View Full Version : Knee pains

01-26-2005, 12:53 AM
I just started practicing/learning the 24 forms from a local instructor in my area. This is only the second week of classes and I am noticing that my right knee hurts a bit. Mind you that most of the movements we have been doing is concentrated on the right side. Does/did anyone also get this when they first started and what is the remedy? My instructor tells me to keep the stances more compact and to not put so much weight on them during transitions and to not extend the knee beyond the toe in the bow stances.
A Tai Chi Newbie.

01-26-2005, 12:37 PM
You probably need to be more aware of your posture. Are you prone to aches and pains anyway?

Follow your teachers advice. Good luck.

01-26-2005, 01:47 PM
I and most of my friends had knee pain when starting Tai Chi. As your teacher notes, not extending the knee past the toes is one issue. For me, it turned out to be important to line up my upper leg parallel to the foot, especially in postures like, "Snakes Creeps Down;" and moves which twist the knee like "Sweep the Lotus" can be destructive to the knee. As you learn these postures, if it doesn't work well, don't use strength to "force" the position. Stop and examine the mechanics of the movement so you know exactly where to lift and replace your toe, how far apart your feet need to be, and so on so as to eliminate torque on the knees. This means you won't pivot gracefully at first, but you will learn the technique properly and without injury. Bill

01-26-2005, 06:57 PM
How is the pain? Maybe you can confirm with a physio or sports physician whether it has a medical reason. MOstly when the pain is not venomous it is caused by overstraining the tendons and ligaments. Gradually it disappears.

The above posts are already very good. Start without bending the knees too much first and compact stances, then as you become more confident, lower them gradually.

Does the teacher do the Tai Chi walk, which is typical for Yang style? This is very helpful to find the right feel for transitions and balance. Bending and opening your hips is important to prevent your knee passing your toe. Ask the teacher to look at your hips.

Another helpful hint: Dont bend your knee beyond your toe, keep your knee aligned with the foot, follow the foot wherever it goes, watch your feet a bit more in the beginning.

01-26-2005, 07:21 PM
Thank you everyone for your suggestions. I will listen to everyone's advice and apply it. At first I thought I was the only one but it sounds like it's a common phenonmenon. I look forward to the day that it disappears and so that I can enjoy tai chi.

01-27-2005, 09:55 PM
As you and your class get more experience and get through your initial aches and pains, listen for the music of cracking and popping knees...goes with the territory to some extent. All the advice above is good, by the way.

Richard Livingston MD

01-28-2005, 03:58 AM
Stephen: Follow the above advice and have your teacher show you some zhang zhuang gong (standing pole). In time this will give you a better alignment and strenghten your knees (I had the same trouble when I started Yang-style 9 years ago). Just be careful with the low stances.

Drlip: I have heard cracking and popping are actually BAD signs. I have a patello-femoral tracking problem in my right knee due to excessive running in my youth, and have found out that this is probably going to develop into something worse. So please do not refer to it as "music".

01-28-2005, 06:36 AM
As a beginner having recently worked through this, perhaps I can clarify.

There is no "twist knee" move.

You rotate the whole leg on the toe or the heel. You accomplish this by taking weight OFF that leg. The knee rotates along with the foot (and toe) direction. The leg can be bent or straight, but the practice still holds.

If you are twisting the right knee, you probably have too much weight on the right leg. In that case you should observe how to put your weight on the left leg so the right leg can rotate more freely.

I hope this reply meets the approval of the experienced practitioners. Charlie

01-29-2005, 08:51 AM
c'mon wussies,knee pain is part of the program (we all still get it from time to time);i've known teachers to put students in postures
for hours until quote "it felt like your skin was being scraped off slowly with a paring knife";Did you say something about pain?
as soraya et all said:
1.keep the knee aligned over the foot.
2.when bending the knee make sure you can still see
some of your toe.
(and buck up dammit,whaddya
think this is? nap time at kindergarden?)

01-30-2005, 05:50 PM
Cracking knees without much pain is normal, esp. when you bend the knees like Tai Chi. This is natural, happens due to shifting of air bubbles in the knee.(music of Tai Chi) Another cracking occurs when tendons snatch into new positions due to bending knees. Warmup and stretching muscles and tendons is therefore important

01-30-2005, 05:51 PM
In people with arthritis it happens more often, sometimes due to calcifications or inflexibility of tendons.

01-30-2005, 06:13 PM
In Thomas' case with a suspicion of patello-femoral it COULD be a warning sign. Thomas, how is the quality of your ligaments and tendons? Does it feel like pudding, then your structures are not really able to protect your knee and you need a physio. When not having this, then do exercises with either a fitness leader or on your own.

