Are you one of the millions of Americans suffering from aching or painful knees? You are not alone. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) 1 in 2 people may develop painful knee osteoarthritis by age 85. In addition, if you struggle with weight, research shows that 2 in 3 people may develop painful knee arthritis in their lifetime.
The knee is an incredible joint, having to sustain 6 times your body weight in force, while moving through a large range of motion. The knee joint is inherently unstable, held together by a mass of ligaments, tendons and muscles. The knee also takes a beating during your lifetime. It is estimated that you will walk an estimated 200 million steps, therefore it is easy to see why your knees sustain a lot of wear and tear over the years.
How to Keep Your Knees Healthy
There are a variety of factors that can cause knee pain, but it is important to focus on preventing knee pain from occurring and what can be done to keep your knees healthy.
Here are useful tips to keep your knees working in tiptop condition:
- Stretch daily – With sitting for prolonged periods, walking, bending and other activities, your muscles and tissues can become tighter. Daily stretching maintains good flexibility in your muscles, tendons and ligaments around the knee. This allows the knee to continue with its normal range of movement in many directions.
- Strengthen your legs – Since the knee is very unstable, it requires good muscle support and strength. This provides the stability needed to bend properly, walk and run. Studies show that strengthening the quadriceps muscle is very important in preventing knee pain and knee osteoarthritis.*
- Get a tune up from your physical therapist – Your knee needs to move side to side, back and forth, and rotate. Our physical therapists are medical experts in evaluating these special types of motions called accessory movements. By evaluating and treating your knee on a regular basis, our physical therapists can keep your knees moving as they should.
- Use ice or heat – Typically, ice is used after a flare-up of inflammation, injury or pain. Heat is used more for chronic swelling in the knee with the purpose of increasing circulation.
- Keep your kneecap moving – The kneecap or patella is a very important part in knee function. The kneecap protects your knee, but also serves as a pulley for the quadriceps muscle to use. The kneecap tracks up and down in a C-pattern when you bend your knee. Keep your kneecap moving freely by gently pushing it down and up, and side to side. If you find your knee swells, gently lift your kneecap up and away from the joint.
- Watch your weight – The more weight you carry, the greater the forces and loads on the knee. When squatting down you can increase the pressure on your knee by three fold. When jumping, you can increase the pressure by 6 times your body weight. Therefore, the closer to your ideal weight, the happier your knees can be.
The most important part in preventing knee pain is keeping your legs flexible and strong. If you are concerned about how your knees feel when you try to walk, bend and run, then give us a call today. Our physical therapists have years of experience evaluating the proper mechanics of the knee and restoring them, for a pain-free future.