Knee pain is becoming a reality for an ever growing number of people. Joint replacements are more common as the years go on but are a last resort given their limited lifespan. So the big question is what can we do to protect our knees and keep ourselves pain free for as long as possible? Today’s blog will cover this as well as looking at what you can do if you are already suffering with knee pain.
One thing that is now accepted as the number one thing you can do is to keep moving. It really is a case of use it or lose it. To keep your joints strong and mobile you need to focus on being active and building strength in the muscles that surround your knee joint. As we age our knees are particularly vulnerable. Carrying extra weight, sitting for long periods of time and doing little exercise have a real impact on our knees. Joints suffer from wear and tear as we age and the tendons and ligaments stiffen and are more easily torn or damaged. To make it worse we take longer to heal as we get older.
If your knees are less stable than they used to be or getting creaky and crunchy, you need to enlist your muscle strength to bridge the gap. Strengthening your quads (the four muscles on the front of your thigh) is vital here especially as the tendons are attached at the tibial tuberosity and run underneath your patella (knee cap). By building your quad strength you give valuable support to your knee and will keep your tendons and ligaments pliable and mobile.
It is important that you balance the strength and the length between your quads and your hamstrings (the three muscles at the back of your thigh). If you spend a lot of time sitting then your hamstrings can become short and your hip flexors weak. This combination can pull at the lower back and end up with your quads over extended which in turn can put pressure on the knee joint.
Enough of the doom and gloom and on to the 3 practical steps that you can take to keep your knees working and moving efficiently. Implementing these will stop niggles turning into something more sinister and can help to reduce pain and discomfort too. You won’t be surprised to hear me say that it is vital that you get yourself to a healthy weight and that you need to do regular exercise.
Make sure you move every day. This should be a combination of weight bearing exercise such as walking or running and other cardio such as swimming and cycling. Jogging in water is used in rehabilitation of injury as it will strengthen muscles without the stress put on the joints running outside. You need to pitch your exercise at an appropriate level for your fitness and the state of your knees. It is good to push yourself and working harder can create real progress in strengthening and stabilising your knees. You should not be doing anything that causes pain. It is fine to feel some discomfort as you make the joint and surrounding muscles work hard. That is how you will come to make progress. Pain is very different and won’t help at all. So increase volume and intensity slowly but push yourself at every stage to see results.
Incorporate Strength Training. It is really important that you do specific exercises that will build strength in the joint as well as in the quads and hamstrings too. Again you need to progress slowly and not cause further damage. The video shows you a number of exercises that you can use with progressions to more advanced versions. You should incorporate strength training twice a week either on its own or it can form part of a session with cardio such as running or cycling.
Stretch, Foam Roller, Massage. It is vital that you take good care of your muscles and eliminate any excess tension. When you work your muscles hard you will need to take extra care and stretch well after each session. Leaving muscles tense can result in tears or damage which is not going to help at all. The video shows you a quick sequence that you can use after training or a couple of times a week to improve your flexibility and mobility too.
I would also recommend that you use a foam roller which will help to move metabolic waste from your muscles and aid your recovery. It works by applying pressure on your muscles and squeezing the tissues helping to get rid of tension. The result is similar to having a massage but at a more general level. It works across the surface and gives an overall effect rather than the focus on individual muscles that a massage gives. The ideal would be a monthly massage and then for you to Foam Roll a couple of times a week to maintain a healthy level of tension. Follow the link to my Foam Roller sequence and find out more about my Prehab Plan here.
You will see a difference in the function of your knee joint by adding in these 3 steps to your weekly routine. Make sure that you build slowly and work at your pace. Some degree of discomfort is to be expected and I would always expect to feel the effects of a session the following day or the day after that. Keep progressing and challenging yourself to make sure that you continue to see progress. You may not eliminate all the pain or creaking but you should see some improvement. If you want some support in putting together a plan for you to do at home then please get in touch here. There are various ways that we can do that – email, skype or in person with options to suit most budgets.
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