Dr. Paul Lam
01-30-2005, 06:17 PM
I agree that cracking with pain is usually harmless, my knees certainly crack a lot. thanks of the good advice here. sometimes people mistaken muscular pain from knee pain. if the pain last more than two hours, it means you have done too much, you should ease off or see physiotherapist or doctor. There are so not so safe moves in 24 forms, discuss with your instructor re your pain as well.

alternatively conisder the use a lesser straining set like my Tai Chi for Arthritis until you build up enough strength to go back to 24 forms.

01-30-2005, 06:21 PM
I must agree with Paul, I had knee pain after 24 forms and never after Chen style. Most people mistake knee and tendon pain. The tendon is the end of the muscle connecting to yur bone. When the muscle is overstrained, the tendon hurts and the pain is in the knee

01-30-2005, 06:24 PM
Beware "needle at sea bottom", here the knee goes past the toe. Just don't go to deep and see your toe. Open/bend your hip joint when squatting deep

01-30-2005, 08:41 PM
a plethora of great advice will benefit the readers of this thread for sure;the primary reason a joint "cracks" is because it's sending a message that it needs to be lubricated;it's often easy to confuse soreness with pain because soreness can be painful;real pain however is more debhilitating in nature;If the location of the pain is at the front of the knee it will most likely dissapear
with the remedies suggested here by melanie etc.;however if it's on the sides and severe,you might be well advised to have it checked out

01-31-2005, 10:51 AM
Melanie: What do you mean by "feels like pudding"? I think my tendons and ligaments are pretty strong. The patello-femoral pain I developed after running. So I stopped running completely and got rid of the problem. If you run a lot, then the hamstrings and vastus lateralis will get a little over-developed and the ITB-tendon a little tight, thus making the patella track slightly to the lateral side. The underlying cartilage will grate against the femur, and will get soft and inflamed. When I stabilized the vastus medialis, the patella could track better, and the cartilage could heal and harden again.

I can do zhang zhuang gong for an hour easily (although over 40 min is counter productive) and walk 20 km without any sensations of pain. My physio-therapist said I had patello-femoral, but since he did not back it up with a scan, I take it with a pinch of salt. Actually, when I were in pain because of this two years ago, he called it "psycho-somatic" and gave me some pills. Quack.

Marc Heyvaert
01-31-2005, 12:11 PM

So much good advice already and then I will try to add more...:D

1. Give your body enough time to adapt. Don't overdo it in the beginning. Your legs, icluding the knees will become very strong but it takes time, say 2 to 3 years regular practice (having said this improvement should be noticable after a month or two).

2. Practice the techniques and the stances that you learned but remain relaxed and distinguish clearly full and empty. I have seen beginners who tried to imitate the low stances that you see in most videos (including Paul's) without using the proper techniques. So using 'compact' stances in the beginning is important. After a while you will learn, through experience, what is the width you are comfortable with.

3. Pay particular attention to alignment of toes, knee and hip of the supporting leg. Especially when you 'sit' into your back leg (positions like White Crane and Play the Pipa, but also when you sit back while stepping ...) you have to keep the knee above the toes.

4. When you stand in bow stance your front knee must not go beyond the toes (this has already been said) but most of your weight must be in the front leg. You 'sit' in your front leg. The back leg is supporting your position but you have to keep the knee 'in line' with the foot and the hip. I often see with beginners that the knee of the back leg 'drops in' so that the structure is not sound and this IMO can also lead to knee problems.

Conclusion: a good teacher is important to give you feedback on how you are doing and to point you into the right direction when your positions are wrong. If in doubt, look around and check what you are doing with other sources like some of the excellent videos that are out there. If you have persistent pain in your knees or hips or other joints you shoulld check with a doctor.

Just my 0.02 cent



01-31-2005, 05:52 PM
Side pain is very often in the ligaments, it could be a tear or overstretching. The latter disappears after proper training, the former needs to be checked. Shark is right about lubrication, when a joint cracks more often than usual, such as in arthritics, it is really asking for lubrication. Smooth, gently flowing movements like in TC will support metabolism in the knee.

About videos:
Mel and myself never had any pain with Chen style because the masters have been looking after us. Just watch GM Chenxiawang's tapes, he performs once in high, once in low stance. When you start in his family, regardless of previous experience, you are required to perform in high stance first. Chen family qi gong looks pretty much like Sun style.

About Paul's tapes, he explains more than once about being in upright stance first, then gradually(over years) lower the stances, except when you have done ballet or gymnastics. Even here you firstly need to pay attention to what Marc explains above. In TCD Paul explains the bow stance much more carefully, having 70% of the weight in the front leg. Safety precautions in every tape......

And my last 2 cents........