Whether you are walking, running, cycling or exercising; you are likely to be using your knees a lot. While the common sense says that the more you use the joint the more mobile or lubricated it will remain. The better sense says that it will all be worthwhile only if you know how NOT to ruin them instead.
The knee joint is particularly vulnerable to damage and pain because it takes the full weight of your body and any extra force when you run or jump. You’re more likely to experience knee pain as you get older, and people who are overweight or do lots of sports have a higher risk of damaging their knees. And it’s not just athletes who suffer. Knee problems can happen to anyone.
“It’s difficult to strike the correct balance between mobility and stability. The knee needs to move back and forth, twist a little, and pivot too. The knee’s ligaments can tear, its tendons can swell up, one may get osteoarthritis, and even everyday wear and tear can ruin a perfectly good set of knees,” says Dr Shreya Sahasrabudhe, the Musculoskeletal specialist at ReLiva.
Ask yourself the following five questions and find out if you’re being nice to your knees.
- How much weight are you carrying?
If you’ve ever loaded your car’s trunk with heavy objects or driven with four adult passengers, you may have noticed that the ride wasn’t as smooth. Your car’s shock absorbers probably didn’t soak up the jolts from the bumps and the potholes as well as they would have with a lighter load. Similarly, if you’re carrying too much weight on your body, your knees may also be in for a rough ride.
Every kg of excess weight exerts about 4 kg of extra pressure on the knees. So a person who is 10 kg overweight has 40 kg of extra pressure on his knees; if a person is 100kg overweight, that is 400kg of extra pressure on his knees. So if you think about all the steps you take in a day, you can see why it would lead to premature damage in weight-bearing joints.
- Are you exercising?
In case your knee hurts, whether due to an injury or due to a chronic condition like Arthritis – Exercising the knee may seem counterintuitive, but regular exercise can actually lessen — and even relieve — arthritis pain and other symptoms, such as stiffness and swelling.
There are several reasons to exercise with knee arthritis. For example:
- Exercise maintains the joint’s full range of motion.
- Exercise strengthens the muscles that support the joint.
- Strong muscles help the joint absorb shock.
“If all the benefits of exercise could be put into a single pill, it would be the most widely prescribed medicine in the world,” says Dr. Neelam Patel, a Physical therapist specializing in sports injury.
- Are you overusing some muscles and joints?
The quadriceps muscles (front of the thigh) and the hamstring muscles (back of the thigh), which straighten and bend the knee respectively, are susceptible to strain (“pulled muscles”).
If your work requires you to frequently sit low or climb up and down stairs or stand, you are more prone to overuse. Initially your may feel fatigued. If this fatigue is not resolved prior to your return to work the next day, or shortly thereafter, microtrauma may occur. Microtrauma is when small soft tissue tearing occurs from overuse. Eventually your muscles and tissues become more traumatized, resulting in pain and loss of use.
- Is your body properly aligned?
Anyone who’s ever driven and maintained a vehicle is likely to have dealt with an alignment problem. The effects of a minor collision may create a misalignment that’s not immediately obvious. Our bodies are very much like these vehicles, and we may not realize that our own alignment is off until an ankle sprain leads to knee trouble or certain random ache develops into a chronic pain. When we lose proper alignment, we see knee joints begin to break down or wear out. This is due to uneven weight distribution.
- Are you wearing the right shoes?
Shoes with very high heels or those that lack the arch and heel support that your feet require, can place added pressure on your knees and throw them out of alignment. This, in turn, can cause pain under and around your knee. Wearing the right shoes when you exercise, go to work and for other daily activities, will help prevent knee discomfort.
Be Good to Your Knees Now
Arthritis of the knee is common, but it is not necessarily a compulsory consequence of aging. Taking care of your knees now will cost you a lot less time and effort than rehabilitating them down the road.
REMEMBER: When in doubt, rest and have your pain checked out. It’s better to spend a little time and money seeing a qualified physiotherapist than to be sidelined for months by an injury that you could have prevented or minimized.
Contributed by Dr Manali Jain (PT), consultant Physiotherapist at ReLiva Physiotherapy & Rehab. She has an avid interest in knee and knee conditions and looks forward to extend her knowledge to put to use for every common man.