Four Exercises for Active Knees

Your knees, it’s a love/hate relationship at times with this crucial joint. Knee pain is one of the most common complaints of early middle age. Ask almost anyone about their knees and you will get responses such as: creaking, clicking, cracking sounds, lacerations, and unexpected buckling at times. Even healthy, active people can experience unwanted knee pain “out of the blue”.

In fact, according to a 2012 Men’s Journal article, approximately 80,000 people annually injure an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a small yet crucial band of tissue that provides knee stability. “Runner’s knee” (pain behind the knee cap, mostly from overuse) sidelines hundreds of thousands of runners every year. More than 14 million Americans have arthritic knees. And, knee-replacement surgery helped no less than 700,000 people last year, doubling from a decade ago with the largest segment increase among those 64 and younger.

Seeing as how a huge portion of our population suffers from knee pain, you may find solace in knowing that you are not alone. More importantly, you probably want to know how to keep your knees in good working order.

Run to Prevent Pain

Believe it or not regular physical activity, including distance running, is good for healthy knees. In most reviewed studies, runners and other physically active people tend to have greater cartilage volume and are at lower risk of developing knee arthritis than those who are sedentary.

This is not true for those who already suffer from knee pain. Dr. FlaviaCiuttini, professor at Monash University in Australia co-authored a study and stated, “physical activity is good for healthy joints, however, vigorous activity, particularly running, will exacerbate previous knee damage.” In fact, running to keep healthy joints in good working order is a great preventative approach.

Cycle or Swim to Slow Pain

Unfortunately, once knees are injured, they are most likely on a path of slow degeneration. Scientists have found that cartilage weakens after injuries and injured knees often become slightly misaligned or unstable, facilitating cartilage deterioration and leading to arthritis.

To slow the deterioration down, those with a history of injury may want to avoid running and sports that require sudden stopping or side-to-side movementssuch as basketball and tennis. Rather, try cycling and/or swimming (avoiding the breast stroke, which actually stresses the knees). Both of these activities can help the remaining cartilage stay healthy longer. Those who choose cycling should have their bicycles fitted properly. Riding with your seat too high, too far forward or too far back can cause more pain over time. Bike riders should also ride in a higher gear (less strain), pedaling slower with more resistance can make knee pain worse.

Squat and lunge for life

Upper and lower leg-muscle strength helps stabilize the knee and absorb cartilage stress. These muscles include the obvious ones quadriceps, hamstring and gluteus muscles as well as less known groups such as the psoas (wrapping around your abdomen to connect your spine and thigh bone) and hip flexors that attach to the hip and indirectly to the knee.

Squats and lunges build leg strength and balance, and you don’t need any machines to do them. The goal here is symmetrical muscle strength. Leg-muscle strength imbalance stresses the knees. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees until your thighs are almost, but not quite, parallel to the floor. Do not bend forward and you should always be able to see your toes. Be sure you are doing these exercises properly and not favoring one leg over the other.

Let the experts at Community Orthopedics help you reduce knee pain. Call 864.716.6140 to make your appointment today.