If back pain is the grand-daddy of all our ‘aches and pains’ (about 80% of us will have some sort of back problem during our lifetime), then other joint pain, including knee pain, isn’t far behind. In fact, knee pain is the second most common source of chronic pain, suffered by an estimated one-third of adults at some point in their lives.
But being #2 can have its drawbacks. While we learn ways to avoid back pain, like using proper lifting techniques, knee pain and injuries don’t get the same publicity and attention. Yet their consequences can be almost as devastating, resulting in immobility for an extended period in some severe cases.
Even more than most other parts of your musculo-skeletal structure, your knee is a marvel of complex engineering. On a basic level, it’s the main joint between your abdomen and the ground you walk on. On a more complex level, your knee and its network of ligaments, tendons, cartilage, bones and muscle, let you run, jump, spin, twist and turn around. And it does so with relatively little support, unlike your back, which gets support from your core muscles.
That combination of high functioning and minimal support is necessary to give the knee the versatility it needs to keep you fully mobile. But it’s also the reason why your knee is more susceptible to injury.
That susceptibility means you need to take precautions, both day-to-day and during exercise and strenuous activities, to make sure you aren’t sidelined by a knee injury.
Here are just a few ways you can keep your knee in good working order.
1. Take a Load Off
Your knee can be subjected to a load that is over three times your weight just as you walk around. Running can double that. So if you put on one pound of body weight, that can be like five or six pounds of added pressure that your knee must support. The pressure can degenerate the joint and hasten osteoarthritis. If you don’t do it for your health, try to manage your weight for the sake of your knees.
2. Choose the Right Activities
Considering the pressure and pounding you put your knees through when you run, especially on hard surfaces, it’s clear that running isn’t the best activity if you have knee problems. Swimming, rowing and cross-country skiing are all knee-friendly activities. Cycling is great too, especially if you keep your saddle at a height that means the angle of your knee doesn’t fall too far below 90 degrees while pedalling.
3. Ice Ice Baby
Even at seemingly slight twinges, don’t be afraid to minimize inflammation damage by icing your knee.
4. Vary Your Activities
Occasional squats can strengthen your knees. Constant squats can damage them. Instead of jogging every night, alternate nights with jogging and cycling or swimming. You’ll work for different muscle groups on different days and save your knees while you do.
5. Be Conscious of Your Actions
When you’re running hard and you slow down, or when you’re walking down a steep hill, or landing from a jump, think of your knees. Try to do all of those sorts of actions with your hip, knees and ankles aligned in a straightforward motion. Sideways or spinning motions can put everything out of alignment and put excessive stress on your knee.
6. Pay Attention to What Your Knees Tell You
Don’t necessarily wait for the pain to set in. If your knees feel tired, they are probably stressed and even more susceptible to injury than normal. Again, even the slightest twinge deserves your attention and it’s a mistake to ‘play through it’. The more you listen to your knees, the more you’ll learn about them and what causes them discomfort and pain.
7. Practice Preventative Medicine
Regular massage therapy can keep your leg muscles healthy and strong to help support your knee. If you do injure your knee, talk to your doctor and get the help of a physiotherapist who will be able to reduce the pain and return your knee to its full range of motion.
To learn more about how to avoid knee pain and injuries, or get specialized treatment for your painful or injured knee, please call or visit us here at PinPoint Health.