Withstanding the pressure
The initial warning signs that the knee joint is in danger, could in fact appear in the lower back, the hip joints or the shins * before the condition deteriorates and necessitates an operation which allows the body to be restored to balance.
Knee problems and pains are very common, but can have different characteristics and arise for various reasons. Not every pain or problem has an answer within the Rolfing framework, but happily in this field conventional medicine has significant achievements and can even replace an unfixable joint. This is perhaps a good reason to try and have a better understanding of the point at which the joint is indeed irreparable and what can be done prior to surgical intervention.
The subject of this post is an attempt to draw attention to the knees, which are the most complex joints of our body, and to try an offer a way that will help us “use” them correctly in order to avoid problems and pains in the future and to alleviate suffering in the present. This is where Rolfing comes in, a method of treatment that works to rebalance the bent body. It is a co-operative effort between therapist and patient at the heart of which is a deep touch contact that dissolves the adhesions of the muscles’ fascia which are responsible for muscular shortening.
First of all, it is important to understand the correct plain of movement for the knees and to allow them to move primarily within it. I call this plain “the bisecting plain”. In other words, when we face our leg we should divide it all along its length into two, so that we get two leg halves; the plain that is in the meeting of the two halves is the leg bisecting plain.
Problems arise when the knee’s main movement deviates from the leg bisecting plain inwards towards the center of the body, or outwards. Obviously, when such divergence occurs, the pressure applied to the knee, which initially is mainly to the muscles, is unbalanced. This condition creates stress and weakness and inflammation on the stressed side. All these are accompanied by pain. Incidentally, the pain may at first appear elsewhere, such as the lower back or thigh or even in the region of the hip joint, but its origin is in the incorrect movement of the knee.
Why should a problem in the direction of movement of the knees create pain elsewhere?
There is no direct pressure between the bones above the knee (femur) and the ones below it (tibia and fibula). Were there to be such pressure our knee would fall apart very quickly!
Under normal circumstances, it is the muscle tone that transfers the pressure of the body’s weight to the ground. When the pressure is unbalanced in the knee region, it also transfers to the upper and lower areas of the structure, such as the ankle below or the hip joint above. At the same time the muscles are damaged because they are burdened with the unbalanced pressure.
If we ignore the initial pains and do not act to rebalance the structure, we exacerbate the damage to the point of cartilage inflammation or rupture, at which point severe pains start to appear owing to an erosion of the cartilage and real pressure existing between the bones. Such a condition is very serious and could necessitate an operation and a knee replacement.
I will focus on the initial stages of the muscular pain, since at that point an operation can still be prevented and the structure is still correctable.
First of all, the pain may, as mentioned, initially appear in the lower back. The reason for this is that when the body recognizes that the knee joint is “unwell” and insufficiently strong and does not properly transfer the support of the body, then the body attempts to prevent the pressure on the knee in order to preserve it and avoid a deterioration of its condition. To do that, it activates the back muscles that work to transfer the support the knee was supposed to provide to the upper part of the body. This over activity of the back muscles creates muscular constriction and, following from that, a shortening of them; from this point the path to pressure and pain in the lower back is set.
Similarly, these initial pains may appear in the shins, since the muscles there are chronically overextended because of the incorrect leaning angle of the knee. A similar explanation applies to the pain which may appear in the hip joints which also may be the ones to first take the brunt of the imbalance.
Treatment with a posture expert, such as a Rolfing practitioner, can significantly alleviate the pain once the movement angle of the knee is rebalanced to the leg dividing plain. In many cases this balance starts to re-form upon the opening of the shortenings in the inner side of the legs.
In a series of Rolfing treatments, usually ten sessions, the stage of opening the constrictions in the inner side of the leg is in the fourth treatment, relatively early in the process, which ensures relief.
In so far as the correct working order of the Iliopsoas is regulated (the only muscle which connects the spine to the leg – passing through the hip) the pressure on the front muscle of the thigh is reduced (the Quadriceps) so that relief from knee and lower back pain will also be felt.
With the aid of Rolfing, it is certainly possible to alleviate, reduce and at times even completely overcome knee problems and pains which arise from incorrect movement that disturbs the balanced stress distribution of bodily weight.
Rolfing is a treatment method developed by Dr. Ida Rolf in the middle of the previous century in the US. There are thousands of therapists over the world who treat with this method. In Israel, there are only about fifteen. Most of them have been practicing Rolfing for over twenty years to a very high professional standard. Additional information regarding Rolfing can be found in the official websites of the American societies that relate to this topic, as well as on my website.
* Avi Bahat is a teacher and practitioner in the Bahat Treatment Method – Touch and Movement Therapy, an integration of the works of Dr. Ida Rolf, Dr. Milton Trager and Paula Garburg * http://www.avibahat.com