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As athletes hit the fields for the fall sports season and homeowners pickup the rakes to start their fall yard work, doctors and healthcare providers are likely to see an uptake in the number of patients coming in with complaints of knee pain. As we move around throughout the day our knees tend to withstand a lot of stress, which can cause the cartilage that cushions our knee joints to deteriorate and leave the knees more susceptible to injuries and conditions like ACL tears and arthritis. According to statistics released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half of the population will develop symptomatic knee OA by the time they turn 85 years old! Knee pain can be excruciating and very debilitating, interfering with one’s ability to function normally. Thankfully, there are ways to help reduce your chances for knee injuries and minimize the impact they have on your life. Keeping the following tips in mind can help ensure that your knees keep on working properly.
Keep your muscles strong and flexible
-- Keeping your joints moving and strengthening the muscles around the kneecap, hip and pelvis helps stabilize the knee, improve balance, and reduce the amount of stress absorbed by the knee joints. According to experts from the Mayo Clinic, having stiffened and weakened muscles significantly increases one’s risks for knee injuries.
Stretch before and after doing physical activities
-- Whether you’re going for a swim, hitting the gym/field, or heading out to do yard work stretching the muscles and doing a light warm-up helps loosen the joints, ligaments and tendons, which significantly helps reduce the likelihood of injuries.
Watch your weight
-- According to the CDC, “two out of three obese adults suffer from knee osteoarthritis at some time in their life.” Carrying around excess weight puts extra stress on the knees and can lead to osteoarthritis of the knee, which can be very painful and debilitating. Even losing just a few pounds can help reduce the stress placed on the knee joints. “Every pound you lose takes four pounds of pressure off the knees” (WebMD slideshow, Tips to Keep Joints Healthy, Sept. 2014).
Don’t ignore the pain
-- While the phrase “no pain no gain” may apply in some situations, it isn’t always a good motto to live by. Like sports medicine specialist Jordan Metzl, MD, from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City says, “when the pain limits your ability to do what you normally do, you need to have it checked out.” Listen to your body and the signals it sends (and make sure you follow through with any recommended rehab treatments or home exercise programs).
Don’t use your knee pain as an excuse not to exercise. In order to reduce the amount of stress placed on the knee joints it is important to keep the joints moving and strengthen the muscles, and the best way to do that is with exercise. Exercising is also in integral aspect of losing weight, and losing weight also helps reduce the amount of stress placed on the knee joints. Try choosing lower impact activities when your knees hurt. For example, try using a stationary bike instead of hitting the pavement or running on a treadmill, try swimming and/or doing aqua aerobics, and try walking on flat surfaces instead of going up and down hills.
Also, when you’re already having knee pain, you might want to consider wearing a knee brace to provide a little extra support and stability for the knee joints. In addition, you may also want to consider taking vitamins and supplements that are specially formulated to support joint and cartilage health, look for supplements that contain Omega-3s, glucosamine, and Chondroitin. Using anti-inflammatory medications (like Advil and Ibuprofen) can also help ease your aches and pains while helping relieving any swelling and inflammation in and around the joints.