View Full Version : Knees & Shoulder Pain

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05-27-2009, 12:49 PM
Hello. Well, let's start off by giving you a little background. I am 25 and I have only been doing Aikido since March. I am fairly healthy, but I was told about 5 years ago that I had a worn miniscus in my left knee (most likely from tap dancing and was told I had minor arthritis. Ever since, I have always had the "knee crunch" thing (you put your hand on your knee and when you bend it you feel it crunch).

Well, all has been going well in my training, then a couple weeks ago I started having some pain. It is right above both of my patella's. I am pretty sure that this is from weak quad muscles as I hadn't done martial arts in about.... 3 years (so I am out of MA shape). I am training about 8 1/2 hours a week doing Aikido, Iaido and Tai Chi. I am pretty sure that this is from the up and down I am always doing, especially in Iaido.

I was just wondering what you have done in the past if you have experienced this. Obviously strength training and rest are a couple of options. I would prefer NOT to take the rest though.... :yuck: Any advice on that would be VERY helpful. :D

Now onto my shoulder. Let me start off by saying I am a HUGE tennis fan. I love to play and would play every day if I was able. The past couple of years I have noticed that if I just rally (hit balls back and forth, no serving) I am not sore the next day. However, if we play a match, my shoulder is extremely sore the next day. I have narrowed it down to the service motion that is causing me pain. I have also noticed that I am a bit sore after Iaido classes as well from the overhead cuts. I have also noticed that my scapula sticks out weird and my right shoulder sticks forward. If I rotate my shoulder backwards it grinds and pops, but if I go forward, it is silent.

After my research, I think I have a winged scapula or a protruding shoulder.... or both. Anywho, I have an appointment with someone this week just to check it out to see if I am damaging it further or not. Have any of you had experience with this? Again I know that massage, stretching and strength training are a good fix for this under most circumstances, but I was just curious.

I have no idea when my scapula started popping out, but I did notice it in grad school, which was a couple years ago. I did have an incident where I was thrown off of something going about 15 mph or so several years ago and I am now wondering if I did something back then and it has just gotten worse over the years. Bah humbug....

Any advice or personal stories would be very helpful.

Janet Rosen
05-27-2009, 01:16 PM
As both a damaged aikidoka (major injuries, surgery, rehab) and an experienced RN, I'd say please take ANYthing said here with many grains of salt. Every joint in the body and esp knees and shoulders comprise so many different muscles, tendons, and ligaments that anecdotal reporting may have nothing to do with what is happening to your body. You need a sports medicine doctor or PT or athletic trainer to look at you, touch you, and watch you in movement to be able to say what it is that is actually going on with your body. Having said that, a few comments:

1. If soft tissue is damaged, there is no shortcut around resting. Without a chance to heal, acute injuries become chronic injuries.
2. Very often, pain above the knee is due to trigger points in the quads, in which case strength training alone won't help: any tense trigger points need to be dealt with before the muscle can either stretch OR contract properly.
3. The best way to protect any loose joint is indeed strength training for the support muscles; for knees this means not only quads but hamstrings. For shoulders it includes the core trunk muscles which is good for aikido as well since much of our "extending ki" or "unbendable arm" stuff in terms of body use should mean using the lats to originate arm movement.

05-27-2009, 02:29 PM
I would prefer NOT to take the rest though.... :yuck:
Then you're just going to have to take some magic pills.

05-27-2009, 03:53 PM
Then you're just going to have to take some magic pills.

Do you know where I can get these? ;)

I used to be very athletic and I worked out at least 5 days a week. I am guessing I was a bit over ambitious in jumping into everything. :uch: I am still pretty flexible though, so I don't think my quads and hamstrings are tight. Like I said though, there is a PT who happens to take Aikido with me and he said that we will try to take a look at it on Thursday after class. In the mean time, I am hoping for the best!

05-27-2009, 04:22 PM
Do you know where I can get these? ;)

If I had 'em, I'd be taking 'em myself.

There's a saying in the world of outdoor leadership that goes like this:

Good judgment comes from experience.
Experience comes from bad judgment.

In other words, how do you learn not to get lost? By getting lost, that's how...by getting a little bit lost, not fatally so, but enough to recognize the mistakes that you made. How do you keep from getting hypothermia? By getting chilled and learning that no, a sweaty cotton t-shirt really is not going to cut it when the sun goes down and the wind comes up. And how do you learn not to do stupid things when you've been injured? By getting injured and screwing up your recovery.

