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Affecting 25% of American adults, knee pain is one of the most prevalent issues faced by people of all ages in the United States1. Knees are one of the most common ailments/injuries because they are one of the most stressed joints in the body. They are vulnerable to torn cartilage, sprains, fractures, and underlying medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes. These conditions can cause symptoms such as mild discomfort, swelling, weakness, stiffness, or an inability to straighten the knee.
As we age, our bodies go through many changes. This includes a decreased ability to heal properly and the increased likelihood of developing chronic conditions. For many people, this also means that they will start to experience pain in their knees. But this doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to a life of knee pain! There are things that you can do to prevent or minimize knee pain as you get older.
Strengthen muscles to protect your knees
Strengthening your supporting muscles is an important way to protect your knees as you age. These exercises will help to keep your knees healthy and reduce the risk of pain or injury.
Your quadriceps and hamstrings play a big role in supporting and stabilizing your knees — if these muscles are strong and flexible, your risk of pain and injury decreases, and your mobility increases.
Leg lifts, hamstring curls, wall squats, single-leg dips, step exercises, seated knee extensions, standing knee flexions, and calf and heel raises are just a few of the many fantastic quad/hamstring strengthening routines available. In addition to these particular workouts, low-impact activities such as swimming, cycling, elliptical training, rowing, and walking can all help you improve your knees’ flexibility and strength. So get out there and start moving! Your knees will thank you.
Increase the range of motion in your knees
A full range of motion allows the joint to bend, rotate or extend, and doing exercises that stimulate the joint to produce synovial fluid (the body’s natural lubricant) can help to maintain the balance and smooth movement of the joints. Gentle, persistent stretching can help to strengthen and restore the motion of the knee. By gently stretching your hamstrings, quads, and muscles around the knee joint on a regular basis, you can significantly increase the range of motion in your knees. And as an added bonus, this increased range of motion can help to reduce pain and improve joint function.
Maintain a healthy body weight to protect your knees
When you carry extra weight, your knees have to work harder than they should. This extra strain can lead to pain and damage to the knee joint. Maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the best things you can do for your knees. Losing even a small amount of weight can make a significant impact on the health of your knees if you’re overweight or obese.
The best way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is through diet and exercise. Eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. And combining this with regular physical activity will not only help you lose weight but will also increase your strength and flexibility, which can further protect your knees.
Good posture for knee health
One of the most preventable causes of knee pain is poor posture. Maintaining good posture is essential for overall health, and it’s also key to preventing knee pain. When you stand, sit or walk with proper alignment, your muscles and joints are able to work more efficiently, which helps to reduce stress on the knees.
When you sit on your knees, cross your legs or slouch forward, you put extra pressure on the knee joint and the cartilage that cushions the joint. This can lead to cartilage damage and knee pain. To avoid this, maintain good posture by sitting up straight with your shoulders back and down, keeping your feet flat on the floor, and avoiding crossing your legs.
When standing, hold your head up and keep your shoulders back and imagine a straight line running from your earlobe through your shoulder, hip, knee, and down to the middle of your ankle. Try not to lean forward at the waist or shift your weight from one leg to the other. And when moving, bend at the knees instead of at the waist.
Taking these steps will help prevent pressure on the knee joint and supporting muscles, reduce your risk of knee pain, and keep yourself healthy and active for years to come.
Eat right to maintain healthy knees
Just as athletes need to perform upkeep on their bodies through stretching and strengthening exercises, it’s important to maintain bone health through diet. Calcium and Vitamin D are critical components for good bone health, so include them in your daily routine by consuming leafy greens, canned sardines, salmon, tuna, mackerel and mushrooms. You can also get your fill of these minerals by consuming foods that are fortified with calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin D. As we age, it becomes increasingly important to take care of our bones in order to prevent pain and injury.
Stay hydrated to keep your joints healthy
Staying hydrated is important for overall health, but did you know that it’s also crucial for joint health? That’s because 70-80% of joint cartilage consists of water. The cartilage in your joints needs water to stay healthy and lubricated. When you don’t drink enough water, your body starts to dehydrate and this can lead to joint pain.
Drinking more water can help improve the production of natural lubricant synovial fluid, reduce inflammation, support circulation and maintain cartilage’s shock-absorbing properties. So drink up! Aim for eight glasses of water a day, or more if you’re active or live in a hot climate.
Avoid injuries to your knees
Injuries are one of the most common causes of knee pain. To avoid injury, it’s important to warm up before participating in any physical activity. A good warm-up will increase your heart rate and blood flow, loosen your muscles and joints, and prepare your body for activity.
Gentle stretching after strengthening exercises can also help reduce your risk of injury by lengthening muscles that may have been shortened during your workout. When stretching, hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds and avoid bouncing or jerking movements.
Additionally, be sure to use proper form and technique when participating in any physical activity, as this can help prevent injuries.
Enjoy life without the worry of knee pain
As we age, our bodies go through many changes. But this doesn’t mean that we have to resign ourselves to a life of pain and discomfort. There are things that we can do to prevent or minimize pain as we get older. By following these tips you can keep your knees healthy and enjoy life without the worry of knee pain.
1The Washington Post, Suffering from bad knees, some look for alternatives to surgery, 11/17/2019