When you walk on level ground, the force on your knees is equivalent to about 1.5 times your body weight. Here's how to prevent your knees from wearing down
What can possibly go wrong? Plenty. The knee is a complex joint and we give it a lot of grief over our lifetime by walking, lifting, kneeling and high-impact activities, such as running, jumping and sports.
Blows to the knee, and sports where you are often twisting it, are a common cause of injury, including sprained ligaments and muscles, torn cartilage, tendonitis (sometimes caused by excessive running, jumping or cycling), bursitis (from excessive kneeling) and, as you get older, osteoarthritis.
How to help arthritis in the knee
In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the joint wears away. The main symptoms are pain, stiffness and difficulty moving the joint.
Having arthritis in your knee also makes you more prone to ligament injuries, as the muscles around the joint can become weak. It’s important to exercise to combat pain, improve leg strength and balance, and maintain flexibility.
Acupuncture may help with osteoarthritis pain.
How do you treat a knee injury?
First off, you’ll need RICE. This means:
- Resting your knee for a day or two
- applying ice—such as a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel—for up to 20 minutes every two or three hours to bring down the swelling
- compressing with a bandage
- and elevating your injury above the level of your heart.
Don’t play sports if you’re in pain, but if you’re itching to get going, try swimming or another low-impact activity, such as tai chi or pilates, once things have settled down.
And if it doesn’t get better? See your GP and set about getting a proper diagnosis. They might refer you to a physiotherapist—or you can opt to go privately—who can give you exercises to strengthen the muscles around your knee.
Some injuries, such as torn ligaments, might need surgery.
What are the best ways to care for my knees?
Obviously, prevention is better than cure. Warm up properly before you exercise and consider sports that are easier on your knees. These include swimming, water aerobics, cycling (whether on the road or a static bike), pilates, brisk walking, or step up.
A rule of thumb: never do an exercise where your knees stick out beyond your toes when you bend them. You might want to avoid deep squats and running.
Wear shoes with a good tread, whether you’re exercising or simply out and about.
How do I make my knees stronger?
Focus on exercises that work your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and hip muscles. These will also help to strengthen your knees.
There are plenty of exercises to improve knee strength online or if you prefer to read, then there are a lot of knee exercise books available.
What difference does body weight make?
Being overweight puts extra strain on your knees, raising the risk of injuries and osteoarthritis. Even modest weight loss will help.
Combine losing a few kilos with exercises that tone the muscles round the joint, and your knees will look better too.
Read more: How to exercise when you have arthritis
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