People tend to not learn well, at least not certain kinds of things, without some negative feedback. Unfortunately, injury is like that. Those of us who are skilled at managing injuries now, got those skills by messing up and paying the price. So we end up in these pointless dialogues:

Q: I hurt my shoulder/busted my collarbone/sprained my ankle. When can I start training again?

A: There is no exact formula that will tell you when you can resume training; when I hurt my shoulder/busted my collarbone/sprained my ankle, it was x weeks. Your mileage may and probably will vary. Consult your doctor and don't rush it.

Q: Yeah, but but but, when can I get on the mat??? It's been a whole day and a half and I'm going crazy!

...at which point I'm always tempted to say, "Okay, then do it your way," because what else can you say? You just answered the question; the person didn't like the answer, and now they're fishing for a different answer. This is like people who shop for a diagnosis until they get the one they want. Well, they can't help it -- everyone wants the truth to be different than what it is, which is that you can't know exactly how long it will take you to recover, or even if you will recover completely (because with most serious orthopedic injuries, things are never just as they were before), and you can't know exactly what are the things to do to best ensure healing. Nobody likes that uncertainty, but dealing with it is just the drill if you want to give yourself your best shot at recovery.

05-28-2009, 09:28 AM
I understand what you are saying Mary. I severely sprained my ankle a couple years ago. I mean, loud popping, swollen black and blue and everything. I never went to the doctor... part of it was shock and denial. I truly didn't know I had hurt my ankle that bad. My fiance was over an hour away at work and I was left to my own judgement... HAH! A lot of good THAT did me. Instead I sucked it up and drove to the train station (OUCH!), walked the quarter mile to the platform (OUCH!), traveled the 2 1/2 hours to my grad school via train, walked to the bus stop, took the bus and walked an additional quarter mile to my class (OUCH!). Not to mention the one mile walk I took after the train on subsequent days uphill (but not both ways... hehe) because I had a presentation to give. Besides the presentation, we also had a mock crime scene to process. Seems my classmates didn't believe me and I got stuck being the one squatting down on the ground to measure things.... BIG mistake!

I am almost certain that I tore some ligaments and my ankle bothered me for well over a year. If I had went to the doctor like I should have (I was scared and a bit naive, plus I didn't want to fail my class) I would have been on the road to recovery much quicker. A brace, crutches and some PT would have done wonders for me. Instead, I was sidelined from tennis for about 6 months because of my ignorance. I now know better and am learning to listen to my body. Just like you mentioned, I realize that my body does know best and that if I am told to lay off..... then I am going to have to suck it up and deal. WAH! At least this time I am doing something about it..... that is a start right?

05-28-2009, 10:51 AM
plus I didn't want to fail my classWhat, no doctor's notes in Oregon? Just kidding, I did something like that to my ankle, with a similar commute. All better now.

First, I would follow Janet's advice. PT's can give you homework exercises, and you seem to be the do-it-yourself type.

Only thing I would add would be to stock up on large flexible re-freezable ice-packs. I know CVS has one at roughly 20 by 12 inches or so. I toss that on my knees at bed-time routinely after practice nights. Ibuprofren works for me. I was thrown off of something going about 15 mph orThat just begs the question as to what you were thrown from.... :D

One time too many during ultimate frisbee I ended up on my right shoulder, so I get a clunk in there once in a while. Strength training seems to stabilize it very well. I was also a hurdler through highschool and part of college. Coach told me to ice every night even if it didn't hurt, I did, and I thank him for it.

Even so I have a little crunch, I think it's a pre-requisite to growing up :P

good luck,

05-28-2009, 10:53 AM
Wow, Ashley, I feel for you -- a bad ankle sprain like that is one tough injury. You'll do fine! Just remember how things went with the ankle.

I've found in the past with my injuries that they get better with rest...and then, after a while, they stop getting any better. Then is when I need to resume activity -- I find that when I do that, they start improving again. This is assuming, though, that it's not the sort of injury that's aggravated by the activities of daily living. I had a wrist sprain some years ago that just nagged and nagged and never got better, because typing and mousing all day would aggravate it. I finally started taping it every day. My coworkers thought it was hilarious (taping your wrist to type, huh?), but it did the trick -- problem solved within a couple of weeks.

05-28-2009, 12:42 PM
Any advice or personal stories would be very helpful.

