Be kind to all of your joints— but be especially kind your knees. Our knees are one of the most vulnerable joints in our bodies. When you consider that every step we take puts the equivalent of 1½ times our entire body weight on each of our knee joints then protecting them becomes even more important. Here are five ways to do just that.
Resolve to shed a few pounds
Why lose weight? Your knees will have a smaller load to bear. Every extra pound you gain puts four times the stress on your knees1. But the flip side is that even a small amount of weight loss will give your knees relief. Research has shown that losing as little as 11 pounds may improve your joint health and cut your risk of osteoarthritis of the knee by 50%1. Not only does weight loss reduce the stress on your knees but also reduces inflammation. Inflamed joints, if not resolved, can lead to osteoarthritis and chronic knee pain. You can reduce inflammation by simply not overeating.
Knee pain is one of the most common complaints for those who are obese or overweight. In the United States, around two-thirds of citizens are overweight or obese with a BMI (body mass index) of 25 and higher. Weight loss has numerous benefits, including reducing the risk of
- Heart disease,
- Some cancers,
- High blood pressure, and
Build up your bones
Boost your bone health by giving them all the nutrients and minerals they need. Think along the lines of calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and phosphorus. A diet that is rich in these minerals will help keep your bones strong, healthy, mobile. It can also lower your risk of osteoporosis. These nutrients can be found in foods like
- green leafy vegetables,
- figs, and
For those that aren’t able to get their daily recommended intake of these nutrients then consider adding joint supplements to your diet.
But are strong bones important for joint health? Our bones, joints, and muscles all work together to keep us moving. Without strong bones, our joints can become weak and stiff. It is important to eat a diet that supports healthy bones in order to keep our joints, specifically knees, moving and pain-free.
If you are taking supplements then be supplement smart
Supplementing your diet is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals you may lack on a daily basis. But not all supplements are created equal. Some are targeted towards healthy bones and joints while others are more general in nature. Think about joint specific supplements like some of the following:
Glucosamine. This nutrient is an essential structural component of healthy cartilage. Glucosamine can provide much-desired relief from mild to moderate knee pain and other joint pain.
Chondroitin. This nutrient is also an essential part of healthy cartilage. It can help reduce inflammation and stiffness.
MSM. This nutrient helps keep your knees and other joints flexible which is an essential part of overall joint health.
Quercetin. A powerful nutrient that can help reduce joint pain and stiffness and reduce cartilage break down.
Again, not all supplements are created equal. Many supplements are created with filler ingredients. So before you make a purchase, do some research on the brand. Do they have any science available to support their claims?
Figure out your fitness
Think about exercises that are great for building (and maintaining) your knee strength, flexibility, and mobility. The knee is a delicate joint that requires ongoing strengthening to maintain its bone density, especially as we get older. Swimming, aerobic classes, yoga, and tai chi are exercises that can help with knee mobility.
If none of these activities are for you then keep doing the exercise that you love—but make sure you protect your knees by always using good footwear and following strict post-exercise aftercare habits. This can help you avoid things like shin splints and tendonitis.
Exercise is simply an important part of a healthy life. But it can be a great treatment option for knee pain and problems. Your muscles help hold your joints in place—exercise helps keep those muscles strong and supportive.
As mentioned above, swimming is a great way to exercise but not put a strain on your joints. Some of the specific benefits are:
- Water supports your weight
- A comfortable pool temperature will feel good on your knees, aching or not
- You can test run different exercises
- You can increase endurance and flexibility without strain (HARVARD)
Don’t forget to stretch
Although you can’t stretch your knees you can definitely stretch the muscles, tendons, and ligaments around the knee that support the joint. Exercise on its own is great but combined with stretching, it’s even better. One of the best times to stretch is after your workout, as part of your cool-down. This is when your muscles are most warm and pliable, which makes it much easier to stretch and reach new levels of flexibility.
Wear supportive shoes
Bad shoes put extra stress and strain on your knees; good shoes put less stress and strain on your knees. If you already experience knee pain and discomfort, it is time to invest in a good pair of shoes. Here are a few tips for picking out a quality pair of shoes.
Well cushioned. Not only will well-cushioned shoes feel more comfortable but they will absorb the shock of your foot hitting the ground and make it easier to walk on hard surfaces.
