“Does patella maltracking come back after it’s been heavily reduced?” one of our clients recently asked. It was an ongoing concern that if he stopped doing his knee strengthening exercises, his knee problems would eventually return. And it was a concern closely linked to the irritation that other people, at the same age with similar sports interests and training routines, had no problems to speak of. These are two matters that are closely linked and worth discussing though, because the long-term strategy behind avoiding knee problems is very important – and people who don’t necessarily have to devise a strategy are at a significant disadvantage later in life.
Why movement problems are a personal part of your life
The way our bodies move is something that is trained and practiced, whether you realise it or not. You’ve spent years of your life fine-tuning your movements to reach the comfortable posture and positioning you now adopt. However you move, correctly or incorrectly, it’s your movement that feels natural to you. And repeated practice becomes ingrained.
There’s good news and bad news here. Firstly, the bad news: your incorrect movements are a part of you right now. Your body thinks they are correct, which makes genuinely correct movements feel uncomfortable. The good news, however, is that if you practice correct movements for long enough, be it by developing an accurate squat technique, or simply by working on proper standing posture whilst you wait in queues, the correct movements will eventually become ingrained. Moving properly will start to feel comfortable.
This means that when you study to move properly, eventually your everyday movements, such as getting up from a chair, will start to follow proper practice, without even thinking about it. Which means you do not have to continually ‘treat’ something like patella maltracking, for instance, because the incorrect movements start to feel uncomfortable. An example of this for me is that if I stand and my knees cave in it feels wrong, but if you’re used to moving that way it will feel right. You have to practice the correct form for however long it takes to feel right; the better you get the less you’ll have to train correct movements.
So why do you have knee problems when other people don’t?
Some people are naturally talented in this area. Just as you might have learnt the incorrect movements, others, purely by chance (or because it worked well for them during earlier exercise) will have adopted the correct practices, and thus they naturally seem to be healthy. This is simply the luck of the draw; it might have been effective intuition on the behalf of their body, it may have been pure chance, but you’ll find that they have none of the problems you suffer even when doing the exact same training regime as you, it’s because they are already moving correctly.
Others are less prone to knots in their muscles; our bodies are all different, and the amount of problems our relative improper movements caused aren’t necessarily proportional. One man might move with the worst posture possible and barely have any knots, whilst you perform squats that are fractionally incorrect and suffer great knee pain. You can’t hold your body as a mirror to anyone else’s though; the same is true of any training, education, diet or talent. Some people can simply get away with bad practices; but they are exceptional, and not examples you could or should follow.
Consider a publican (a real news item I saw recently) who drinks 10 pints of beer a day and is in good health at age 60. He protests that there’s nothing wrong with drinking this amount, judging by his example. But what works for him would devastate most ordinary people, and should never be mimicked. Worse, though, it’s given him an ignorant understanding of alcohol: he believes it’s healthy, because his body somehow copes with it. Most people, when they suffer, have their eyes opened to another side of the story.
Why you’re really lucky to have knee problems early
The people who have chanced into proper body movements, or the people whose bodies simply cope with bad movements better, are actually ultimately at a disadvantage to anyone who’s ever been forced to learn to overcome incorrect body movements out of the need to rehabilitate an injury. Those people who seemed lucky before will find their joints suffer later in life (as time catches up with everyone eventually), and when they do they won’t know how to cope, because they never had to learn good movement practice.
If you’ve found this site and you’re learning about how your body should move correctly, it’s a good thing. You’ll have the tools to overcome your problems. Someone who was born lucky and never got to read this stuff won’t have that capacity when they need it. As with almost anything in life, facing it earlier, giving you the knowledge to continually overcome it, is far better than facing it later in life, being forced to learn something only after it’s too late.