A long-practicing client of mine has chronic knee pain and been diagnosed with chondromalacia (for her that means inferior, medial and lateral patella pain). She’s adapted by padding up for kneeling poses, and we have worked together diligently to address tissue imbalances around her knee joint, but to date with little success.

In one recent “non-knee” class, we rolled out the feet, tamed the traps, and focused our exercises on her upper back. When she took a child’s pose at the end of class, she looked up at me completely startled and said that her knee pain, which is usually excruciating in child’s pose, was G-O-N-E.

Maybe we hit the right combination of fascial chains (the upper back and back-of-the-knee muscles run on the same line), maybe stimulating proprioceptor-rich areas like the feet and upper back caused proprioception to override interception, maybe we just got lucky.

Whatever the reason, we’re taking it—and we’re taking the scenic route of holistic pain relief when the direct route doesn’t get us where we want to go.

Learn about Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls for knee pain.

Read our “How to relieve knee pain” post.

Get your copy of Quick Fix RX Knee Hab


Christine Jablonski

I believe most people who end up in the fitness profession are trying to heal themselves. Fifteen years ago I sought out SPIN to rehabilitate a full knee reconstruction. Ten years ago I started Pilates to help me recover from a horseback riding accident. More recently, as still-young age and old injuries caught up with me, I began a restorative and Kripalu yoga practice. In every instance, with every discipline, I've experienced a moment of “ahhh....I want to make everyone feel this good.” And so began my path toward fitness studio ownership where I could keep my classes small and focused on my client's journeys from injury, through healing, and on to strength. In addition to figuring out how my clients and I could feel even better (as well as look better in our jeans), curiosity about human biomechanics led me to study with Helena Collins of Life in Synergy, Sadie Nardini of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga, and of course, Jill Miller. Combing the knowledge from these tremendous teachers with my strong Pilates background has enabled me to create exceptionally effective programs for my clients, who range from joint replacement patients needing post-physical therapy help to the “uninjured” wanting stronger, better aligned bodies so they can experience life to the fullest.

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Oh My Gosh! Me too! Recently I was diagnosed with a possible chondromalacia due to sharp pain behind my patella. I was just getting started in my exploration with the Yoga Tune Up balls and started with rolling out my feet. The foot of the “diagnosed” knee was very sore, but I experienced much relief in my knee after rolling out the feet! Thanks for sharing so I know I’m not just making this up 😉


Thanks Christine,
It never ceases to amaze me how “everything is connected”.
I too have knee pain which eventually led to knee surgery.
I’m sure that all the compensating that I did pre- & post-surgery is the reason that I still have issues with my knees. Rolling different areas of my body will be the next step in trying to correct this problem.

Becky Battle

What a great reminder that sometimes the scenic route of proprioceptive rich areas, like the feet, can actually relieve pain in a different part of the body. Our brains and human bodies are amazing, just amazing!

Sebastien Noel

Merci pour ce partage.Je viens tout juste de terminer mon cours en YTU et tu ma fait prendre conscience que je réussira pas toujours du premier coup a soigner une blessure.Quand cette situation va arriver car sa va surement arriver je vais me souvenir de ton texte.Merci,

Vanessa Ambroselli

This article gave me great piece of mine! I have some pain within my rectus femoris from my intense workout earlier today. I focused on deep hip, foot, and IT band treatment with my therapy balls. I did a lot of upper body exercises, so I am going to roll out those muscles and reassess how my knees are feeling!

Samantha Martin

I have lots of students with varying types of knee pain, so this is really useful information. I never knew there could be a connection between the upper back and the knee, but it makes sense since rolling out the feet can releae the hamstrings. I’m going to give this a try on my own body and my students and see what happens. Thansk!

Chloe Whitfield

It’s amazing how everything is connected in the body! My upper trapezius and pectorals major are very tight (internal rotation of my shoulders). I think I should start rolling them out and see if it has any effects on my knee as well. If not, at least I’ll be treating another area of tightness.

Jennifer Kruidbos

Hi Christine,

“Maybe we hit the right combination of fascial chains (the upper back and back-of-the-knee muscles run on the same line), maybe stimulating proprioceptor-rich areas like the feet and upper back caused proprioception to override interception, maybe we just got lucky.”

This set off a major light bulb for me! I have had knee pain for so long and have been focusing on the hips, BUT i recently learned I have a tight upper back, so there might be a connection!

Ann Knighton

I agree that indirect is the best way to help an area that is painful!

Donna Clark

Great real experience story. I have so many clients tell me they have “such and such” but I find although its good to pay attention to what they have been told, its also very good to start from the bottom or the top and work through blockages as they come up. Its like untangling a knot – you have to find your way there. Your story was a wonderful illumination of this for me. Thanks.

Stacey Rosenberg

Wow! That is amazing. Thanks for sharing this story. I love these kinds of connections and wish people would really embrace the idea that the place where they have the pain is not always the root of the pain. Once I had a student in a very deep pigeon variation release a long held tension in his jaw!


Thanks for writing this post! As someone who suffers from sporadic, unexplained knee pain, I’m always looking for potential causes and fixes. It’s eye opening to realize just how much all the parts of our body impact one another. Next time I’m searching for the root of the problem, I’ll look beyond the quads, hamstrings, and IT band, which is what I’ve typically considered the culprits.

Glenda Garcia

I love it! What a bonus education session for clients when working on seemingly unrelated parts of the body affects a discomfort/pain/limitation elsewhere. This is truly embodying the concept that the body is intricately connected, and that what happens one place impacts the whole. Thank you for sharing this experience.

Deepa Dravid

Thank you!..

lulu yen

The knee is one of the most important joints of our body. It plays an essential role in movement related to carrying the body weight in horizontal (running and walking) and vertical (jumps) directions. the interesting part of the knee is it could be anything that cause the knee pain. If your pelvis is out of alignment, that can completely affect your whole body. thank you for sharing the story.

