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Diana Remaley, LMT
Diana@RemaleyMassage.com
(203)292-5362
19 Compo Road South
Westport, CT

Stretching the Back of the Knee

Are you noticing a little tension when you flex your knees?

I often have clients come in with pain in their knees. The knee is a complicated joint; it's difficult to say with certainty that the pain experienced here is muscular and not joint-related. However, there is a stretch we an perform [GENTLY!] to try to release some tension in the area. If pain persists after this stretch and some massages, it's likely time to see your sports doctor.

Anatomy Lesson:

The knee is composed of a number of muscles and tendons, but for our purposes, we'll focus on a few of them: Gastrocnemius and Plantaris (which are part of our "calf" muscles), Biceps Femoris, Semimembranosus, Semitendonosus, Sartorius and Gracilis (which are part of our "hamstring" muscles). These muscles meet at the knee and form the meaty part of the back of our knees, the part you can grab on to on either side when you bend your knee.

Since these muscles are behind the knee, in order to stretch them, we want to straighten the knee. However, "locking" the knee, as we call it, is actually hyperextending the joint; that is, pushing it too far beyond it's normal range of motion. So this stretch cannot occur when we are standing. We also want to avoid hyperextension even when we're sitting, so this stretch is one we perform by pushing against ourselves.

The Stretch:

Sitting comfortably, on a soft surface, raise one leg. Lean forward to comfortably hold the bottom of that foot on the pinky toe side. If you find this stresses your lower back, you can roll backward on to your back and raise your leg straight up above yourself.

Gently and slowly push your foot away from your body, while still holding it. Your hand is keeping your foot from actually moving, yet your muscles are activating to try to push the knee straight. This avoids hyperextension but still activates the correct muscles. You'll have to bend forward in order keep holding your foot as you straighten the leg. Don't let any stress develop in your lower back. If you feel pain while straightening, back off and bend the leg back to neutral.

You only need to hold this stretch for about 10 seconds; any longer and you're putting a bit of strain on the tendons and ligaments. Move really slowly and deliberately, and if you notice any pain, back off.

This is a good stretch to perform after a workout; it should serve to calm down both the calf and hamstring muscles. Just take it very slowly and gently!

Of course, this will only stretch a small portion of these muscles. If you're noticing tension still hanging around, it's probably time to book a massage therapy session. We can run through more stretches and techniques together to try to get you back to 100%. I'll see you in my Westport office!

Anterior Deltoid Stretch

Stretching the front of the shoulder in this very commonly injured area

 

The shoulder is actually a very complicated joint. While it is technically a "ball and socket" type joint, the "ball" doesn’t lock in to the "socket," as it does in the hip, for example. Rather, the muscles of the shoulder serve to hold the joint in place. This makes shoulders very mobile, but particularly susceptible to injury.

A number of clients come in to my office with pain in the "front of the arm", which is really the top of the shoulder joint, specifically, the anterior deltoid. This muscle is actually really easy to irritate; with sports, sure, but I've also seen a lot of clients come in with anterior deltoid pain from gardening, carrying heavy boxes, or even something seemingly innocuous, like picking up a heavy grocery bag.

Anatomy Lesson:

The deltoid is a large muscle that serves to wrap around the entire upper arm, holding it in to the shoulder joint. It’s often referred to as a large "cuff." Because it's so large, and the different sides of it perform different movements, the deltoid is broken in to three different sections, "anterior," "lateral," and "posterior." In this article, we'll discuss the anterior deltoid, that is, the front upper section of the arm.

The anterior deltoid attaches from the collarbone, near the pec, to the deltoid tuberosity of the arm, which can often be seen as a little dimple in the top third of the arm. It's responsible for lifting straight up in front of yourself with the palm facing backward (if the palm faces up, you're using your bicep). That action can also be described as pulling toward yourself with your palm down, like when pulling weeds from your garden (that's personally how I injured my anterior deltoid!).

The Stretch:

To stretch this muscle, we need to pull the clavicular attachment away from the deltoid tuberosity attachment. Since it lies so close to the pec, it's natural to feel like the standard pec stretch against a wall is the way to go. And it's very similar, but the palm is the key: When stretching the pec, the palm is pressed against the wall. To stretch the anterior deltoid, the palm is faced out:

Stand perpendicular to a wall and reach your arm behind you. You can keep the palm pressed against the wall at this point. Stand close enough to the wall to press as much of your arm against it as possible. Gently twist your body away from the wall, moving your torso more perpendicular to the wall, but keeping the arm contacted to it. Slowly and carefully spin your wrist so that your palm is facing out. Gently twist a little more perpendicular if you can, and you should feel a lovely stretch throughout the entire front of the arm.

 

 The poor anterior deltoid seems to get injured easily. And since we use it so frequently, when it hurts, we notice it. Give this stretch a try to loosen it up. But of course, if you're noticing pain and tension still, feel free to make a massage therapy appointment with me. I'll help you get back to pain-free in no time. I'll see you in my Westport office!

The Quad Stretch, Perfected

Nagging knee pain? Give this stretch a try

 

When clients come in to my office with knee pain (and the joint itself isn’t the problem) the quad muscle group is usually the culprit. Many of us know how to stretch our quads by pulling our heel toward our butt. But did you know that only stretches three out of four of the quad group muscles?

Anatomy Lesson:

The “Quad” group (so named because it has four muscles) consists of the Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Medialis, and Vastus Intermedius. All four muscles attach to the back of the knee (Patellar ligament.) So from just this information, stretching the knee is indicated. But the critical differentiation is where the muscles attach at their upper (proximal) attachments. While all three of the Vastus muscles attach at the lower part of the pelvis, the Rectus Femoris attaches at the TOP of the hip. This key distinction affects how we can correctly stretch it.

 

 

 

The Stretch:

First, a definition: “Stretching” is, at it’s most simple, defined as moving the bony attachments of a muscle away from each other with the muscle straight.

When we pull our ankle to our butt, the pelvis will naturally tilt forward. When this tilt occurs, the Rectus Femoris is AUTOMATICALLY not stretching. In order for it to stretch (and it’s attachments to be pulled away from each other, the muscle needs to be straight. How can we accomplish this?

 

 

 

While holding on to something, straighten the pelvis by leaning forward as far as possible.

As you can see, this makes the Rectus Femoris completely straight from attachment to attachment, and ACTUALLY stretches the entire quad group.

When performing this stretch, most clients marvel that they feel like their quads are stretching correctly for the first time. It’s also fantastic for any nagging knee pain that might be caused by overuse of the quad group.

So the next time your knees and the front of your legs feel a little tight, pause, tip forward, and stretch that quad as completely as possible! And if all this still doesn’t work out the tension, it’s time to book an appointment for your next massage therapy session. I’ll see you in my Westport office!

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Diana Remaley, LMT
Diana@RemaleyMassage.com
(203)292-5362
19 Compo Road South
Westport, CT