin


These tight, tense muscles can refer pain to the opposite side of the knee, usually presenting below the knee. Muscles insert across bones for stability and connection, and will insert into the tibia (below the knee). When a muscle is tight it puts the tension onto the tendon and this is pretty painful.


You'll know if your groin muscles are tight as you won't be able to sit cross-legged. Think about yoga stretches or here's the Liver Makkaho - enjoy! :)




Makko ho for wood meridians | Shiatsu Cheltenham


Shortened hip flexors from sitting


I had this too! As soon as I started to learn to kneel we were doing an exercise called the Spleen Makko ho, I could only partially lean back at first, (but anything is better than nothing) slowly you start to stretch out these tight muscles running through the pelvis; they control you standing/sitting. I went for additional hip flexor release and studied this, and so I know how powerful it is to release these muscles are and that they are the cause of a majority of knee problems. My hip flexors had been tight all my life, as soon as I knew how to gently stretch them a majority of the knee pain went away.


Don't do this stretch if you feel a pinching in your back, seek shiatsu first to resolve the pelvis/lower back issue.




Makka Ho for Earth Meridians | Shiatsu CHeltenham




Sciatica (trapped branch of the sciatic nerve referring down)


A thick bundle of nerves run through the small holes in the sacrum, the moment there is anything out of place, one or more branches of this nerve catch, sending shooting pain down the back middle of the leg or the side and can pop out around the knee. Very much like pelvic misalignment, the sacrum can sit twisted into the pelvis, Guess what? I had this issue too! Cranial osteopathy and shiatsu both can resolve this, you may prefer one to the other; of course I've had both!



Trapped cold


This is where the knee joint has trapped cold in it, but it can be temporary if you get a shiatsu and get it released. Most people know about trapped heat, it's called inflammation and normally happens with a bash or an accident, but people don't register trapped cold. It's not as complex as a frozen shoulder and it can be resolved quickly.


To avoid happening in the colder months, wear another layer, ie leggings under jeans or wear an extra layer like a soft tubigrip over your knee if it's susceptible to catching a cold. It tends to be if you've had a previous accident and the knee is weak. Joints are points on the body that are susceptible to catching cold as they are cooling points (not covered in muscle). A trapped chill can be very painful, but easily removed.



Compensation for a problem on the other side


This is why a body needs to be treated holistically. A knee specialist within the NHS is only good if you have a tear, fracture or require a replacement. If scans don't show up anything wrong with your knee, this is actually good! Yes there's a problem but it doesn't require an operation to repair, it requires some holistic physical therapy.


If you feel pain with no discernible cause you may likely have an issue on the other side of your body that is causing a compensation or stress on this knee. It can be any of the issues above, pelvis, sciatica, tight muscles; all need to be looked at during your shiatsu appointment as a lot of the time you have referred pain from an issue that has no pain at all.


Compensation pain is one of the biggest factors in why people come for a shiatsu; nothing else has worked.

Listening to how the body moves or doesn't, whilst the client is in pain tells a practitioner what's going on and where. Usually I will find somewhere that is cold, weak, not moving or the client says ahh, that eases my pain over here. Wokring holistically means the whole body is treated and this is why its so effective in helping mystery pain where the cause can't be found initially.



Tight, injured, weak, ankle


So far I've talked about pain referring down from the pelvis, back,hips, groin, but what about pain referring up from an ankle injury. The ankle can become locked, or be sitting out of position, it could be the ankle on the other side, it doesn't matter which it is as shiatsu will find it. If you come in not walking properly, you will be stiff and unaware of the cause. If you can go out walking a whole lot better , with your ankles feeling looser and more able, then your knees will feel the relief and you'll understand what is causing and be able to prevent from happening again.


You may have weak ligaments which mean you turn your ankles a lot, so without realising it you can hold tension in your knees and ankles to try and protect from injury. This can make for more problems, you definitely need shiatsu to help maintain the health of your musculoskeletal structure.





woman in wet weather causes joint pain


Worse with the weather


It's not only old farmers that get this, I used to get this too! The only time I've had my old knee pain was around 4 summers ago, it was quite a warm summer but we had rain every afternoon. It created a condition called damp heat, and my right knee felt full, it couldn't bend.


If this sounds familiar then your energetics need some support as fluids aren't flowing in and out of the knee joint. Stuff has got stuck! A full knee doesn't bend without pain and is a very different feeling to an empty, cold and weak knee which feels better for massage and warm. A full knee needs help to release the excess fluid. stretching the whole leg helps, especially the stretch that I showed you above (Spleen Makko Ho), but this maybe too painful to do yourself and so with gentle support a shiatsu can do this for you.


