Having healthy knees is important for your overall well-being and quality of life. Pain, stiffness, inflammation, and other symptoms of an orthopaedic knee problem can make it hard to walk, climb stairs, sit in a low chair, or participate in your favorite activities. Fortunately, you can take steps to keep your knees healthy and pain-free.
The Complex Structure of a Healthy Knee
The knee is a complex joint, comprised of many bones and muscles. The knee also has connective tissue to hold the joint together and ensure it moves correctly. Connective tissue includes:
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Situated in the center of your knee, this band of strong tissue connects the thigh bone to your shin bone (tibia) and controls the forward and rotation movements of your shin bone.
- Medial collateral ligament (MCL). This ligament is located on the inner side of your knee joint, spanning the distance between the end of your femur to the top of your tibia. The MCL provides stability to your inner knee.
Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). Located in the back of your knee joint, the PCL controls any backward movement of your tibia, so that your shin bone does not slide backward against your thigh bone (femur).
Other tissues and structures help keep your knees strong and healthy. Knees also contain cartilage, which is a strong tissue that covers and protects the ends of bones. Sturdy tendons connect muscles to bones to facilitate motion in the knee joint.
The complex structure of your knee provides stability, but injuries and certain medical conditions can affect the overall health of your knee. Common knee problems include strained or sprained ligaments, cartilage tears, and the inflammation of tendons, known as tendonitis.
Some knee problems, such as arthritis, are the result of the aging process combined with continual wear and stress on the knee joint. Arthritis is a group of diseases that cause swelling and tenderness around the joints. Certain types of arthritis can cause the knee joint to break down, in a process known as joint degeneration.
If you have knee pain, you are not alone. In fact, millions of people in the United States experience knee pain. This common health problem affects people of all ages, from children to senior citizens. Knee pain may be the result of injuries, arthritis, or several other conditions.
The sports medicine doctors at Valley Orthopaedic Specialists suggest these nine tips to prevent knee pain.
Regular activity keeps the muscles around your knees strong, decreases bone loss, and may even help reduce swelling and pain in your knees.
Engage in low-impact activities to protect the cartilage in your knees. Be cautious when playing basketball, football, or other sports in which you stop, start, and turn abruptly.
Performing the same motions repeatedly can cause stress on joints, potentially resulting in repetitive motion injuries. Exercises that involve certain motions, such as lunging, squatting, and walking, can cause repetitive motion injuries to your knees. Going up and down stairs repeatedly can also cause knee problems.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Carrying excess weight puts extra stress on your knees and other weight-bearing joints. In fact, every extra pound you carry puts an additional four pounds of force on your knees when you go up and down stairs. The added pounds also accelerate joint degeneration and increase your risk for osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis in which the bones and the cartilage covering the ends of the bone begin to break down.
The shoes you choose can have a significant effect on the health of your knees. Ill-fitting shoes can affect your foot posture (how you hold and move your feet) which can then change the amount of strain on your knees. In fact, research suggests that foot posture can influence the development of osteoarthritis. Choose the right shoes to fit your activity and avoid high heels, as they place extra strain on your knees.
Strong thigh muscles improve your knee’s range of motion, or how far you can bend, straighten or rotate your knee. These muscles, especially the quadriceps, hamstrings, and abductors, also protect the cartilage of the knee joint and reduce the amount of stress you place on your knees. Doing squats and lunges twice a week can help strengthen your thigh muscles.
Use Correct Posture
It’s common to slouch as we age, but poor posture changes your center of gravity and adds more pressure on your hips and knees. Stand tall with your head, shoulders, hips, knees, and feet in proper alignment, all in a straight line as you stand. Doing yoga, tai chi, pilates, and core-strengthening exercises, such as back extensions and planks, may help improve your posture.
Pain and swelling of the knee are important signs that you should take a break from walking, running, or engaging in whatever high-impact activity you happen to be doing. These may be warning signs that you are damaging your knee.
Visit an Orthopedic Specialist
Your orthopedic doctor can check your knees for signs of injury or arthritis. An orthopedic specialist can also provide more tips for keeping your knees healthy.
For more information on keeping your knees healthy, consult with the joint doctors at Valley Orthopaedic Specialists.