Last week I felt some pain in my right knee. My first response was to feel around my knee for any sore spots. I found a tender spot on the medial side of the knee which felt like an inflamed tendon. Rather than go straight for the ibuprofen, I asked myself, "Why?" I first looked at my foot strike, knowing that most knee pain comes from impact.
When I listened to my foot striking the ground I could feel a slight braking and a scuffing sound on the pavement. Again I asked, "Why?" When I looked down, I noticed that my right foot was swinging forward slightly more than my left. This would account for the braking feeling and would also account for why my left knee was not in any pain. My left foot was landing (correctly) slightly behind my hips, while my right foot was landing in front of my hips (incorrectly) producing a braking action which was causing the knee pain.
Then, I asked myself, "Why is my right foot swinging too far forward?" What I discovered from asking this question is that my left hip was not swinging to the rear as my left leg extended out behind my body after the support phase of my stride. Your stride should always open up behind you, not forward. You should not be letting your legs swing forward. Pelvic rotation is what allows your stride to open up behind you as you walk.
In ChiWalking classes, I emphasize the importance of letting your hip go back with your leg each time it swings out behind you. This allows your pelvis to rotate and allows your foot to land underneath your body rather than in front of your body. When your left leg is allowed to swing fully out behind you it keeps your right leg from swinging too far forward (which will indeed create a heel strike).
The rotation of the pelvis also keeps your spine twisting, which is a very healthy movement for the spine.
To get my left hip to open up and swing more fully to the rear I walked clockwise in a large circle (about a 20 foot diameter), which forced my left side to swing bigger on the curves. This had an immediate influence on reducing my knee pain.
Another thing I realized was that I was sleeping predominantly on my right side which rotated my pelvis clockwise as I slept, and forced my left hip forward. This was extending my right hip flexor while at the same time, shortening my left hip flexor and contributing to the asymmetry between the two legs.
For a week now I've been opening up my left hip more, increasing my pelvic rotation on my left side, and sleeping on my left side...and the pain is gone. I don't know if any one thing I'm doing is keeping the pain at bay, but I'm happy to do all three things just to insure it doesn't come back. Something's working and that shows me that the detective work pays off.
By asking yourself the right questions and body sensing for any answers that might come up, you'll be able to trace your ache or pain back to its origin and make the correction where it counts the most.
As you learn and practice the ChiWalking focuses, you'll get better and better at being an injury-prevention detective. At first you may need a Certified Instructor to help you out. It's a good idea to have other good health practitioners help you keep your body in alignment as well. As your ChiWalking form and detective work improves, you'll find that good walking form is the best way to prevent injury