Athletic. You don’t have to be an athlete to wear athletic shoes. Shoes that are designed for running and other exercises that provide stability and control of how you step. How you step greatly affects the pressure put on your knees.
Ditch the heels. Though fashionable, these shoes will kill your knees. They put too much pressure on your legs and knees. In a study conducted by Harvard, women who wear heels were found to have 14% more pressure on their knees.
Add some sole. A firm sole can help support your arches and prevent knee pain. Worn out soles will do the opposite. You can even have a sole fitted to exactly how you need it to be. If your shoes have bad soles, consider buying sole inserts.
Develop better posture
Your mom told you for years to stand and sit up straight. Did you listen? If not, listen now. Your posture can make or break your knee health. If your posture is not centered, your muscles and joints have to overcorrect and overcompensate. Your head should be centered over your shoulders and your shoulders over your abs and hips.
You can support good posture by strengthening your core and your lower back muscles. Doing exercises such as planks, yoga, Pilates, and leg and back extensions. Here are a few other ways you can improve your posture:
- Find the right mattress for you
- When you sit, keep your feet touching the floor
- Avoid sitting in the same position for extended time periods
- Let your arms hang naturally at their sides when walking or standing
- Try not to sleep on your stomach
- When using your phone, hold it straight in front of you.
- Don’t slouch and slump
Visit a physical therapist
There are numerous benefits to meeting with a physical therapist (PT). A PT treats many different ailments and conditions, such as:
- Muscle weakness
- Chronic pain, such as joint pain
- Motor vehicle accident or injury
- Back pain and stiffness
- Knee or hip replacement surgery recovery/preparation
If you suffer from knee pain, a physical therapist can provide instruction on how to strengthen or loosen your joints, decrease pain, and stretch effectively. They can help increase mobility and flexibility. PTs understand the kinetics of your body and can help you resolve or lessen the knee problems you are having. A bonus perk of seeing a PT is the amount of time you have at a consultation. Often, when you meet with your doctor, you see them for 15-20 minutes. With a PT, you often can have up to an hour of devoted time. This does not mean you should not see your physician—but a PT can give you the additional time you need.
Don’t sit too much
Sitting in the same position for long periods of time is not good for your knees. Especially if you already suffer from knee pain and discomfort. This can be tricky if you work a desk job. Suffering from knee pain at work can make a long day even longer.
Sitting for long hours can actually cause psoriatic arthritis, causing stiffness, pain, and discomfort in your knees and other joints. If you are in the beginning stages of knee pain or have been experiencing it for a while, here are some things you can do to avoid sitting all day (especially if you work a desk job):
- Changing your sitting position or posture every 30 minutes
- Take a few minutes to stretch
- Go for a quick walk
- Stand up while you eat lunch or take a phone call
- Sit with your legs stretched out and straight instead of bent for a few minutes
- Do some leg lifts at your desk
- While holding the back of your chair, stand using only one leg
All of these exercises will help stabilize and strengthen your knees, giving them relief from pain.
Talk to your doctor
It’s never a bad idea to see your doctor if you are having consistent knee pain—minor or major. Even though a lot of knee pain can be tended at home, your doctor can make sure there are no serious underlying issues. He/she can also give you tips on how to treat your knee pain and can prescribe any necessary medications.
Is there a specific type of doctor you should see?
Primary Care Physician. This is the doctor you go see for the flu or for your regular checkups. They can help address some of your knee problems or refer you to a specialist for your specific issues and diagnostic testing.
Orthopedic Surgeon. An orthopedic surgeon is specifically trained in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of musculoskeletal diseases. This means they specialize in the treatment of your joints, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. They can help create a treatment plan for your joint pain.
Physical Therapist. A physical therapist specializes in improving your mobility and overall function. They can help you create a strengthening and exercise program that will better support your knees. They can also perform techniques such as manual therapy, electrical stimulation, light therapy, and therapeutic exercise.
Sports Medicine Specialist. These specialists are trained to take care of athletes and active lifestyles. They can treat athletic injuries. As such, this specialist can help treat knee pain caused by athletic overuse or injury.
Rheumatologists. If your knee pain is arthritis related, you can visit a rheumatologist. This specialist can help diagnose and treat arthritis-related conditions and discomforts.