Shimmy and knee

topic posted Thu, November 20, 2008 - 1:04 PM by  Nuria
Hi everyone. After three years of bellydancing I find it necessary now to get the Raqia shimmy. What I want is the even and visible up and down of the hips. So I tackled that again and found out that I lack quad strength especially in the left leg which seems to have been the reason I couldn't move the hips evenly past a certain speed. So at this moment I train the even movement driven by the hips having the knees softtly bending alternately. I try to do it small because it takes a lot of energy and I care rather for even than for big. I don't lock my knees, I am afraid of the impact. So I stand the knees slightly bent but I don't want to call it a knee shimmy for I drive it from the hips. Even though, it is the motion of the knees that makes my quads ache so eventually it starts feeling like a knee-shimmy.
Well I thought I had the problem, I was getting a tiny bit faster, so I thought, training, gradual development and I'll have it. But now my knees started to hurt and I am afraid my continuous training it could harm the cartilage of the menisque (?). I already read Magidah's post that yes, this was bad for the knees. My teacher said she never had problems with the knees and she has more than ten years of professional dancing experience and has also studied the anatomy so I trust her. But I so want to continue my training which had shown some success to deal with it? I will do only little today and check, but my body intelligence actually tells me to rest (which would essentially mean - give up that training?)
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  • Re: Shimmy and knee

    Thu, November 20, 2008 - 1:24 PM
    You can rest the knees without giving up the training. It all depends on how much time you spend on it how often. Rest a day or two, then go back to it.

    Also it depends whether you're doing *only* this, or an alternate quad strengthening exercise. Your quads will strengthen faster if they can build strength through more then one activity. (My quads really started getting stronger when I started doing Tai Chi.)

    Make sure your alignment is correct before you start your shimmy practice. Are your knees above your toes? And do the stay there or do they swing in or swing out? Where are your hips in relation to your knees? There are a lot of things that can cause problems if they're just a "little" off.
    • Re: Shimmy and knee

      Thu, November 20, 2008 - 1:37 PM
      Aditionally I took up yoga almost a a year ago. I find many poses (our teacher has us staying there for quite long) exhausting especially in the quad, f.e. in the warrior 1 or 2 pose where one leg is bent and the other stretched back, the bent leg aches like hell after a while, and I found it had gotten better by my shimmy excercise.
      Knees are rather stable, they don't swing nowhere. The hip is down, slightly tucked, not like Randa does (legs straightened and pelvis slightly pointing backwards).
      • Unsu...

        Re: Shimmy and knee

        Thu, November 20, 2008 - 2:05 PM
        Hi Nuria,

        I don't know that you need to give up your training, you may just to rest and give your body time to recover between training. You always have to find a balance between training and rest so that your body has time to recover and regenerate. Training too hard, whether it's cardio, strength or whatever can be counter productive if you do too much.

        But where specifically do your knees hurt? Is it the outside, inside, top or bottom? Is the pain sharp or dull? Does it come and go? Do you have any swelling? The location of and type of pain can be an indicator for what the problem is. For example, if the pain is on the outside and and there swelling, you could have really tight IT bands. The IT band is a big tendon that connects from the hip to outside of the knee. If it gets too tight, it pulls your kneecap out of alignment and activities that involve bending and straightening the knee, like running or shimmying, can cause pain and swelling. I had this condition when I was younger, brought on by over training for a high school rowing team and ballet. Plus, as the physical therapist explained, my joints/ skeletal structure make me more susceptible to these kinds of problems.

        So for now, definitely listen to your body and don't over do. Depending on the intensity of the pain you might want to seek out a sports doctor or physical therapist. Or work with your dance teacher or yoga instructor to make sure it's not caused by alignment or improper form. Chances are it's something that can be easily fixed. But you definitely don't want to risk long-term injury.
        • Re: Shimmy and knee

          Thu, November 20, 2008 - 2:21 PM
          I have the sensitivity in the right knee from running but I stopped long ago. It feels not sharp, it is not even real pain, it's below the kneecap. I feel I don't want to straighten the knee fully could hurt? Now through the shimmy training the left knee has started to get sensitive, too. So I just did maybe ten minutes now to see if my body can do with a smaller dose. I emailed my teacher and I will see what she can say but even though she stresses good posture and weight on all four spots of your foot she has never experienced pain.
          The thing with short muscles could be something I have, that's why I went to yoga, stretching is really hard for me, especially in the legs.
          • Unsu...

