5 ways you’re damaging your knees
(and how to put things right)
Some knee injuries happen without warning, perhaps the result of a clumsy football tackle or a fall whilst skiing. They’re not generally the sort of things you can anticipate and plan to avoid. In other cases there may be pre-existing problems with the knee that you could be making worse.
Yet some knee pain can be avoided – if you know what to look for. So here are 5 ways the patients who attend our Yorkshire Knee Clinic have commonly injured their knees – with some suggestions on how you can avoid similar problems.
1. Proper warm-ups
Gently stretching the muscles before exercise decreases the stress placed on tendons and ligaments and helps reduce the likelihood of injury . The most common mistake is to treat the warm up with a casual disregard – and a warm up that doesn’t actually leave the muscles warmed up is meaningless.
‘Warming up’ also increases the blood flow to the muscles preparing you for the sporting activity to follow. Beware the classic ‘runner’s stretch’ if you haven’t properly warmed up. Grabbing your ankle and pulling your lower leg up behind you in a tight bend, bringing your heel to your backside before you have warmed up is a one way ticket to knee pain! It may look like the right thing to do. It’s entirely possible everyone else is doing it. But there’s a real risk of triggering patella (kneecap) problems.
2. High vs low impact
Low impact fitness can be just as beneficial to your body without placing the same stresses on your joints. You are far less likely to suffer a knee injury when walking or swimming compared to running or skiing. In the gym, rowing or spinning machines are lower impact activities than pounding the treadmill.
These so called ‘closed chain’ exercises reduce the force transmitted through the important cartilages in the knee. If you already have some wear and tear in the knee this may lessen the risk of a flare up or causing further damage.
3. Tough transitions
Transitions (that is, the point at which you switch intensity – e.g. from jogging to sprinting or vice versa) are key moments that can frequently result in a trip to the knee doctor.
They are a fact of life in many sports, but in daily life try to avoid sudden changes in the stresses you place on your knees to avoid twists and ligament tears. The same applies to exercise. Build up slowly, rather than subjecting your knees to jarring changes in pace.
High intensity impact training (HIIT) is particular fashionable at the moment. Some of these exercises can really trigger problems in the knee. For example, if you are known to have knee cap joint problems, lunging and squatting will likely make your knee feel worse.
4. Over-reliance on knee support
The gym and sports pitches are full of people with strappings of various types over their knees. But it’s important to realise that no support is a barrier against injury – it’s a crutch, not a bullet-proof vest.
So whilst supports can limit damage, don’t treat wearing one as a licence to avoid taking the above precautions.
The best brace is your own internal brace, e.g. your muscles! Work hard with physios to maximise these otherwise you may find yourself reliant on a brace for all activities. There are now highly engineered braces that can help with specific knee problems and these may be a good option for some patients.
Not a topic any knee specialist enjoys tackling, but carrying too much weight for your size places extra stress on your knees, speeds the process of wear and tear, and increases the chances of developing osteoarthritis.
If you’re experiencing knee pain and know that you’re carrying a little too much weight, cutting back is a simple (in concept if not in practice) way to alleviate symptoms.
Knee cap pain is particular sensitive to weight gain. The knee cap joint experiences up to eight times your body weight when you go down stairs! This means that a loss of one stone is like losing eight stone from that joint.
Are you suffering from knee pain? Delay in seeing a knee consultant and you could make things worse. Talk to Yorkshire Knee Clinic now.