5 Ways to Keep Your Knees Healthy
The knee is the largest joint in the human body. It plays an integral role in the performance of many of life’s everyday activities. As such, it is not surprising that this joint undergoes wear and tear over time. Although mainly considered a disease of aging, degenerative arthritis of the knee is prevalent in younger patients as well. In younger patients, arthritis may be related to prior knee trauma, surgery or obesity. Regardless of the underlying cause or age of the patient, arthritic knee pain can significantly impact one’s quality of life. The following are five simple and effective ways to keep your knees healthy.
Maintain a healthy body weight
The knee joint is subjected to considerable biomechanical stress. With regular walking, the forces at the knee are equivalent to three to four times body weight. These forces increase to seven to 10 times the body weight with activities such as taking the stairs, rising from a chair or squatting. Simply put, a 10-pound weight loss reduces the forces on the knee by a minimum of 30-40 pounds.
Strengthen your knee muscles
The strength of the muscular support around the knee, particularly the quadriceps and hamstrings, is a critical component to a well-functioning knee joint. Weakness of these large muscle groups are common in the arthritic knee and are a significant pain generator. Simple, intensive stretching and strengthening exercises of these muscles, often initially introduced under the direction and guidance of a certified physical therapist, can greatly reduce pain and slow progression of knee arthritis.
Get off the couch
Regular physical activity is beneficial not only to your general health but also to your knee joints. As a rule, low-impact activities and exercise such as walking, biking, swimming and yoga are best. This is particularly the case for people with documented knee arthritis. Interestingly, and contrary to popular belief, recent studies have shown that recreational runners are at lower risk of developing knee arthritis than competitive runners or sedentary people.
If the shoe fits, wear it
As part of what is referred to as the kinetic chain of the lower leg, the knee bone is connected to the foot bone. Good support at the foot promotes improved alignment and reduces stress at the knee. Wearing comfortable and appropriate shoe wear for your foot’s anatomy will help protect against or improve arthritic knee symptoms.
Listen to your knee
Clicking and popping are common sensations around the knee. In the absence of associated pain or swelling, these symptoms need not be a source of concern. On the contrary, pain and/or swelling of the knee with or without clicking and popping warrants an initial period of rest with icing and use of anti-inflammatory medication (unless you have medical conditions that prevent you from taking these medicines). If these knee symptoms last longer than two weeks, see your physician.
To learn more about orthopedic care at Ochsner, please visit: https://www.ochsner.org/services/orthopedics