When you think of stretching, your mind may think about arm circles and shoulder stretches that Olympic swimmers do right before they jump in the water. This is actually just one type of stretching: active stretching.
While this type of stretching is great for athletes and others that are typically pain free, it may not be best for you, if you have knee pain or a knee injury. The other type of stretching, passive stretching, is great for relaxing and relieving pain in the knee joint.
Here’s the difference.
Active stretching is exactly what the name implies —the stretches you do before you do something active. Before running, active stretches involve your leg muscles like your quads, calves, and hamstrings. These stretches, while very beneficial for prevention of an injury, are less beneficial when the knee is hurting.
Passive stretching, on the other hand, is all about comfort. If you position your joint in different ways that are comfortable and pain free, your nervous system will be able to calm down and let go of tension. The nerves in your knee will adjust to any additional space you create in the joint.
You can put on a movie or listen to music when you stretch so you direct your focus away from the stretches. This supports you in taking your time, and letting your body do the work.
Passive stretching is also like the name implies. It is passive and does not create pain or tension. When you don’t feel pain in the stretch, your mind wants to believe that you are doing it wrong, or it cannot be helping you.
Passive stretching is counter-intuitive.
When the nerves are not being squeezed or pinched, your body relaxes, and you feel no pain in your knee. Passive stretches work with the intrinsic movements of your knee. Twisting, shifting and pulling on the knee joint helps take your knee to a place of comfort.
Using passive stretching can help get your knees to a place where they will be relaxed and eventually ready for active stretching. If you are interested in this type of pain relief, you can click here to read about my program: The Comfort Zone. I have eleven passive stretches that will help you find and heal the knee pain you are feeling.