The knee is a modified simple hinge joint, but it is far from simple. It is the largest joint in the human body and it connects the upper thigh to the lower leg allowing the lower leg to bend and extend. This is the simple part.
What makes the knee more versatile is its rotational capabilities. When the knee fully straightens, it can be further extended by rotating, which can create a locking mechanism into extension, called the screw-home mechanism. The screw-home mechanism is important for walking and improving the force load through the knee. Some are better at it than others, but too much of one thing is never good, and what one should strive for is a balance between mobility and stability.
Another feature of the knee that makes it more than a simple joint is the presence of the kneecap, or the patella. The patella is a bone that floats within the quadriceps tendon and isn’t anchored to anything. It is called a sesamoid bone, and you can try wiggling it around when your quad is relaxed and you can see that it moves freely. (Try not to get grossed out!). The patella is important as it increases the moment arm for the quadriceps muscle improving its strength capacity. (The quads are found on the front of your thigh, and are a huge muscle group in case you didn’t know).
Quad strength is a discriminant predictor for quality of life, which means the stronger your quadriceps and knee,, the greater ability one has to perform tasks such as walking, stair climbing, getting up from a toilet and bending. Though it appears simple, the knee is a versatile and important joint that keeps us moving and living well.
So how can you improve your knee mobility? Here are a few exercises to consider as long as you can perform them safely:
Ankle Dorsiflexion and Knee Flexion
Ankle and knee mobility are interrelated, if your ankle is stiff, it will result in increased knee stiffness. This exercise incorporates both joints. Put your foot into a box or a step and then bend your knee, hold for 1-2 seconds and perform 10-20 reps
Start by standing tall. Keep your pelvis tilted and abdominals tight as you let your knees travel over your toes.
Tap the wall and return to the starting position without bending your waist. To challenge yourself more, move further away from the wall and repeat.
Still unsure what to do? Contact us to evaluate and prescribe the best possible exercises to improve your knee health.