            Re: Shimmy and knee

            Thu, November 20, 2008 - 3:50 PM
            Sounds like you need to integrate more leg and knee strengthening exercises into your training. Lots of good ones here:
            proper squats,
            warrior series are great,
            level changes with hip drilling (multi task- why not? =)) )
            hamstring lifts (from all fours, flexing the foot up to the ceiling, and doing small presses upwards with the knee at 90 degrees)

            Keep an eye on your form with this shimmie, but you should be able to continue practicing without pain. Cuing can help. Thinking lifting the knee when extending versus pushing the knee back; this helps support the knee cap and activates the muscles around the knee instead of leaving them slack and creating pressure on the knee by itself. And yes, rest. Overdoing it will surely result in injury. Understanding the discomfort associated with pushing the strength level and the pain saying stop is essential for everyone.
          • Unsu...

            Re: Shimmy and knee

            Fri, November 21, 2008 - 10:19 AM
            Hi- I recently went to the Doctor's office for knee pain that sounds similar to yours, I am a dancer and also my work requires a lot of repetitive bending, lifting, walking and stair climbing. He called it patellar femoral mistracking, which is common in women, partially due to the way our muscular-skeletal system is set up. ( i have also seen the information listed under patellofemoral syndrome)- Basically, the movement of bending-straightening is not "on track" causing inflamation, a dull pain, abnormal wear and can worsen if you don't try to address the issue. Most of us have more muscle strength in our quads, our abductors and not our adductor muscles, naturally. The abductor muscles our pulling the knee cap off track so to speak...His advice to me was to work on strengthening exercises using adductor muscles and try to lessen the amount of repetitive movement using soley abductor muscles- for me that would be stop so much stair climbing ! You can try exercises in ballet, pilates, weight training etc. for physical therapy. I also use NSAIDS to decrease the inflammation and pain , as it really gets bad by the end of the day and I can't sleep at night. PLEASE go see your doctor! This is not anything to mess around with as pain is abnormal and worse things may happen if you don't address it! It may not be the same thing that I have but never mess around with joint pain! ALso make sure you are getting enough calcium/vitamin D....good luck....
            • Unsu...

              Re: Shimmy and knee

              Fri, November 21, 2008 - 10:26 AM
              Ooops- I see that Emily has already covered a lot of what I mentioned! I also do yoga and have an extensive background in ballet, but have not practiced in ballet for a decade and never had this type of issue before. My doctor did not restrict my dance or yoga practice but wanted to make sure i had more well rounded muscle use/development I think and not over working certain muscle groups. The nice thing about yoga and ballet is that you do use a lot of adductor muscles for strength, balance, posture etc. Which will help balance out the abductor muscles. I know I will be adding a ballet barre section to my practice as well as weight training.

              Hope everything turns out well -
  • Unsu...

    Re: Shimmy and knee

    Fri, November 21, 2008 - 11:12 AM
    i have also heard that sometimes knee pain can be caused by muscle inbalance, when the outside and top of the quad are stronger than the inside and it pulls on the knee. if you're developing your quads unevenly this could be a cause. to get the inside, other than squezes, holdin gyour leg out straight turn your foot at a 45 degree angle and lift the inside arch towards the ceiling. it's a similar to the first kind of kick in this debke: i think the debke might be fore fun though ^_^
    • Re: Shimmy and knee

      Fri, November 21, 2008 - 12:04 PM
      Ok playing a little the doctor here myself. After looking at the knee structure, I believe I can tell what hurts on my right leg must be the quadriceps tendon, maybe a little on the other leg the patellar tendon as well.
      - I read that cycling was perfect for good knees.
      Interesting what Leighna added - training the adductors? Ok does anyone know an excercise that is special for that? Fariha I'll check for your hint, that could be it. Shimmy is hard, I always wonder which leg actually carries the weight of the body because switching all the time that would almost be like trying to look into different directions with each eye! So there is a lot of weight on the knee that bends each time!
      • Re: Shimmy and knee

        Fri, November 21, 2008 - 12:36 PM
        Training the adductors –

        Lie on your back on the floor with your legs straight up in the air and together. (to look like a capital L.)