Time, the longer the better.

Over a year ago I was being uke and while trying to avoid landing on some kids crowded around the mat, I landed wrong on my neck and shoulder. Entirely my fault. Within a few days I could not move my neck or right arm without pain. Coupled with ongoing injuries to my knees from an old work related injury, I decide to take some time off and heal. Went to the doctor, physical therapy and started taking Tai Chi at the local community center ( I am the youngest person there at age 54). I figure to take at least another year before I will consider starting Aikido. This is based on my previous experience with injuries and not taking the time to heal them completely (plus at age 54 you heal slower).

My advice is take lots of time to heal. The injuries you get at twenty-five, if not healed properly, will haunt you when you are in your fifties.:disgust:


05-28-2009, 01:34 PM
knee: stop iaido, very tough on knee, unless you doing the standing kata. also, in aikido, pay attention on how you do tenkan, you might be torquing the knee, smaller footwork, i.e. shorter stance; of course, some aikido style preferred longer stance whereas for me I preferred to do aikido like I am taking a stroll in the park.

shoulder: human body works in balance, front balances back, left balances right. tight back, stretch front. tight left, stretch right. tight ass, knock head. :D

05-28-2009, 01:35 PM
Thanks everyone. I will let you know what is going on when I find out tonight (if Dan can still do it). Your advice is very helpful!

To answer a few questions and comments.

1.) My grad school was in PA and they may have taken a Dr. note, but I couldn't have made up the crime scene. They wouldn't do it over again just for me.

2.) Don't laugh when I say this.... but I got thrown off of a lawnmower. HAHA. I know what you are thinking... so I will add some more details. My dad's riding mower broke across the street in a field and he needed to tow it in behind his pickup truck. He said he would drive and I would steer the mower. He assured me he would go SLOW. Well, he was very kind to me until we got on the road and he sped up to about 25 mph or so. Well, I realized all too late that connecting the mower to the truck via a rope just was not a good idea because him slowing down wouldn't slow ME down! As you can imagine, I was freaking out trying to figure out what I was going to do before we got to our driveway. Well, my dad made the sharp right turn.... and I ATTEMPTED to do the same. I managed to slow down a little (lawn mower breaks aren't the best as you can imagine), miss the ditch, miss all of our pine trees and I missed the huge sign for my dad's kennel (he breeds chessies). I ended up bailing off the mower as it started to roll. Thank goodness for all the years of training I had doing rolls and falls from aikijitsu! I remember landing in a face fall, but I must have tumbled quite a bit after that because my white shirt was ALL brown from dirt. HAHA. Although I was scared, I was alright. The mower was a bit dinged up though.... HAHA. As scary as it was, I wish I could have seen myself on video. My dad saw I was alright and said "Don't tell Mom".

05-28-2009, 02:20 PM
You could try looking up 'malalignment syndrome'. It has many different names, and consequences.
In my experience, twisted ankle effects gait cycle which is supposed to be automatic. Arch can fall. SI (Sacro Iliac) joint can be effected. Then the pelvis can become torqued (or upslip). ..and on and on. The body is a closed loop feedback cycle. Seemingly unrelated problems can in fact, be related.

Some interesting stuff at:
btw: there are clever cheaper ways to do what their products purport to do.

..If you have seen us at an expo you may have heard us say something along the lines of… “Soleus, loss of dorsiflexion, to your knee, to your inner quad, to your hip…rectus femoris takes all the responsibility causing tightness and pain to your quads, TFL, psoas, which connects at T12, resulting in the compression of the L4, 5 region causing your pelvis to tilt. Once your pelvis tilts, your IT band gets tight, and your QL (lower back) and hamstrings also get tight and sore...

also; this may or may not be useful (http://www.chiroweb.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=52442)
also; check out the post by Dr. Dunn here. (http://en.allexperts.com/q/Chiropractors-965/hip-treatments.htm)
Good Luck

p.s. The Permanent Pain Cure; The Ming Method.

05-28-2009, 02:46 PM
When I was 21 I was thrown from a horse and landed on my knees on packed clay arena surface. Was black and blue form knee to ankle for weeks. Since then I have had knee pain myself. I also have some issues with my right shoulder form a torn rotator cuff and several dislocations. Although I do have some stiffness in those areas and sometimes pain I have found that the best thing to do is keep the surrounding muscles strong.