Amanda Kou

I also have knee pain and have learned that I cannot just “push through” that pain and that there is a difference between challenging yourself and doing something that feels uncomfortable for your body. The YTU balls have helped and I try to pay special attention to any yoga poses that I do that put added stress on my bad knee.


Wow, I would love to reach my knees through alternate routes. Thanks for the guidance. I feel like my tweaky knees are hard to get at, in terms of relief. Taking a long detour just may prove to be the answer. I’ll start by following the path that you took and see if that helps. Thanks.

Barbara Treves

OMG – referral pain – I have soo much to learn!! But this makes so much sense. As is the case with most abilities to really understand pain, I had to experience it myself. My pain began with an aching shoulder on my right side and then I began experiencing pain in my right elbow and then it migrated to my right knee. Although I thought I was standing straight and tall with every thing level, it turned out that my right shoulder and hip were slightly elevated above the other side and my right foot turned out laterally. I… Read more »


Wow! This was great! I have a client that suffers from Plantar Fasciitis, that running is becoming a huge problem for him – I am going to try this technique of going along fascial planes and stimulating proprioceptor-rich areas and maybe we’ll get lucky too! If you have any suggestions of what we can try – I love learning new things!

Gillian Mandich

The scenic routs is always more fun right??? It’s just about taking the time! Working uptown and downtown of the join in pain on the same fascial chains can teach you so much about your body and where the source of the pain may be…not just the symptoms!!! Enjoy the ride 🙂


I thought that this post really summed up the essence of yoga. It’s not about doing the post, but the journey into the pose and working with your body’s own strengths and weaknesses. It’s always good to be reminded of the true value of the practice.

Morenike Allen-Romain

This is helpful! I’ve been having acupuncture treatment on my knee for chronic knee pain and my practitioner always punctures the opposite hip as well. Though seemingly unrelated, together the healing connection brings balance to the therapy. I will also try feet and back therapy as there seems to be something to this…


Wow, this is incredibly interesting because you would never think the two were connected or affecting the other in this way. I will have to remember this thought of inter-connectivity in the body as a way to resource other options. THank you!!


I really enjoyed your post. One of the things we all forget is that our whole body is connected!! One wouldnt think that rolling out the feet and focusing on the upper traps would help with knee pain! This is great knowledge to bring to my practice and hopefully a future teaching career. Remembering that just focusing on your point of pain might not always be the answer.

Fix Your Posture, Fix Your Knees | Yoga Tune Up

[…] a month or so he was having less knee pain generally but still felt unstable at the medial knee.  He then mentioned he rode a recumbent […]


This is such a beautiful story and I love the scenic route metaphor. After taking the TuneUp class, it was really amazing to realize how so much of the body is connected. It’s really interesting to me that if something in your body doesn’t feel right, you might have to look somewhere less direct…the scenic route. Love it!


Well said! The body can me so mysterious, the average person has a difficult time understanding why pain does not always originate where they percieve it. Also why if you feel tension one are, releasing another can bring relief. Between muscular trigger points, referral pain, fascial chains, inbanlances, visceral referral pain, emotional somatic pain, perceived pain that’s a whole lot of pain to explain to clients, and to work through.. But Yes, taking breakthroughs when they happen and roll with it.

pete lee

That’s awesome, Christine! I love how rolling out via the scenic route took your student to other other fascial places, as well as nerve and meridian points and energy blocks that got unblocked during the class. Energy flows where attention goes, as they say and you took her there where she was ready to experience freedom. Yay!

Luke Sniewski

Great share. Especially when it comes to knee pain, looking above and below will be the magic trick. Nice work on your treatment approach. I am SURE it was greatly appreciated.


Thanks for sharing, this is an important reminder that things aren’t always as they seem. The body is very complex and it is essential to look beyond the obvious. I have experienced this too, I went into a class with pretty bad lower back pain and we used the YTU balls to roll out the hips; my pain was gone! I had been focusing on the low back earlier and ignoring my hips-that was all it took! My students love theses little tricks too!

Danielle Battaglia

Last fall, I was experiencing pain in my right knee. Believing that it was overuse I would avoid using it. However this never alleviated any pain. Only when I began working on other parts of my body did my knee begin to feel better. To this day I still am not sure why but the combination of working on my hips, lower back, and glutes has been incredible in my recovery. It amazes me that everything in our body is connected. Sometimes one part of the body may be “silent” in pain creating other “louder” pains. When you find the… Read more »

Dawn Adams

Referral patterns for pain can be so interesting — except when they are happening to you! In the YTU trainings I’ve been to, as well as other therapeutic yoga workshops, this is a common theme: where we feel the problem ma not be the source of the issue. Thus, as well as treating locally, it is beneficial and enlightening to follow those fascial relationships and visit areas up-town, down-town, and cross-town. Cases like this remind us that the body is an integrated whole, and we cannot sever of a part of it from the rest of the system, especially in… Read more »

Valorie Morales

We all have heard the “leg bone’s connected to the, hip bone” song, but to see the other complexities of how everything in the body is connected always amazes me. If one part of the body is out of alignment, problems can show up in what seems like a completely unrelated area. Once the true problem area can be identified, it’s like magic.

Sherry Matwe

Hi, I recently “shared” this article on f/b. Great wrighting and nice to see as we do in YTU classes how the right combination of fascial chains hit on by the therapy balls, or creative YTU minivini’s, and poses we get the aha moment. But, I shared this because when we are hurt we tend to focus on that area or the larger muscles or joints closest to the “injured area” I thought your fresh perspective could provide some inspiration to my f/b friends, and I still hope it does. But it wasn’t long before the comment came along that… Read more »