Pain in your knee? You might want to consider getting Botox. No, really. A new study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine looked at people who had a type of knee joint pain common in active people. The researchers found that when a Botox-like substance was injected into the tensor fascia latae (TFL)—the muscle that runs along the side and front of the hip—and followed by three months of physiotherapy, 69% of subjects required no further medical intervention.
“The overlying problem is that the TFL is over active, and the back of the hip, the gluteus medius, is underactive, and that leads to a tight band on the outside of the thigh, rubbing on the knee, pulling of the knee cap over, and fat pad impingement,” explains one of the researchers, Dr. Sam Church, a knee surgeon at Fortius Clinic in London. “But it seems that while the hip muscles were turned off [due to the injection], the muscle they could use to keep steady, the gluteus medius, got stronger. And when the hip muscles came back on line, both muscles were parallel [in strength] rather than one being weak.”
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So what does all of this mean? It means it’s time to beef up your backside—especially since people tend to be very weak in that area, and overactive elsewhere. (We are talking to you, runners and cyclist!) Also important, stretching out that iliotibial (IT) band, or thick tendon that runs from the hip to the knee, says Dr. Church.
Here’s why: Not only are IT band issues typically a result of weak glutes and hips, but when the IT band gets tight or inflamed, you’ll often feel pain in the knee. See the connection there?
To help rev up that rear and relieve some of the pressure on the IT Band, we got Chicago-based physical therapist David Reavy, owner of React Physical Therapy, who has worked with such elite athletes as Matt Forte, Dwyane Wade, and Swin Cash, to recommend a few moves. Work these into your routine ASAP, and your butt, hip, knee—OK, your entire body—will thank you.
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To toughen up that butt
Lie on your right side with hips and knees stacked. Bend both knees, keeping heels together. Open knees like a clam, keeping heels together, and hold for 5 seconds; close slowly. Be sure not to roll backwards through the pelvis. Do 10 reps and then switch sides. Make it harder: Add a resistance band just above knees.
Lie on your left side with left hip and knee at a 90-degree angle and right leg pointing forward and directly above left leg. Position One: Keeping hips stacked and right foot flexed, lift leg up. Do 10 reps. Remember to keep the arch of foot parallel to the ground and avoid rolling backwards. Position Two: With right foot pointed, lift right leg up. Again, keep the arch of foot parallel to the ground, avoid rolling backwards and keep hips stacked. Do 10 reps. Position Three: Keeping your right foot flexed, rotate leg so that your toes turn down for a count of two; keep hips stacked. Return to start. Do 10 reps, and then repeat sequence with other leg.
Glute Activation Step Backs
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend left leg slightly, keeping knee over heel. Bring the right foot back and behind the left leg, while keeping shoulders square facing forward. Rotate upper body toward left leg as you shoot hip out to the right. Switch legs and repeat. Do 10 reps per side.
To lengthen that IT band
IT Band Release
Lie on your right side with a foam roller between your hip and knee. Slide your leg up and down along the roller, moving it from the top of the knee to the base of the hip. Repeat in 30-second intervals for two minutes. To focus on a specific spot, stop rolling when you feel a tender spot and then bend knee at a 90-degree angle, and then straighten it. Repeat motion for 10-15 seconds. You may repeat this with other areas along the IT band.
IT Band Stretch
Lie on your left side with knees bent. Reach your left arm back to grab your right foot and pull it toward your butt, bending the knee even more as you extend the hip. Place your Achilles tendon of the right leg on top of the patella of the left leg and push your knee down. Hold stretch for 30 seconds to 1 minute.