When I was not riding a lot I would get off a horse and be almost crippled with my left knee unable to bear weight for about 10 minutes due to it locking up. If I am riding regularly or doing other exercises that use the muscles I have very little problem. I also take a joint supplement that helps a whole lot. Combination of Glucosomine and condroitin and MSM.

My current big issue is that once fully flexed I have no power to push and wind up using upper body strength to get back up. This is making it very hard on me to come forward out of the back rolls. I figure I'm doing the best I can and perhaps I'll be a long time if ever getting it down but hey I'm not that concerned about moving up through the ranks. There is more to Aikido than just the color of the belt you wear.:)

Janet Rosen
05-28-2009, 05:21 PM
of course, some aikido style preferred longer stance whereas for me I preferred to do aikido like I am taking a stroll in the park.

As a geriaikidoka this is very much my approach too - natural movement.

Linda Eskin
05-28-2009, 11:06 PM
I'll second everyone who suggested working with a good PT.

My shoulders are messed up by heredity, and had caused me trouble off and on for years, usually one at a time. A few years back I managed to get them both out of whack at the same time, which really got my attention (even feeding myself was difficult, and eating is kind of a high priority for me).

About that same time my dad tripped and fell, and badly tore both his rotator cuffs trying to catch himself. Apparently they'd been weakened by years of bone spurs grinding away at other important shoulder bits. His doc mentioned the problem being hereditary, and suggested I come in. Yep, same thing.

We were able to get the left one in good working order through PT. The right shoulder required minor surgery to remove the bone spurs, and then lots of PT. I bought a home gym (Zuma model from Pacific Fitness) that lets me continue doing those exercises regularly on my own. The old shoulder problems have not recurred since my PT & surgery.

(Of course, in my 4th-ever Aikido class 2 weeks ago I did one of those "how not to do it" things, and landed hard on that right shoulder. So I've been observing classes (very valuable, by the way), and am back under the care of the guy who did the shoulder surgery. Anyway... That's a new injury, and beside the point.)

The point is that I had shoulder problems, and was able to resolve the issue with the help of an excellent PT, minor surgery on one, and ongoing exercise. Had I ignored the problem, and tried to "tough it out," my shoulders would've continue to become weaker and more fragile, and I could've eventually ended up with the kind of major problem my dad ran into. So I highly recommend addressing the problem, even if you're kind of getting along OK, to avoid future trouble.

Incidentally, I learned that I react badly to NSAIDs like Motrin and Aleve. I get edema in my legs, including ruptured capillaries, pain, and possibly nerve damage. I (and several doctors) never guessed that an anti-inflammatory could cause swelling... Go figure. Not everyone has that problem with them, of course, but don't take that stuff lightly.

If rest is called for, go to class and watch.It's very worthwhile. Good luck!


Linda Eskin
05-28-2009, 11:19 PM
Hi Janet,

First, I have to say I love your term "geriaikidoka." I refuse to apply it to myself for another few years, but I'll find it appropriate soon enough. :p

Could you elaborate on what you said here?

2. Very often, pain above the knee is due to trigger points in the quads, in which case strength training alone won't help: any tense trigger points need to be dealt with before the muscle can either stretch OR contract properly.
3. The best way to protect any loose joint is indeed strength training for the support muscles; for knees this means not only quads but hamstrings. ...

I am finding my quads are way more tight on one side than the other, and the inside/back of that knee hurts if I try to do anything terribly strenuous, like, oh, sitting seiza. The hip on the other side hurts if I try to sit cross-legged. I experience the "crunching" in both knees like Ashley described. I've heard that can be from imbalanced muscles pulling things in the wrong directions. I'm doing some basic exercises and stretches every day, and they are helping, but do you have any particular exercises (or books) you could recommend?

I go back to the shoulder doc (orthopedic surgeon) on Monday - I'll ask him too, and ask him to refer me to PT as well.

Thanks for any guidance!

05-29-2009, 09:19 AM
Alright everyone. I had my first appointment last night. He evaluated me and did some stretching, pulling, pushing, etc. Apparently, both of my shoulders have tendency to roll in and my pelvic area does too (which I found odd because I always thought I had open hips...haha). He spent about an hour doing things to me.

