Our knees take a beating each and every day. We walk, run, jump, and come back down to the ground during everyday activities and through exercise. While knees can withstand a great deal of pressure, after a certain amount of time they begin to break down and cause us pain.
According to Dr. Bradley Bruner (Wichita), most of the knee-injuries he sees are from participating in sports. But he also sees knee problems in people who have endured damage or injury over time, not just from a single event during a basketball or football game.
Major risk factors include:
- Repeated high-impact activity like running or jumping;
- Being overweight - even five to ten extra pounds put a great deal of strain on your joints;
- Smoking - chemicals in cigarettes can harm cells in your body that keep cartilage healthy;
- Wearing high heels - wearing these shoes alters your gait and can put strain, stress, and pressure on the insides of your knees;
- Family history.
To prevent knee injuries, you can obviously cut down on the above activities. Work to take weight off and quit smoking if necessary. Exercise using low-impact activities like swimming, water aerobics, riding an exercise bike, or doing squats and lunges. Cross train, or mix up your workouts so you're working different muscles at different times. But the most important factor, the one Dr. Bruner suggested first, is to maintain flexibility. As we age we lose flexibility, but "flexible [and agile] joints have less pressure on them." So work to moderately stretch each day and be sure to always stretch before AND after workouts.
For anyone already in pain, Dr. Bruner suggests completing "basic care" before seeking professional help.
- Use anti-inflammatory medication regularly;
- Ice your knees (or other joints) as needed;
- Stretch regularly.
If you complete those activities and still your pain does not subside after 10 to 14 days, seek out the help of your primary care physician or a specialist like an orthopaedic surgeon. You can also check out the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeon's website for additional resources.