Knee valgus is also referred to as “valgus collapse” and “medial knee displacement”. It is characterized by hip adduction (femurs collapse inward) and internal rotation (knees tracking inside the frame of foot stance). It can also be referred to as “knee caving” as you descend into a squat or landing after a jump. When standing on one leg, the opposite side pelvis will usually drop during valgus collapse.
Why is knee Valgus potentially dangerous? Knee valgus can lead to patellofemoral (knee) pain, ACL tears, and iliotibial band syndrome. It can also lead to ugly squat syndrome.
When does knee Valgus occur? You’ll commonly see valgus collapse during squatting, lunging, jumping, landing, climbing or descending stairs, and even during walking or running. Women are more prone to experiencing knee valgus due to their proportionately wider hips, increased Q-angles, and postnatal hip/glute weakness.
Why Does Knee Valgus Occur? As to what’s causing the valgus collapse, research has suggested that knee valgus can be caused by several correctable factors. Here are two of the most likely causes based on common weaknesses, compensations and human movement patterns.
Weak Hips and Tight Adductors: Inadequate gluteal and hip strength (gluteus minimus, medius, & maximus, as well as hip external rotators), in conjunction with overactive hip adductors (inner thighs), prevents proper stabilization of the femur (thigh bone). The hips then move into adduction and internal rotation. When the adductors are overactive (tight) in comparison to the glutes & hip external rotators, the knee is pulled into valgus collapse.
Tight Ankles: Inadequate ankle dorsiflexion mobility along with tight lower leg musculature (gastrocnemius, soleus, anterior tibialis) prevents the tibia and knee from tracking forward sufficiently. This causes the foot to compensate by pronating (allowing for necessary forward knee tracking), forcing the tibia to internally rotate. Which leads to hip internal rotation, adduction, and therefore knee valgus.
How can we correct knee Valgus? We can start by addressing a couple of the common causes of valgus collapse.
Strengthen your Glutes: YES, ALL 3! AND don’t forget about your hip external rotators. You can use resistance bands for bridges, lateral tube walking, and hip abduction exercises, such as the plank w/hip abduction shown during this week’s Workout Wednesday video.
Ankle Dorsiflexion and Gastroc/Soleus/Adductor Stretching and Foam Rolling: This week, in our Technique Tuesday video, we showed you how to foam roll your calves and hip adductors. This simple, yet effective corrective strategy can greatly increase ankle and hip mobility and decrease ankle pronation.
A well balanced, corrective strength and flexibility/mobility program can help correct knee valgus. They key is to become aware of YOUR muscular imbalances and strategically address the areas of limited mobility through corrective stretching and foam rolling. Step two, focus on strengthening areas of muscular weakness. Train smarter, not harder to promote balance and improved form and function in YOUR body. Schedule a fitness assessment with a certified personal trainer if you need guidance, or if you are clueless on where to start. We would love to help you become more aware of your body and achieve your fitness goals.