        On the inhale, open your legs to a V – only as far as is comfortable for you. On the exhale, use the inner thigh to pull your legs back together. That's the adductor muscles. Make sure you're not *cheating* and using the abductors (outer thigh) instead.

        Do a few reps of these. Then do a "pulse"… a speedy burst where you keep your legs mostly in a V, and do the inner thigh pull small and quick – so your legs won't close all the way during the pulse, but they will keep moving.

        A little goes a long way with these. I do them about once a week, and I'm sore for the next couple of days.

        When you're ready to add more to this, you can play with other shapes while your legs are open. Keep your feet the same level but move them toward your head, away from your head. Make circles. Make figure eights. Keep one leg up and do the whole thing one leg at a time.

        All kinds of options.
        • Re: Shimmy and knee

          Fri, November 21, 2008 - 12:53 PM
          I think I know this excercise. Thank you! (Was it the same you mentioned, Fariha?)
          Meanwhile my teacher sent me an intro into spiral-dynamics, something Swiss doctors worked out (I believe with dancers and therapists)

          It is based on correct foot placement i believe, the intro said sth. like that, in order to prevent abuse and injury of all the joints of the leg.
          • Re: Shimmy and knee

            Sat, November 22, 2008 - 1:44 AM
            I posted a wrong link. Spiral dynamics as the way the muscles stabilize the leg, that is even a copyrighted term, but in German...

            Spiral dynamics and the prevention of foot deformities Fixed foot deformities in adults are among the most
            frequently occurring problems in an orthopaedic oriented practice. Their gradually worsening development is
            often overlooked. and concepts for prevention are lacking. it is precisely here that the concept of spiral
            dynamics can be applied:
            the pathomechanical chain is clarified and the functional global relationships of the foot are established. On this
            basis. one can develop the appropriate therapeutic and preventive measures. We present here, through words
            and illustrations. the most important basic exercises for the maintenance and restoration of a functional foot
            structure. The anatomically co-ordinated foot radiates a preventive effect in the proximal direction in that it
            plays a decisive role in establishing the correct axis for torsion-free weight-bearing at the hip and knee joints.
            Key words: spiral dynamics - foot deformities - 3D anatomy -preventive physiotherapy
  • Re: Shimmy and knee

    Fri, December 5, 2008 - 8:00 AM
    I wonder if it could be a problem with your technique? Some belly dance teach this move as being back-back-back with the knees, and banging the knees to the back like that could put stress on them, especially for people who are very flexible. There is a risk of hyper-extending the joints.
    • Unsu...

      Re: Shimmy and knee

      Fri, December 5, 2008 - 10:09 AM
      *If* we are talking about the same movement, I would say that if generated from the thigh there really isn't much movement from the knees. They move, but a relative short distance from front to back . Off the top of my head I am thinking that perhaps despite having an Instructor stressing proper form and posture, it is not always instantaneously achievable and, unless, specifically borken down, key elements may be lost.

      If you cannot balance something on your head with this movement...then either your weight is not distributed properly, your posture is off or you are doing the movement incorrectly. Assuming posture is proper, if weight is not evenly distributed, the tendency is for a dancer to put undue force on the lower leg muscles, knees (and often times feet) in an effort to keep balance and speed. Siggestions might be to try balancing something...if it flies off, you are not where you should be. Do this before you attempt to increase speed...always. You might consider wearing a pair of shorts or very tight fitting pants to your next class as well so your Instructor can see exactly how you are attempting to perform this movement,

      I would the interim...consider seeing a doctor. If an old injury as a risen or a new one has occurred, you want to minimalize the damage as quickly as possible. All the technique in the world cannot resolve a permanent injury.

      Finally...when seeking advice, (and this is with all due respect to your instructor), it might be best to stick with standard and long term tested medical treatments. The sprial dynamics is not a work out per say but a way of living and interpreting life. If you prescribe...then fine but if you do not, proceed with caution and confer with professionals for secondary advice.
      • Re: Shimmy and knee

