By Dr. Andrea Wick, D.C. EBS Health Columnist
I hear a frequent phrase that causes me cringe around town: “Welcome to the ACL club!” This is one club that nobody is excited to become a member of. Keeping your knees healthy is vital to having a great ski season and being able to continue to ski pain-free with age. Having had a knee injury myself, I have learned a lot about keeping the knees strong throughout the season.
The knee is a complex hinge joint. It’s the largest joint in the body and is meant to be strong and stable. However, if there is decreased or increased mobility, or range of motion, at the hip or ankle it can ultimately make the knee unstable. Here are a few exercises to help keep your knees strong and healthy during the season:
Unavoidably, there are always those dreaded weeks of cramming our feet in ski boots at the beginning of the season. Rolling your foot on a lacrosse or tennis ball is a quick, therapeutic exercise, and is also great for relieving symptoms of plantar fasciitis. Place a tennis or lacrosse ball on the floor near your feet and put your foot on top of the ball and roll it around, massaging the bottom of your foot. Increase or decrease pressure as needed. There will be points of pain, but try to continue to work until the pain dissipates and do this daily.
Another regimen I recommend is toe curls. This exercise strengthens the muscles at the top of the feet and toes. In a seated position, lay a kitchen or hand towel on the floor in front of you. Put the toes of one foot on the end of the towel and scrunch your toes so you pull the towel toward you. Repeat this several times with each foot.
Lunges are an excellent exercise to keep the knees and quadriceps strong. Doing a lunge in different planes of motion helps with increasing the range of motion in the ankles and building up strength in order to stay strong when doing tram laps. “Around the clock” lunges are a functional exercise that is geared toward skiers.
Picture standing in the middle of a clock with the numbers one through 12 around the outside. Face forward so your front body points toward 12 o’clock; face 12 for the duration of the exercise to ensure you’re moving in a lateral plane of motion. Each time push back to the start position. The goal is to hit every clock number. Start with your right foot, use your left leg as a stabilizer, and lunge forward to 12, then forward and slightly right to one, all the way until you step back to 6. Switch feet and finish the other part of the clock with your left foot.
Dr. Andrea Wick is a chiropractor and applied kinesiologist. She graduated from Life University in Marietta, Georgia, and now practices in Big Sky. She has a passion for holistic health care and being active in the outdoors. Her practice, Healing Hands Chiropractic, is located in the Meadow Village Center. Visit drandreawick.com to learn more.