We’ve been through two lockdowns in England now. And it seems that, whatever the other challenges they presented, lockdowns are also hard on the knees. But why? Jon Smith investigates.
It feels as though there were two distinct responses to lockdown. One was to go for broke with your fitness, to join in with Joe Wicks every day or to sign up Peloton and power your way through the pandemic leaving it a fitter, leaner machine. That’s certainly been the experience for some, although I’d hazard a guess that they are in the minority.
For everyone else, lockdown was a rather more sedentary experience. For people already suffering from knee pain at the start of the pandemic, lockdown has made things worse. Why is that?
We know exercise has some form of regenerative effect on cartilage. It can help keep osteoarthritis (where the cartilage-like material around the knee wears away) at bay and, if you already have early signs of osteoarthritis, it can help maintain the status quo and prevent its progression.
For many with even the healthiest of exercise regimes, lockdown presented a real challenge to staying active. Initially, we weren’t allowed out in groups. Even latterly, we weren’t allowed out in large groups so the social element of exercise has been missing, which can decrease motivation and make it easier to say, ‘I’ll go tomorrow’.
And that’s before we consider the effect of isolation. For some who have endured two or three bouts of isolation, maintaining an active lifestyle in the confines of your room has been a real issue.
Small wonder then, that those already with osteoarthritis felt things worsening.
As activity levels dropped, so we gained weight. Weight increases pressure on the joints which leads inevitably to greater joint pain. And as a million lockdown blog posts, TikToks and YouTube snippets encouraged us to get more adventurous in our cooking and baking, many of us have eaten rather more than usual too.
Society is far more sedentary than it once was. Many of us earn a living sat a computer screen, and we know that sitting with the knee in a flex position can put pressure on the kneecap, can soften the cartilage beneath the kneecap (chondromalacia patellae) or stiffen muscles and tendons. All of the above can result in pain.
With many more people working from home without even a daily commute to stir the legs into action, the chances of more people experiencing considerably more pain than usual is much increased.
How to alleviate ‘lockdown knee’
2020 was the year ‘lockdown knee’ became ‘a thing’ but in reality it’s a catch-all term for a variety of conditions all triggered by prolonged inactivity, weight gain and bad posture. To address them, try the following:
- Take breaks
Get away from your desk at regular intervals so you force your body to move and force your joints to flex.
- Set a reminder to check your posture
Without realising it, it’s all too easy to become hunched at your desk, or to sit on your legs whilst working for a prolonged period. Set a reminder on your smartphone to shift your position, so you take the pressure off your knees and other joints.
- Invest in a better chair & desk
Is home likely to remain your default workspace for the foreseeable? Investing in a quality, adjustable chair could work wonders for your back and joints. An adjustable desk which allows you to stand or sit at it would be even better news for your knees.
Get out and go for a swift walk or run. If you’re in isolation, do something to raise your heart rate and flex your joints. Time to raid the Joe Wicks archive…
As we explore in this post, the evidence of the value of icing your joints is patchy at best, but if you feel it benefits you, where’s the harm?
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