Steps to Healthier Knees

For many people today, knee pain has become a way of life, limiting their ability to squat down, climb stairs, enjoy long walks, continue shopping for long hours, and many other day-to-day activities. The knee joint, perhaps one of the most interesting and complicated joints in the body, has to bear up to six times of your body weight along with running or jumping. This incredibly designed joint has to move over at least a million times during each year and over 80 million times over your lifetime. This is one of the primary reasons why things tend to go wrong with the knee joint, thus causing injury and pain. Just like you take care of your heart, there are certain things you can do to take care of your knee joint as well and maintain a healthy state. Here are some steps to healthier knees that you can easily follow.

Common Knee Problems & How To Manage Them

The fact that the knee joint contains a complex network of ligaments, bones, muscles, and tendons, makes it particularly vulnerable. Pain in the knees can be caused by many issues, including arthritis, gout, to even sports injuries. When a torn knee ligament strikes or when you develop knee arthritis, it becomes painful and difficult to do simple tasks like climbing stairs, walking, and even standing for long periods of time.

Before looking at the steps you can follow for healthier knees, one needs to understand why the knee joint is so prone to injury or disease.

One of the main reasons why the knee joint gets affected easily is because of its location. The knee is located between the foot and the hop, being jammed between two extremely mobile joints. Any involvement of the foot or the hip in an injury or some disease will immediately affect the knee joint as well.

Transmission of the force from the foot or the hip is a big cause of knee problem. In order to control this, it is important that you strengthen the muscles of your hip and foot. Since hip muscles link your lower back to your leg, this way these muscles are responsible for providing postural control to the lower back and the leg. Strengthening of the hip provides stability to the knee joint as it aligns the posture of the knee, lowering the chances of an injury to the knee.

At the same time, leg exercises are extremely critical to stabilizing the foot joints and also the ankle. This will help in keeping the stress off the knee joint. There are many studies that have shown that exercises of the foot and the leg provide a better overall posture and also bring down the risk of a sprain. They are also known to improve your balance.(1)

Steps to Healthier Knee

Strengthening the knee with suitable exercises is a great way to prevent trouble with your knee in the future and also helps you deal with an existing knee related condition.

One of the easiest exercises you can possibly do for maintaining not just your knee health, but also for ensuring your overall health, is stair climbing. Strengthening the muscles in and around your knee will reduce the stress that is there on the knee joint itself. These muscles include:

  • Hamstrings present at the back of your thigh
  • Quadriceps present at the front of your thigh

Both of these are large muscle groups and when you climb stairs, they get a thorough workout. Your own weight itself is actually sufficient to make stair climbing a challenge for you.

There are many indirect benefits of stair climbing as well that prove to be beneficial to the knee. Climbing stairs help you manage your weight, which indirectly takes the load off your knee joint. By walking up the stairs for just five minutes, you can easily burn off around 45 calories. And if you do this five times in a week, it comes out to 225 calories. Doing it 50 weeks in a year means you can burn off 11,250 calories. A pound of weight is roughly around 3,500 calories, so by climbing a few stairs regularly or at least on most days of the year, you can easily love more than three pounds.

For example, if you are overweight by ten pounds, you end up putting nearly 40 to 70 pounds of extra pressure on your knees with every step that you take. When you climb stairs, you help your body take the pressure off the joints by dropping the pounds as it burns the calories.(2)

Some More Helpful Tips For Healthy Knee

Here are some more ways in which you can take care of your knees and avoid developing arthritis and other joint problems.

Keep the muscles around your knees and hips strong. The focus should particularly be on the quadriceps and gluteal muscles. Studies have indicated that adults, especially who are over the age of 55 who have stronger quadriceps and gluteals, are more likely to experience lesser back pain and also have a higher capacity to do their daily activities easily.

Stretching the hamstrings, quadriceps, and adductor muscles every day. Now, this is very important. When you keep these muscle groups flexible, the forces affecting your knee joints get balanced out. This allows easy bending of the knee joint, allowing it to rotate and also allows the patella, or the kneecap, to track properly.

Regular exercise. One cannot stress the importance of regular exercise enough. Not only is exercising good for your overall health and for the whole body, your knees, especially, need exercise to keep the cartilage healthy and in working order. There is not much blood supply to the cartilage and it requires to get its nutrition from the joint fluid. Most of the joint fluid is absorbed into the cartilage only through the process of regular movement and compression of the knee. This is why it is very important that you do some weight-bearing exercises such as running, walking, and other sports. However, if you already have arthritis or some other knee-related condition, then it is recommended that you take part in less impact activities such as elliptical machines, aquatic exercises, biking, etc.

At the same time, you should also undergo regular physical therapy checkups to ensure that your knee joint and also the other joints of the body are working at their optimum performance. Additionally, any problems will also be discovered at an early stage, thus preventing the onset of joint injury and arthritis.

Conclusion

As we age, we start losing muscle strength and muscle mass. There is also a loss of mineral density and this leads to widespread changes in the knee and the muscles surrounding the knee, making it more prone to injury. The loss of bone mineral density also causes a shift in the body’s weight, shifting the weight forward. There is also a loss of muscle tissue. Aging causes an increase in the amount of stress which is placed on the knee joint.

Taking calcium supplementation and exercising regularly will prevent the development of the weakening of the knee muscles and the knee joint. Furthermore, if you have ever been injured at the knee or if you experience flare-ups of arthritis or gout, then you are well aware of how debilitating these conditions can be. Healthy knees are critical for walking, standing, climbing, running, and even sitting. For these reasons and many more, you must take the necessary steps for preventing knee problems.

These could include climbing stairs as well as other leg strengthening exercises. You should also avoid activities or sports that have a high risk of a knee injury, especially as you get older. Also, keep your weight under control so that there is less burden on your knee and other joints.

If you are experiencing knee pain for whatsoever reason, you should never ignore it. Rehabilitation therapies, such as exercise, can often help give relief from pain and also make it possible to walk again. If you find that your knee condition needs more care, then you can see a knee specialist to discuss your options. Taking care of your knees will help you improve the quality of your life and also relieve knee pain.

References:  

  1. White, D.K., Tudor-Locke, C., Felson, D.T., Gross, K.D., Niu, J., Nevitt, M., Lewis, C.E., Torner, J. and Neogi, T., 2013. Walking to meet physical activity guidelines in knee osteoarthritis: is 10,000 steps enough?. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 94(4), pp.711-717.
  2. Hasegawa, M., Chin, T., Oki, S., Kanai, S., Shimatani, K. and Shimada, T., 2010. Effects of methods of descending stairs forwards versus backwards on knee joint force in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee: a clinical controlled study. BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2(1), p.14.

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