Sunday, June 21, 2009

Deese Knees

Here's a compilation of the knee care advice that I've been able to collect over the last few weeks. To recap the comments I received from the previous knee care blog:

Orin suggested:
-Ice your knees for at least 20 minutes after dancing.
-Stretch before dancing

To which my response was:
With regard to the stretching, that's something that everyone should consider. What stretches would you recommend? It has been a while since I regularly stretched before dancing and to be honest, I feel that my best dancing came when I took the time to get my body ready.

Emily Falcon suggested via Facebook:
"suede or leather shoes, keep your knees bent and don't dance on concrete."

To which my response was:
I'd like to expand on that a bit. Of course, bending the knees is the best way to facilitate shock absorption. In the same vein it is advisable to keep your heels off the ground so that the ankles can aid in this.

With regard to the advice about leather shoes, it appears to have to do with reducing the friction between the dancer and the floor. If you have only danced on rubber soles this might take some adjusting, but it is worth taking care. Almost exclusively, I dance on hard leather.

I later added that keeping your knee aligned with the direction of your feet would be helpful.

Recently, Kirsten Welge commented on the same thread:
More details on the "keep knee in line with foot direction" bit - this doesn't just go for dancing.

If you notice this issue in dancing, you are likely doing this in all walks of your life. I sure was!

What helped me:
-Pay attention when you're walking around, DDR-ing, stretching, or doing other activities.
-When you catch yourself, correct yourself and feel the difference.
-It also helped me to do a few lunges right after the catch and correction - another opportunity to really focus on alignment and pay attention to what the 'correct' feel is.

I echo the dancing in suede-sole shoes. I picked up a pair of 'real' dance shoes when I started lindy hop after 6 months of dancing WCS in rubber soled sandals and sneakers. HUGE difference in feel, and my knees/ankles felt better... though I'm sure part of that was also the floating dance floor for lindy vs. linoleum over concrete for WCS.

I also strongly recommend doing lunges, daily if you can. Work 'em in when you're walking the dog or cooking, when you find yourself with nothing to do. Stronger knee muscles = less pain.

One other thing I'm planning is starting up kneee exercises recommended by MDs for weak knees/cheerleader's knee. Eg sit on a chair, raise your foot, lower foot, repeat ~12x per foot, three sets each. Add weight to increase resistance as this becomes easy.

The 200 squats program (google it) might also be another way to prevent knee issues and strengthen legs. Have not tried this but when I do, I'll report back.

1 oz prevention >> 1 lb cure!

I was directed to a Facebook blog by David Stockin, focusing on joint related supplements:
While learning to dance has certainly been one of the single best things I have ever done in my life, there are some down-sides to the sport as well; an insane amount of mileage to the odometer on my car, a collection of Tommy Bahamas shirts large enough to open my own store with, and the occasional joint pain. I know what you’re saying, it could be old-age… but I’m going to completely rule that possibility out and place 100% of the blame for my aching knee squarely on dancing!

So last week when my knee starting hurting, a deluge of advice came in from all quarters; braces of all sorts, magnets, titanium patches, orthotic shoes, stop dancing for a month, walk in a straight line for hours, say my prayers (that person REALLY didn’t know me very well at all)… but when a Doctor told me about Glucosamine, I listened up.

Having never heard of Glucosamine, and being a perpetual skeptic, I decided to put my crack team of research analysts on the job (I call them the Google) and poured through a mountain of info. Most of it was mixed. Turns out, that many studies have been done regarding the efficacy of Glucosamine for improving joint performance, half of the studies show positive results, the other half show no improvement over a placebo. I was quite puzzled over this, especially considering that Europe had approved Glucosamine for use in joint pain. Many people don’t know this but in the US, drugs only need to be safe to get approval; they don’t actually have to work (in fairness they do need to show some small level of benefit). On the other hand, drug manufacturers in Europe have to prove both safeness and effectiveness.

It wasn’t until I ran into a Mayo Clinic document that the whole Glucosamine puzzle became clear. There are two (2) types of Glucosamine:

1. Glucosamine Hydrochloride - This one doesn’t work
2. Glucosamine Sulfate – This one DOES work

Some other common additives that seem to help include Methyl-Sulfonyl-Methane (MSM) and Chondroitin Sulfate. You can typically find a pill with all three (3) of the above included. Typical dosage is 1500 mg a day, with positive joint improvement measurable via X-ray measurements in 6-weeks. All of the studies showed that both varieties of Glucosamine are safe.

I pass this information on, so that my fellow dancers will not waste their time, money and pain, on the wrong kind of Glucosamine. I found the supplement that I am currently using at Trader Joes, but I am sure there are many sources for Glucosamine Sulfate. Good luck!

Here are some responses to David's post:

Forrest Walsh:
What if the body can heal itself? But we need to allow it. By deep pranayama, kundalini or tantric breathing allowing flow of energy or life force, perhaps even guiding it. Or just chilling enough so that stress is eased so the body can do its thing.

I would love to see Forrest expand upon this.

Barry Chin:
after 30 years of volleyball - i have learned the value of stretching - and proper mechanics. if you are doing some sort of repetitive motion that actually is causing damage, better to address that IMO. and forrest is correct - a consequence of any sort of stress that provokes the fight or flight physiological response is the shutting down of the body's healing mechanisms. constant stress does contribute to the body breaking down more easily.

Alright everyone, now it's time to share!

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