This isn't a knee problem in the traditional sense but it is a problem that is affecting your knees. Shiatsu is a godsend for this, if you're experiencing the pain anywhere near the levels of what I used to have then its excrutiating but gentle stretching and acu point opening can really turn this around. I think it was this that ultimately resolved my knee pain issues when any other types of physical therapy hadn't.




Knee wants to collapse


In TCM terms this is a weakness/ a deficiency, something is missing. It'll probably go hand in hand with some tight muscles elsewhere, and your knee is getting to the point of weakness (maybe not pain yet). It just wants to give up easily, it feels tired. A shiatsu that looks at your whole pelvis, hip and legs will resolve the imbalance that is creating this weak feeling. Don't ignore it as will turn into pain and at some point there will be a physical degradation in joint, bone or the supportive ligament structure (ligaments link bones!). Once you have physical degradation you may require an operation. This can be totally avoided with preventative therapy.





If you have mystery knee pain there is some complexity involved


I'll give you a recent example, more than a year on from my bad ankle break on the left side I noticed climbing the stairs was getting more difficult for my right knee, it felt weak. I ignored it until weak turned to pain. I questioned why my old knee pain had come back, what was I doing differently?


The answer was that I hadn't been kneeling for over a year, but was that it? I tried to kneel and it felt very very tight on the right side, where I had the knee pain; so there was a connection. What I hadn't examined and therefore not resolved was that walking heavily on my right side had created increasingly tight gluteal muscles all through the right hip region. One session to release and my knee pain resolved itself AND I walked better on the broken left ankle; going downstairs became normal. Even with this imbalance there was no back pain, it only appeared as a knee weakness, it felt like it wanted to buckle when I put weight on it.


The over compensation of the right side for a year or more had not only taken its toll on my right knee it was also feeding back into my original left ankle injury. If I hadn't interceded I think I would have been in agony.. I let it go until I got to the point of pain, so I don't always practise what I preach :)



Love your knees with shiatsu


Hopefully today has given you a flavour of why knee pain can be mysterious, but also how it can be resolved. If you've had tests with the hospital and they aren't showing up anything is wrong; this is good!


Let it not be something so bad as to show on a scan, let it be in the realms of wonky muscles, then its sortable and you can walk out of a treatment without knee pain.


Since finding shiasu, just coming up on 20 years ago I've only had bad knees for a handful of days, sometimes when the weather is extreme and other times when muscles in the hip are getting too tight. Shiatsu and/ or Makko ho stretches helps with both,


If you don't feel ready to self stretch, or not sure which exercises will support you, book in for a shiatsu as I can cover this during your treatment time. I appreciate you may only come once a month but I like to support you in the days in between. Doing something every day can help you get healthy knees, hips, backs and ensure your whole body is balanced, leading you to optimal vital energy. There is nothing as wearing as pain, so let's resolve it!





If you'd like to try the whole set of Makko Ho stretches to relieve tight muscles all over the body , follow this video. Makko ho stretches energise the meridians, you don't need to force or stretch against tight muscles, just breathe and release and see how far you can go.





About Shiatsu



Shiatsu uses finger tips, thumbs and gentle palming on the acupressure points of your body to work wonders on how you’re feeling! It is the oldest form of massage in the world; a forerunner of acupuncture.


Using 5000 year old Chinese medicine theory that your energy is blocked,bespoke pressure is applied;flowing down your body, your limbs, your neck and shoulders to release stuck energy known as Chi.


Chi is your life force, and more physically your blood, lymph fluid and the waterways of your body. When you feel you’re tense or stressed your muscles tighten and the pathways within become constricted; stopping your body working properly.



If you feel overwhelmed, anxious, have tension, pain, even IBS, nausea or just feeling ‘unwell’, this can all be due to your Chi being stuck and building up pressure; like a dam. On the other side the lack of flow is also causing its own issues; you may feel cold, stiff or have low energy and moods swings.



A fully clothed Shiatsu session relieves you of a lot of the feelings and problems you came in with. Releasing muscle tension allows your mind and body to calmly rebalance; it’s a wonderful sensation!



Check out treatments here.


Andrea is a qualified and insured shiatsu practitioner living in Cheltenham. She works from her home clinic and would like to let you know that her scruffy dog Leela will welcome you on arrival and that there is also a cat in the house too!





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