Treat Your Own Knees. Jim Johnson, PT.


I read this on a quick plane trip to Boston, and it had some decent points. It is of course very very hard, if not impossible, to diagnose knee problems without an extensive in-person evaluation wth an O.S, D.O, or P.T. And even then, as in my case, it can be impossible to determine a true root cause. :-/

At any rate, Johnson has years of experience in treating knee problems, and has found four main areas that patients can work on to improve the pain level of knees and increase knee functionality:

  1. Strength
  2. Flexibility
  3. Proprioception
  4. Endurance

He gives simple exercises for each one — sometimes too simple depending on where you are with your knee and treatment and pain level. For example, on Strength, he uses the very simple “quad press” in which you lie or sit mostly reclined, and press down with extended leg onto a towel. Hold for a few seconds, release, and repeat up to 30 times. Johnson does site research that clearly shows such a simple exercise will increase quad strength over time, so it is a good exercise. But is it enough? That of course depends on where you are…

For flexibility, he lists the tried and true quad stretch, which is one I still use all the time, to try to give my knee cavity more space. I also supplement this with Yoga’s Hero pose. But I think other stretches, beyond just the quad, may be called for depending on your root cause of knee pain. For example, I have a tight ITB (just one of several bio-mechanical problems I have!), so ITB stretches are also part of my routine.

Proprioception is the abilty of your mind to know where and how your leg is placed. Standing on one leg and balancing is the exercise he uses to improve this ability. And if you can do that, try closing your eyes and counting to 30! I have been doing this one for a while, and I do believe it is beneficial. I also supplement it with Yoga’s Tree position. In Tree, you can look at a point in front of you (easier), or look at your finger tips (harder!)

The final item is endurance, and he suggests walking. Walking on a road, on a treadmill, in the water, wherever. I agree with this and have been walking more, though I do miss running. :-/ (I am running once or twice a week, up to 30 minutes, but I am so slow compared to before!)

I would add to both strength and endurance by stating that an Electro-stim unit such as the Compex or Globus are beneficial. I just realized I never blogged on my Compex unit, so I will try to do that soon. Briefly, the compex allows me to work on muscle strength and endurance without joint movement. For me, many of the strength exercises proscribed by my PT would irritate my knee. So I’ve been running the strength program on my quads and hams to build up the supporting muscles of the knee, in an effort to help solve some of my knee issues. I have not used the endurance program that often, but I have, and do believe it does help with muscular endurance as well.

Overall this is a quick read, and if you have been dealing with knee pain for some time, and have been trying to solve the problem by working with doctors, PT’s, or on you own, there probably isn’t that much new information here. But it does not hurt to read it, and perhaps incorporate some of his suggestions into your daily routine if you have strayed from any of them.

4 thoughts on “Treat Your Own Knees. Jim Johnson, PT.

  1. I just came across this book, and I am wondering if it gives helpful exercises for dealing with known conditions as well. I have a torn meniscus and have decided to not have surgery, at least not yet.


    • There are definitely good exercises, but much of what is doable will depend on how bad your meniscus is — where it is torn, how big it is, if there is a flap, etc. The exercises can strengthen all the supporting muscles of the knee which can help many knee problems and injuries. If I had a torn meniscus I would probably work with a good PT that has experience there, and maybe work through the exercises in this book with that PT at least a couple times to see what works and what doesn’t, and what may be most beneficial. Good luck!

  2. I have that book and it’s by far the best knee pain book out there. The book works regardless of your problem because of its unique approach- it treats knee function. In other words, it makes your knee work better, and as your knee starts to work better, it begins to feel better and the pain goes away.

    The knee strengthening exercise is simple, and while the above review seems to criticize it, how can you knock an exercise that’s simple to do (you just use a pillow) and more than one MRI studies have proven it can bulk up your quads? Feel free to do multiple other knee exercises if you want that get the same results just because they’re more “sophisticated”. If your quads are stronger, they’re stronger, and I for one like taking the simplest route to get there…

    While there are much more extensive knee programs out there, there’s only so many things you can do to a knee. Don’t hesitate to buy this book because it covers all the major ones (improve strength, felxibility, proprioception, and endurance)- in one simple program. The only exception to this is if you have knee arthritis- the author has just written a more specialized book for that called “Treat Your Own Knee Arthritis”.

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