If you do sports, physical activities, or just plain walk around you should know what knee pain feels like. Everyone has had at least a twinge of knee pain, be it from a sports injury or walking into the coffee table, and everyone knows how much it can hurt. Since the knee is such an important joint (after all, if your knees don’t work it makes walking a much more daunting task) it is essential to keep its health up to scratch. I have, therefore, compiled a few “Knee Health Rules” for all to share.
Knee Health Rule #1 – STRETCH
Stretching after a mild warmup can not only make muscles feel more pliable and limber, but it can also prevent injuries when performing more serious tasks or exercises. However, when it comes to the knees (or for that matter, any joint) it’s important not to over stretch. You should stretch for 30 to 60 seconds holding a pose (don’t bounce!!) only to the point of mild discomfort without pain. Stretch each muscle group in turn – the quadriceps, the hamstrings, the calves, the abductors and adductors, the gluteus muscles, and the hip flexors. If you don’t know how to stretch these muscle groups stay tuned for a step-by-step guide on how to stretch each of these muscle groups!
Knee Health Rule #2 – WATCH OUT!
Being aware of your body’s positioning is a GREAT way to make sure you don’t get injured, especially with your knees. Since the average person is not aware of all parts of their body at once this is a much more difficult task than it sounds. However, it is important to pay attention to having proper posture and positioning at all times. For example, while performing any sport or activity it is best to have your feet pointed in the same direction as your knee before putting any type of weight or stress load on the rest of your body. Make sure that if you need to turn quickly in one direction or another than your turn your hip joints or your feet on the ground rather than rotating at the knee joint. Most of all, make sure you are aware of any person or object coming at your knees to prevent hyperextension (bending backwards) or side to side movement that may create a tear.
Knee Health Rule #3 – VITAMINS
The knee joints have within them a fluid-filled sac called the synovial membrane. This membrane acts as a cushion between your bones, much as bubble wrap does between breakable items in a box. To keep this cushion healthy it needs a few vital nutrients, all of which are easily attainable at any health food store. The first two are glucosamine and chondrointin, which are usually sold together. These supplements are known to prevent arthritis, as well as promote joint health. The second vitamin is Omega-3 fatty acid, which can be found in flax seed and fish oil (yes, I know fish oil is disgusting, but if you live in San Diego county I urge you to come to our office in La Jolla to try the supplement we have. It tastes like lemon meringue pie with no hint of fish!). This oil helps to lubricate the joint as well as providing a natural anti-inflammatory to reduce any potential scar tissue buildup in the knee joint.
Knee Health Rule #4 – EXERCISE
It’s common knowledge at this point that you need exercise to stay healthy, and joint health is included. Regular, well rounded aerobic exercise can keep the muscles surrounding and contributing to the knee joint can be kept strong and free of spasms. Weight bearing exercise is also beneficial to the knee joint, as this type of movement encourages the production of synovial fluid (the lubricant inside the synovial membrane). Common sense must prevail, however – if an exercise, such as running, is hurting your knee rather than promoting its health then switching to a lighter, lower weight bearing exercise is recommended (such as swimming or using an elliptical machine).
Knee Health Rule #5 – LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Taking each of the former rules into consideration, this is the most important. If you feel that your knee is getting uncomfortable with something you are doing get it checked out by a Chiropractor or Physical Therapist right away. If there are issues leading to knee discomfort there are many ways alternative health practitioners can fix it, but only before it becomes a serious problem. If you push your body to the point where you get a tear or rupture the prognosis is far more dire, the recovery time greater, and the pain worse. The complexity of the knee may take you to an Orthopedic Surgeon if you don’t listen to your body and correct your knee now.
While these rules do not apply to every case they can help those of you within the normal range of knee conditions to stay healthy and pain free. Taking on all of these different rules can be daunting at first, but try implementing one per month to give yourself time to get used to each in turn. Once you get used to caring for the health of your knees you should be able to live a long and happy life with your knees in good form – after all, the rules above can be applied to your whole body!