>Due to the fact that I spend a lot of time in the saddle and don’t do any kind
>of leg warm-ups (how foolish of me) I now suffer from very sore knees (ouch).
>Can anybody out there help with appropriate knee strengthening exercises and
>good warm up exercises to be done before riding?
>Wayne van Wijk firstname.lastname@example.org
First thing to do is give your knees a good rest - for a few weeks probably.
Knees are one of the most difficult parts of the body to heal, due to their
constant load-bearing use and their sensitive structure. Don’t take your knees
for granted - they do come in handy for your whole life, but they can easily be
There are two ways I would use to encourage and speed the healing: hydrotherapy
and comfrey cream.
Hydrotherapy basically increases the blood flow through the damaged area,
calming the inflammation and speeding healing. Firstly you pack around the knee
with crushed ice or a couple of frozen gel packs (available from physical
therapist, maybe sports shops). Whatever cold stuff you use (packets of frozen
peas in emergency), wrap it in a towel to avoid direct contact with skin - a bit
too harsh. Tie the towel round your knee and leave it there for 15-20 minutes,
resting the knee which will get pretty numb.
If your knee is badly hurt or chronically inflamed, then just repeat this
freezing regularly, leaving 20 minute gaps at first after an injury. Or simply
repeat 3 times a day or so for lesser problems.
However, if your knee isn’t badly inflamed, then you can alternate the freezing
with heating. Immediately after the freezing, wrap the knee in a hot poultice -
a towel etc. soaked in near-boiling water, with a protective layer of something
to prevent it burning the skin. Leave it on until no longer hot - about 15
minutes. You should repeat this cycle of freeze and heat two or three times for
best effect. Do this whole process a couple of times a day if possible.
Comfrey needs some comment. Comfrey is an effective herbal treatment that even
speeds healing of broken bones, as well as other connective tissue. After
several thousand years of its safe use, in the last decade there has been a
scare about comfrey - a certain study showed that an extract of comfrey,
called allantonin, may cause some bad reaction - probably cancerous, I can’t
remember. But any herbalist will tell you that every herb is composed of a
subtle mixture of poisons with their antidotes - this is what gives them their
safe and gentle action. No preparation of natural comfrey has ever been
criticised. If you buy drugs you must expect side-effects, and allantonin is a
concentrated drug not found concentrated in nature. Natural comfrey cream is
very beneficial, and if rubbed on 3 times daily will significantly speed
healing of skin, tissue, damaged muscle and broken bones. Very handy. It’s easy
to make, and comfrey is a common weed - if you find the drugs lobby has managed
to get it banned.
As for exercises for the knees, don’t try any until you feel your knees are
recovering. Then do gentle loosening, flexing ones, not hard workouts.
One very gentle one, excellent for warm-ups before exercise, is this: stand with
your feet parallel, and together. Don’t wear restrictive shoes. Keep your back
fairly straight, and knees fairly bent, while bending forward until you can rest
your hands just above your knees. With your arms straight, this puts the weight
of your upper body onto your legs/knees. Then push your knees, with your hands,
in clockwise circles about 6 inches across. Do this slowly and gently, speed
won’t help, for about half a minute or so. Then reverse direction and repeat. Do
this cycle at least once more.
If you do any heavier knee exercises, such as deep knee-bends, do that one first
- it really helps to prevent strains.
I’ve been taught all of the above by qualified experts, in my training as an
acrobat, and in herbalism. But I don’t hold any certificates, so you may want to
confirm this advice if you’re unsure.