Pain on the outside of your knee sucks!
It can make daily activities like going up stairs a real pain. The thing is, it's not too hard to improve almost instantly. This is the basic formula for a long lasting fix.
Releasing the front pocket muscle, the TFL, on the same leg with the pain can give instant relief.
If you try the release below and it doesn't make a difference, you will need to dig a bit deeper. I recommend going to see a physiotherapist to figure out what else is going on.
If you do the release below and you feel the difference, hooray! You can start adding this release and the following strength work into your routine, banish that annoying knee pain, and build stronger hips while you are at it :)
The position your bones are in strongly influences on how well our muscles activate. This is HUGE when you are trying to find your ab and butt muscles again after you've had kids. So let's get to it.
Step #1: Release the TFL
The TFL is short for Tensor Fascia Lata. It's a little muscle in the front pocket area of your hip and it pulls on the big cable of fascia called your IT band that runs down the outside of your thigh. The IT band pulls on the outside of the knee and if it's a bit out of balance sometimes you experience a pulling sensation or pain on the outside of your knee. You've probably seen people rolling the IT band out on foam rollers and grimacing through the pain to try and take care of this. I personally think they are wasting their time although there are other reasons I might roll near the IT band.
Releasing the TFL is a much more effective strategy than trying to get any release out of the IT band (it's like a steel cable, the TFL is what is tensioning it.) The TFL is the little guy highlighted in orange on the image below.
The first part of this video targets the TFL. Follow the first part of the video on the leg that is having the issues then stand up and see if it has made a difference. It can be tricky to find so if you don't feel any tenderness, shift the towel and your body a bit this way and that, till you find it. Even an itsy bitsy shift in position can make a big difference. I bet you it's there ;)
The rest of this video targets the glutes, feel free to keep going if it is feeling good ;)
Did you get some relief? If so, continue on. If not, go see a physio, they are great at sorting this stuff out!
Follow with strength work
Now comes the part most people just skip, but don't skip it!
It's the part that makes the lasting difference and teaches your body it can do something different.
I personally am lazy and don't want to have to release my TFL every day, but if you've got time to spare feel free to ignore my advice ;)
Here is a quick why for you.
Your big butt muscle (gluteus maximus) and that little guy on the front that you just released (the TFL) both attach onto the IT band (the cable that runs down the outside of your thigh). Check it out.
They balance each other out except when they don't.
When we are pregnant many of us end up tipping our pelvis' down in the front as the baby grows. If you imagine the pelvis as a bowl of water, the water would spill out the front when the pelvis tips forward. When we hang out in that position a lot, like we do when we get massively pregnant, the TFL is put in a position that makes it way easier to fire than the glutes. It takes over their job, because it's helpful like that. And any muscle that does more than its fair share of the work, gets cranky and exhausted, just like we do when we don't ask for help.
This is a really common pattern. To fix it long term we need to get your butt working better, the TFL sitting in a more lengthened position and your pelvis anchored in a more neutral position.
First up, let's try to anchor the pelvis in a more level position by strengthening your hamstrings.
You may be surprised at how hard this is. It doesn't look like much is happening but as the back of your thighs will soon tell you, there is a lot of work going on here. I like to start with this kind of static hold instead of working them long and short because we are trying to train them to stabilize your pelvis.
- The body should shift a bit towards your feet
- Keep the shift and hold it
- If the muscles cramp, that means they need this work. Just shake em out and try again a bit more gently, you can ramp up the intensity as they get used to it.
- Are both legs working or is one working more than the other? Can you even it out?
Doing this once isn't going to change a pattern that your body has been in for a long time but it will make a difference over time. If this was really hard for you, this could make a world of difference! As someone who didn't have much hamstring support for years or maybe my whole life, it is a game changer and feels so damn good!
A lot of butt exercises focus on squeezing the butt muscle like crazy. And while that is great, a lot of us hold a bunch of tension in our butts and pelvic floor after having kids and need to learn to lengthen it as well as shorten and squeeze it.
I like hip thrusts for that. Try it out.
- Watch as you bring your hips up that you aren't arching your back, only go as high as you can without arching your back.
- Play with how far apart your feet are to see what works for you.
- You can do this with a band around your knees (push the legs out into it as your hips push up) or a ball or block between your knees (squeeze as your hips push up). Use the one that helps you feel your abs and butt the most.
How did that feel?
When the TFL is short and tight (overworking) it's really hard for your butt to fire. So right after you release it is the perfect time to work your butt.
When the TFL is short and tight (overworking) the back of the thigh muscles are stretched out and long, even though they might feel tight. Asking them to work and stabilize your pelvis helps take up the slack in the back of your leg and keep the TFL length you just found.
Here's to a better butt, happier knees and a more stable pelvis!
Want more? My Mothership program does lots of work just like this to unravel the unhelpful patterns that set up shop when we are pregnant and newly postpartum. Those patterns rarely unravel on their own and often just persist until we do something about it. The Mothership course a great way to do something about it.
- short 5 minute videos
- work around your own schedule
- personal feedback
- find all your abs, your pelvic floor and butt
- do it with a small group of moms, show up for you and them.
And now I want to hear from you!
- did you try this?
- did it help?
- how did the strengthening work go? Could you feel your butt and hamstrings working?