Hyperextension Of The Knees And Headaches


14.wellness_report_postureandpain.aiThe number of people that suffer from headaches of one form of another—there are over one hundred types of headaches—is staggering. According to the National Headache Foundation, over 45 million Americans suffer from chronic recurring headaches.  I can’t find any statistics on how many people suffer from hyperextension of the knees but if I had to guess it is more than the numbers of people that suffer from headaches.

Hyperextension of the knees causes more problems in the modern world than anyone can imagine. The number of people that I have helped out of pain by simply telling them to stop locking their knees is pretty amazing. Hyperextending of the knees is why I do what I do for a living.

hyperextension of the kneesI was born loose in my joints and long in my muscles, which can be a blessing and a curse. When I started doing yoga no one told me not to lock my knees. Two years later I was suffering from debilitating knee pain and ended up requiring three surgeries. That was the end of hyperextension in my life and I learned an essential lesson about the body. Certain structural factors cannot be exercised away.

There is no workout I could have done that would prevent my knees from hyperextending—I simply had to change my idea of what a straight leg is and stop locking it backwards. I genuinely used to believe that when my leg was straight it was actually bent. It took a long time for my brain to catch up to what my body was trying to tell it.

The body is built to transfer weight from the head to the feet through bones that stack one on top of the other. When this happens the body is relatively weightless as the bones do their job of holding the body up and the muscles can lay in wait until we move. As soon as any joint in the body is not stacking in this weight transferry way, muscles will have to kick into action to hold the body up which can lead to tension in any of many places.

Locking any joint will affect other joints by necessity. When the knee extends beyond its normal range of motion joints above and below will be pulled in one direction or another. The three main joints that I see affected by locked knees are the lumbo-sacral (where the lower back meets the pelvis), the thoraco-lumbar (where the lower back meets the ribcage), and the atlanto-occipital joints (where the head sits on top of the spine).

I think dysfunction in this atlanto-occipital joint is the source of many headaches. And I think that hyperextension of the knees is often putting pressure on the skeleton above that can lead to the tension in the head and neck that is the source of a lot of headaches.

If you suffer from a lot of headaches without understanding why, pay some attention to your posture and movement patterns to explore whether they might be a factor.

Insanely clever about the body, Jonathan took all the things I was learning in yoga about the physiology of movement and taught me how to integrate them into my everyday life–by re-teaching me how to walk. Highly intuitive about movement, CoreWalking is part of the reason I have many fewer headaches.

J. Johnson

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4 Comments
  1. Very interesting indeed. Although I have never thought of myself as hyperextended, I think I do lock my knees when standing still (probably not when walking as I don’t have a long stride). I never thought of myself as hyperextended because I was a ballet dancer, surrounded by people who were REALLY hyperextended, and had that lovely long line in leg extensions. I struggled to get my knees to “look straight” probably because I was also tucking the pelvis so everything was out of whack. But I notice that I do lock my knees….I also have a spot at the atlanto-occipital joint that causes me a lot of pain; I often wake up with an almost scary pain right at the base of the skull on the left side. Chiropractors can’t help it, and nothing I’ve tried has had any effect. But after reading this post, I’m going to pay close attention to unlocking my knees for a while, and see what happens in my neck!

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