        Fri, December 5, 2008 - 3:11 PM
        I had a similar issue with my left knee. I had it Xrayed and MRIed. No bone or cartilage issues, thankfully. What I did have was that tracking issue that I was told was a common injury amongst school-aged female athletes. Bottom line is that the IT band (illiotibial, pardon any misspellings) was too tight. The IT band is connective tissue that runs from the hip down to the knees. Since it was too tight, it was pulling my kneecap out of alignment. The PT likened the situation to an elevator that was being pulled crooked in a shaft and would bang around the side walls of the shaft. My therapy was to stretch out the IT band (outer thigh, between knee and hip) and work on tightening up the inner thigh muscles. Works. When I work out I always remember to stretch out that IT band and it seems to keep the problem at bay.
        • Re: Shimmy and knee

          Sat, December 6, 2008 - 2:48 AM
          @Shira for the moment I am seeking carefully the right way to do it. I am certainly not doing anything hard or rough as I said above.
          I stopped the training with the goal to get it within a month (teacher said it can also be a mental thing of pushing oneself too much) and when I shimmy now my main focus is that all the muscles have to remain absolutely relaxed and the feet well placed. I am trying to pull up my hips from the inside of my thighs, there seem to be muscles that go up into the hips. I got warm and comfy winter shoes and left my heels standing in the corner. So far it has gotten better.
          another girl has gotten pains in her shins. Shimmy is entirely new to her. I guess we all got a little stressed. My strategy will be now get my body used to it little by little, and if it can't cope and knees will hurt again I'll go see the doctor.

          I also notice that the more you bend your knees, the more weight is on them. Last thing I tried was the Randa-posture and it seemed easier for the knees.
          • Re: Shimmy and knee

            Sat, December 6, 2008 - 6:59 AM
            There is a really good book on how to relieve pain in the body by bringing it back into balance through specific exercises. Alot of times our training is actually strengthening the dysfunctional way we move and can cause joint problems. This book addresses specific pain issues such as knee, hip, low back, shoulders etc and creates a routine to use on each specific problem. I highly recommend it.


            There is also a website

        • Re: Shimmy and knee

          Sat, December 6, 2008 - 7:46 AM
          is there a yoga pose that stretches that IT-band?
          • Re: Shimmy and knee

            Sat, December 6, 2008 - 12:46 PM
            It's not really a yoga pose, but a stretch that I do religiously at the end of every workout is pretty simple and stretches that area well. When you first try it, it might help if you are standing in front of a mirror so that you can check your foot position and body alignment.

            * Stand straight arms at sides.
            * Take 1 step forward with right foot. Not a huge step, just a step.
            * Take your left foot, which is behind you, and move it so that it is on the right side of your body. Both feet should be straight, toes pointing towards mirror, but your left foot is on the right side of your body, behind you with your legs crossed.
            * With straight arms, reach your right hand downward and reach your left arm upward, sorta like your arms are being pulled in 2 different directions (north and south). You should feel a stretch down the left side of your body, from outer thighs through the hips, and a little into the left side of your rib cage. Hold this position.
            * If you're very flexible and aren't feeling as much of a stretch as you'd like, start out with the position above, but take your right arm and reach upwards and grasp your left wrist.
            * Pull your left wrist down on the right side with your right hand. This will make your left side arch more and will give you a deeper stretch. You will DEFINITELY feel the stretch here. Hold this position for at least 20 - 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

            Another way to stretch out the IT Band, and I'm warning you, it can be a little uncomfortable, bordering on painful. You'll need a foam roller, you know, one of those things that look like the pool toy called a funnoodle. You'll have to get down on the floor and position the foam roller at the side of the hip and "walk" on your hands to allow your body to roll on the foam roller. The goal is to roll on the roller from your outer hip area and down the outside of your thigh, near the knees. Then roll yourself back up to the hip. It's like a very intense form of self-massage, but with your body weight on this thing, it can get a little uncomfortable. It's not my fave thing to do but I'll do it once in a while if I'm feeling more tight than usual.

            One more stretch that just popped into my mind is a runner's stretch. Cross your left foot to the right side of your body while in a standing position. Standing with legs straight, bend and reach downwards to your toes, pivoting at the hip. Hold that for about 20 - 30 seconds. Repeat, crossing the right foot over to the left side of your body.
  • Re: Shimmy and knee

    Sat, December 6, 2008 - 3:53 PM
    Something you might try is to lay on the floor (on your back) and do your shimmy. That way you can increase the muscle strength but not have the wt on the knees. This also will help you in alignment. You can look down at your hips before you start and see if they are aligned. You could also maybe do your shimmy seated.
    Hope this helps!

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