Taking Care of Your Knees
The knees are a commonly neglected part of the body. It is important to take care of our knees, especially as we age, because they are responsible for supporting the rest of the body from the thigh up. To gauge how good (or bad) you are at taking care of your knees, here are a few points to ask yourself:
Can My Knees Bear the Weight?
Your knees are important in all of your weight-bearing capabilities. This means that the pressure from your body mass is dependent on the health and stability of the knees and other joints to maintain balance and coordination. This being said, having a healthy BMI (body mass index) is crucial to keep the knees happy. To do the math, every single pound exceeding the desired BMI equals to three added pounds of pressure to the knees when you are walking, and to ten pounds when you are running. In conclusion, all the extra weight creates added pressure and strain to the knees, which compromise their health and integrity.
Osteoarthritis often stems from multiple risk factors – one of which is obesity. The extra weight causes too much burden enough to break the cartilage down. The right thing to do is to drop the extra pounds and maintain the desired BMI. Even if you aren’t experiencing the problems yet, keeping yourself fit will help prevent such problems from occurring in the future – especially as you get older.
What Types of Physical Activity Do I Engage in?
We know that you’ve heard it too many times before, but regular exercise is good for your health. In particular, it is important to keep your knees strong. Lack of exercise weakens your muscles, which means that the joints do not have the ability to support the muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and other supporting structures.
So what kinds of exercise should you do? The best forms of exercise for your knees are those that have a low risk of injury. These are low-impact exercises – ones that help build your strength, stamina and flexibility. Specific examples include yoga, biking, walking, swimming, and even lifting weights. These should be done moderately instead of strenuously to prevent injuring the knees – which you wouldn’t want to happen, since that can only double your chances of acquiring osteoarthritis. In addition to good knee health, these low-impact activities can improve circulation, your range of motion, and help build (and rebuild) the muscles around the joints. An ideal standard would be at least 30 minutes of exercise in a day, several days in a week.
Here are other exercises that are good for your knees:
- Water-based workouts – give you the same benefits as low-impact workouts, but with added strength training (the kind that you can expect from jogging or walking)
- T’ai chi – increases range of motion, improves ligament and tendon resilience, and lengthens muscles
- Isometrics and Yoga – strengthens the leg muscles needed for weight bearing and support, as well as the core muscles of the body
Am I Over Straining?
Many people commit the mistake of overusing their muscles and joints. Even though we stressed the importance of having an active lifestyle, it is important to do it in moderation. Do not fall prey to the repetitive straining of your muscles and joints. A good tip is to warm up for about ten minutes before every workout routine or any form of exercise. Do the same for cooling down. This problem can happen not only through exercise, though. For instance, doing the same movements over and over at work or recreation can damage cartilage, loosen the tendons, and end up causing injury.
How can you tell I if I am overusing my joints? This is where good body awareness comes in handy. Most of us shrug off discomfort and pain thinking it’s no big deal. However, if you want to tread a healthier approach in life, you should learn to listen to your body better. As soon as you feel pain, during whatever it is that you are currently doing – chores, exercise, or work – never ignore it. Try stopping what you’re doing and see if the pain ceases. If the pain doesn’t stop, consult your physician immediately.
How is My Body Alignment?
Think of the body’s structure like your car’s chassis – any deviation from the proper alignment will wear out the tires easily, just like your legs and knees. Remember that proper body alignment is important to avoid straining joints, muscles, and ligaments. In simpler terms, you need to have good posture. Here are some pointers for good body alignment and correct posture:
- Keep your back straight. Don’t hunch or slump forward.
- Knees should be bent slightly instead of being “locked” at all times.
- Keep your abs tightened by “sucking in” your stomach gently.
- The head should be centered. Check this using your alone time in front of the mirror – and side to side, too.
- You have two feet. Use them equally. Never focus all your weight bearing on just one side.
What Kind of Footwear Do I Have?
A common cause of straining joints and the lower extremities in general is bad footwear choices. When you wear shoes that create an uneven distribution of weight, you place added stress on the knees. Forget the fancy terminology – wearing the wrong shoes will make you look obviously uncomfortable. Your stride will be thrown off, your knees will be stressed, and you won’t be feeling your most glamorous self.
Sometimes, it’s not just the shoes. Every person is unique – sometimes, the uniqueness is found on your feet. You may have foot arches that are rigid or flat, uneven leg length, or bowed legs. This doesn’t seem so bad – you just have to go to specialty stores to get your shoes done with respect to some anatomical considerations. The right shoes will give you the right kind of support that your body – especially the joints – need. Consulting a podiatrist is also part of the plan. He/she can diagnose any foot problems that you might have, and then help you with orthotic prescriptions to correct your gait.
It’s never too early to start taking care of your knees – or your whole body in general. The pointers mentioned here are only some of the many ways you can do this. Remember to stay healthy by eating right, getting enough rest, exercising regularly, and avoiding unhealthy habits.
Kaki Zell - Vice President of Sales, Marketing, eCommerce at Legs-4-Life LLC Kaki holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Management from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She’s been working in the medical device industry for over 11 years and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Greensboro Science Center.