Knee pain and injury are among the most common orthopaedic conditions – for all ages. Overuse injuries can occur in teens experiencing rapid growth spurts, as well as in young adults involved in sports and physical activities who do not stretch sufficiently or allow adequate time for rest and recovery. In older adults, osteoarthritis, or the wearing away of knee cartilage, is often to blame for knee pain. From sprains and breaks to tears of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus, the knee joint is susceptible to a wide variety of injuries.
Fortunately, there are many ways to postpone knee issues or even prevent them entirely. These tips from the doctors at Cary Orthopaedics can help you maintain healthy knees and delay or avoid the need for surgical intervention.
Strengthen your muscles
Strengthening your muscles gives your joints better support. Even a little extra strengthening makes a difference! To avoid or relieve knee pain, focus on muscles around your kneecaps, hips and pelvis. A strong core is also essential when promoting knee health. Working to make these muscles stronger will absorb some of the stress placed on your knees, allowing them to stay balanced and stable.
Choosing the right strength training exercise is key. If you already experience joint problems, avoid quick, repetitive movements. If you are unsure of what moves to practice, a physical therapist can show you specific exercises to strengthen certain areas and how to do them correctly.
Movement is vital to maintaining joint health, especially in the knees. The more you move, the less stiffness you’ll experience. Take breaks from sedentary positions often, whether you are reading, watching TV or sitting at a computer. Take time to get up from your chair or desk at work and remain active throughout the day.
Low impact exercise can be a good option for sensitive joints. Activities such as walking, swimming and bicycling can help decrease joint stiffness in your knees while building muscle. When walking, choose flat surfaces and avoid activities that put extra stress on your knees, such as downhill running or deep knee bends.
Maintain a healthy weight
Obesity can cause significant stress on the knees as well as other joints. If you are overweight, for every pound you lose, you’ll take four pounds of pressure off your knees! For example, being 20 pounds overweight adds 80 pounds of pressure on your knees. This added pressure also increases the strain on your hips and back, causing additional pain in these areas. Maintaining a Body Mass Index (BMI) in a healthy range will make your knees feel better and reduce the risk of injury.
Keep your bones strong
As men and women become older, their bones lose mass and strength due to a decline in the body’s bone-rebuilding process. Bone density loss can lead to a range of issues, including knee pain due to osteoarthritis. To help strengthen your bones and lower the threat of pain or injury, be sure you are getting enough calcium. Drinking milk is an obvious way to consume calcium, but there are plenty of other calcium-rich foods that contain less fat. Opt for these calcium-filled foods to preserve healthy knees:
- Cottage cheese
- Bok choy
Applying a small amount of pressure on your bones by jumping and stomping has also been shown to keep bones strong. Try performing 5 to 10 stomps on each foot twice a day. Stomp with enough pressure to crush a can. Stomping cans before putting them in the recycling bin is an easy way to incorporate bone strengthening into your daily routine.
Increase range of motion
Most people’s joints get stiff with age. To help avoid knee stiffness, focus on maintaining good range of motion. There is clear evidence that patients with a full range of motion have fewer issues with knee pain, especially if they can straighten the knee fully. Work on getting your knee straight by sitting on the floor or bed, placing a pillow under your ankle, and using your leg muscles to press your knee down gently without applying too much pressure and causing pain.
Don’t forget to stretch
Stretching helps to maintain a well-conditioned, flexible body. This will lower your risk of developing overuse problems in the knees. Stretches that focus on the hamstring, calf and quadricep muscles take pressure off of the kneecaps and knees. Step-ups, straight-leg lifts and hamstring curls are all great stretches to help protect the knees. Additionally, stretches that focus on improving flexibility in the hips, such as a butterfly stretch, can help alleviate knee pain.
Treat pain and injuries
Joint injuries can add to the breakdown of cartilage in your joints. If you experience an injury, see your doctor right away for treatment. By taking immediate steps to seek treatment, you can avoid further damage and pain.
Despite your best efforts in making healthy decisions for your knees, overuse injuries and wear and tear on joints and muscles can still occur. If you experience chronic or acute knee pain, the physicians at Cary Orthopaedics are here to help. We provide comprehensive orthopaedic and spine care at locations across Wake County. Our specialists can recommend the best course of treatment. Contact us today to book an appointment.