Keeping Your Knees Healthier For LongerAugust 10, 2017
The knee is a lower body joint that, together with the ankles, supports our entire body weight. Everyday movement is possible thanks to the muscles and bones, with support provided by ligaments and tendons.
To understand what causes of knee pain, we need to understand the knee’s structures. The knee is formed at the lower end of the thighbone (femur) and the upper end of the shin bone (tibia). Protected by the kneecap (patella), the knee is a hinge joint allowing leg and foot movement. Unlike a mono-directional door hinge, the knee slightly rotates and moves from side to side as well.
To facilitate knee rotation and movement, internal cushioning is provided by cartilage on the bone surface and the meniscus. Finally, tendons connect the quadriceps muscle to the kneecap and shin bone to ensure stability.
Common causes of knee pain
It is vital to maintain the condition of these body parts, as they determine the health of our knees. Here are some common causes of knee pain:
- Cartilage Damage
Knee cartilage is damaged due to trauma or degeneration over time. Some common symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness, and clicking or popping during weight bearing activities. Called Chondromalacia, it affects cartilage behind the kneecap, causing discomfort during the simplest of daily activities like walking up or down stairs.
- Ligament Sprains
Ranging from small microscopic tears to ligament ruptures, sprains occur due to trauma such as falls, or contact during sports. While pain and swelling will recede, loss of knee function will be permanent if this is not dealt with appropriately. Always remember to treat sprains with ‘RICE’- rest, ice, compression, and elevation. In severe cases, immobilise the knee and seek medical attention.
The knee can get inflamed when new physical activities are undertaken too quickly. In this, the tendon and the bursa (a fluid-filled sac within the knee that provides lubrication and reduces friction) are most commonly affected. Avoid aggravating activities, apply ice or heat as necessary, and consume anti-inflammatory medication.
Repetitive activities over time cause stress on your knees. On top of this, biomechanical abnormalities, such as flat feet or high arches, alter the movement of the leg and add stress on the knee. In these cases, avoid activities like deep squats and downhill running that exacerbate knee pains. Besides physiotherapy, external aids like proper footwear, foot orthotics, tape and braces can help alleviate pain.
How can I alleviate knee pains?
As much of an inconvenience as it is, knee pains don’t have to be a terminal issue. Here are some ways you can alleviate it:
- Get light
Every additional kilogram of body weight translates to a four-kilogram increase of pressure absorbed by the knee when walking, running or climbing stairs. And in the long term, this negatively affects the knees and ankles. So start managing knee pains by losing excess body weight.
- Get active
Hours of sitting in the office lead to sedentary lifestyles, causing muscular imbalance and postural issues. To correct this, exercising regularly. Start with low-impact activities like swimming or cycling. And as your fitness levels improve, progress to higher-impact activities like running. But always remember to warm up! In addition, use appropriate footwear, and replace them when they get worn out.
- Get strong
Lower body strength plays a key role in the proper function and stability of our knees. Strong lower body muscles allow better balance and encourage good movements. Target muscles in the calf, hamstrings and glutes with exercises like squats, lunges, and hip thrusts.
- Get fed
Consume foods rich in antioxidants and polyphenols for some anti-inflammatory goodness. Top picks include tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, nuts, fatty fish, and berries. You may also include spices like garlic, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon for added benefits too! On top of managing knee pain, these foods also contribute to a healthy and well-balanced diet.
These tips may keep your knees in good shape. However, age-related wear and tear is still inevitable, and everyone is bound to experience knee pains at some point in time. Embracing the above advice will go a long way in keeping your knees healthier for longer.