Apparently, my shoulder in particular is squished into my socket and it is also pushed forward/rotated in. Because of the placement, my scapula is sticking out and isn't allowing my joint to move properly. By the end of the treatment I could already feel a difference. He told me that was a mild session and that they will be progressively more difficult so he can actually begin to manipulate my muscles, fascia, bones, joints, etc. He told me that there will be times that I feel beat up the next day from what he does. I am a little sore today, but it is nothing to complain about really. All in all, I think I am taking a step in the right direction.

Oh, one more thing. He is taking an approach like Josh mentioned. He is saying that my body is like a spiral and there are several things that are causing my problems. He said he isn't sure what started this "spiraling" but he said he will work on my whole body, with extra emphasis on my right shoulder. He said that by working on any one given area, another may fix itself as a byproduct.

I can't wait to go back. Not a relaxing experience, but well worth it in my book.

Linda Eskin
05-29-2009, 09:57 AM
Sounds like you are in great hands! Glad it's working out. :-)


05-29-2009, 10:14 AM
... both of my shoulders have tendency to roll in and my pelvic area does too (which I found odd because I always thought I had open hips...haha). ...

Oh, one more thing. He is taking an approach like Josh mentioned. He is saying that my body is like a spiral and there are several things that are causing my problems. He said he isn't sure what started this "spiraling" but he said he will work on my whole body, with extra emphasis on my right shoulder. He said that by working on any one given area, another may fix itself as a byproduct.

I can't wait to go back. Not a relaxing experience, but well worth it in my book.

Some more ideas for you to check into:
-Inwardly rotated humerus.
-The Spiral Line (http://www.sportskin.net/files/u1/Sports_Kinesiology_and_the_Spiral_Line.pdf); this is one example. There are others. The body is layer upon layer of such complexity. What started the 'spiral' chink is some laxity or slack introduced into the body somewhere along the line that is effected. For example: Twisted ankle never realigned perfectly, perhaps...etc. For me, this was a big one: The Wishbone Maneuver. (http://www.chiroweb.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=52161) The idea: "Get the SLACK OUT OF THE BODY". Stay Aligned. Listen inside your body and see 'which gears don't mesh properly.
-Regarding the shoulders rolling iN: and the body consequences (http://www.chiroweb.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=52014)
-Yes; there is a lower crossed syndrome too.
-Regarding the pelvis rolling in; I suggest learning about Thoracolumbar region and Gluteus Medius. Great sites at http://www.sportsinjurybulletin.com/ and http://www.t-nation.com/
Look for Eric Cressey articles.

I would recommend learning *all* about this.
Trigger Point Therapy Workbook (http://www.triggerpointbook.com/)
Also; for starters, I think this is helpful to learn about.
Tensor Fascia Latae and Iliotibial Band (http://www.chiroweb.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=52442)

Feel Better for 10$ (http://www.tmuscle.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_repair/feel_better_for_10_bucks%3bjsessionid=78E5A1366850E3A1D748C8F7815B6442.hydra)

Wishing you all Luck.

Ps. Again; everybody should at least see this book once: p.s. The Permanent Pain Cure; The Ming Method.. Can't say enough good things about Ming Chew. He has an endorsement by Renzo Gracie. That should say enough.

05-29-2009, 10:31 AM
..edit time lapsed..
re: inwardly rotated humerus (http://www.mindandmuscle.net/node/285)

05-31-2009, 11:19 AM
have any of you been "rolfed"?

Janet Rosen
05-31-2009, 11:23 AM
I would like to be rolfed but am now at least an hour drive each way from any practitioners, the downside of moving away from the big city!

05-31-2009, 06:19 PM
have any of you been "rolfed"?

I have not; but I believe a major purpose of that bodywork is to correct postural distortions. In my opinion, best is to learn how to do it to yourself, by yourself. Being careful...is critical.
ELDOA type stretches, such as that in Ming`s book outline how to do this, in my opinion. For a sample of this kind of work: Go Here (http://homepage.mac.com/cpohagan1/.Public/MFS-ELDOA%20Article.pdf)
The stretches are really exercises if you`re doing them right. Deceptively simple, they are tricky and take a while before the correct feeling you are searching for is identifiable. At the beginning, if they suck, good chance you`re doing it right. I suggest you give it 2 weeks. When you get the feeling, you can extrapolate and ... make your own that are relevant to your own body. Know that there is a philosophy and rationale (i.e. method) to the madness, grounded in kinesiology,

I learned a lot with this kind of work and it helped me immensely. But it is hard and you will want to quit. That much is certain. I definitely wanted to. If you try it let me know how it goes.
Hope things get better.