How to keep your knees healthy and strong

 Unrecognizable physiotherapist examining leg injury on a woman lying down.

How to keep your knees healthy and strong

How many people do you know who complain of knee pain or have had a knee replacement?  Most likely there’s quite a few if not yourself. Good knee health should not be taken for granted.  Our knees take on its fair share of impacts throughout each day.  As the largest joint in the body, painful knees are common, especially after the age of 40.

As we age, the bones in our knees will suffer from overall wear and tear as a result of many factors:

·      Improper lifting of heavy objects

·      Poor fitting shoes

·      Muscle weakness

·      Poor flexibility

·      Starting high-impact fitness without warming up

·      Structural knee problems such as arthritis, torn cartilage, ligament damage, bursitis, meniscus tears, and tendonitis

Preserving your knee health is crucial for being able to remain physically active as long as you can.  Many people assume knee aches and pains are part of getting older and that eventually a knee replacement will be inevitable, but they don’t have to be.  There are several things you can do keeping your knees strong, sturdy, and pain free:

Maintain a healthy body weight

This tip is probably the most important one to do in order to protect the overall health of your knees.  Even being only 10 pounds overweight increases the force on the knees by 30-60 pounds with each step.  Think about that for a moment.  Approximately 69% of adults living in the United States age 20 years and over are considered either overweight to obese.  That is a lot of people walking around in pain due to excess weight. 

 The extra pounds and pressure not only lead to knee pain but can also cause your knee cartilage to wear away faster.

Perform low-impact exercises to strengthen muscles around your knees

No matter what your age, exercise is vital to keeping your muscles strong, your heart young, your bone mass healthy, and joints like your knees, flexible.

Certain exercises support good knee health without putting too much force on them.  For example, by performing simple leg lifts, you can strengthen the muscles around your knee.  When these muscles are strong, they support more of your body weight to take the impact off your knee when walking or engaging in other activities.  Also having strong muscles within the inner thigh and hip abductors are crucial for absorbing stress when you walk, reducing strain on your knees.

Having proper alignment of your knees is necessary for helping this joint work at its best.  This can be achieved by performing simple calf raises which strengthen your ankles to help keep knees in proper alignment.

However, be careful to avoid exercises that subject your knees to too much force.  Good examples would be overdoing squats or lunges.  Squats and lunges are great exercises for the lower body but don’t bend your leg beyond a 90-degree angle and make sure your knee stays directly over your foot and does not extend beyond your big toe. 

Choose foods that support joint health

An important part of overall good health is eating healthy foods and this same logic also applies to good joint health.  Foods filled with vitamin C, such as oranges, bell peppers, and broccoli help your body build new cartilage, while vitamin D filled foods, such as salmon, tuna, and eggs, help support the health of existing cartilage. 

Wear footwear that supports your knees

When wearing supportive and comfortable shoes, it’s amazing how they can greatly help take pressure off the knee joint by promoting proper alignment and balance. 

One of the worst types of shoes detrimental to knee health is wearing high heels.  High heels lift your heel up, causing your quadriceps to work harder to hold your knees straight, which leads to knee pain.  If you wear a lower heeled shoe, your thigh muscles don’t have to work as hard to maintain stability making it easier on your knees.  Save the stilettos for special occasions.

The best way to find proper shoes that will provide good support for your knees is to work with a trained footwear specialist.  They can help you choose the right footwear for your foot shape to help limit the impact on your knees when walking and exercising.

Stand up tall with good posture

Slouching is not a friend to your knees.  Poor posture can lead to knee pain.  When we walk stooped over, our head is centered over the shoulders and your shoulders are then centered over your abdomen and pelvis.  The more your body is off-centered, the more you have to compensate for that. 

To promote good posture and lessen the pressure on your knees, having strong core muscles in your abdomen and back are a must.  Exercises such as planks, back extensions, yoga and Pilates can help strengthen the core.  

Here are videos on how to do planks and back extensions