How to Prevent Knee Pain | Smarter
First off, what causes knee pain?
The most common causes of knee pain are related to aging, injury, or overuse, according to the website of Johns Hopkins Medicine, a Baltimore hospital.
For example, knee problems can result from osteoarthritis, a wear and tear condition that occurs when knee cartilage deteriorates with age and use. You can also have knee pain from rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that causes inflammation of the joints, including your knees.
Injuries that can cause knee pain include a sprained or pulled knee ligament or muscle, or a torn cartilage. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, it can also result from tendonitis, the overuse and inflammation of your tendons during certain activities like running, jumping, or biking.
What factors might contribute to the risk of knee pain?
Weakness and underuse of the muscles that support the knees are common causes of inflammation, which can lead to pain, says Ashley V. Austin, MD, an exercise medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
When our core muscles, glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings are weak, we engage in compensatory movements that put abnormal stress on our joints, including our knees, says Cody C. Wyles, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Vigorous activities like running or high-intensity interval training, which are short intense workouts alternated with short recovery periods, can also contribute to knee pain if done without proper training, Ashley says.
This is especially the case when these high-impact activities are paired with shoes that don’t support you, poor nutrition, and repeated exposure to the same activity over time without adequate rest.
How can we help prevent knee pain?
A practice. Staying active is crucial for knee health. You can try exercises like glute bridges, one-leg deadlifts, and eccentric sideboard leg curls, which can strengthen and stabilize your lower body and the areas around your knees, says Dan McGinley, trainer at Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning, a fitness and training facility in Woburn, Mass .
You should listen to your body and avoid exercises that hurt your knees, says Dan. And in addition to strength training, it’s important to engage in a variety of activities that involve cardiovascular fitness, stability, and mobility, says Cody.
Cardiovascular training includes anything that increases your heart rate. Stability exercises with balance exercises and core strengthening can be easily integrated at the end of a workout. Don’t forget to stretch, too, because tight muscles tire more easily and can lead to knee injuries.
Knee pain can result from increasing the load on your knees faster than your knees can accommodate, such as B. by running too often or fast without adequate recovery time. So make sure your exercise program gradually increases activity in a safe and effective way, says Kelcie Wittman, PT, an exercise physiotherapy specialist in Colorado Springs, Colo. and spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association.
If you’re already in pain, avoid high-impact activities like running, jumping, deep squats, and squats. Instead, try low-impact activities, such as B. walking on soft surfaces like railroad tracks, grass, and trails, says Ashley. Other options include swimming, aqua aerobics, tai chi, modified yoga, recumbent biking, and training on an elliptical trainer.
If you’re looking to buy an elliptical trainer, here are the best elliptical trainers of 2023, according to our reviews (available to CR members).
Use the correct form. During activities like squats, lunges, and climbing stairs, be careful not to lean too far forward and arch your upper body forward, says Jeremy A. Alland, MD, an exercise medicine physician at Midwest Orthopedics at Rush, an orthopedic clinic in Chicago .
Instead of putting all the pressure on the front of our feet, we should position ourselves more towards the middle of our feet or our heels and keep our backs upright, says Jeremy.
Wear supportive shoes for daily activity and exercise, says Ashley. According to Penn Medicine, when it comes to your running shoes, you want to make sure they fit well and have good cushioning. And if you have flat feet, you might want to try special shoe inserts and an arch support.
Maintain a healthy weight. Excess pounds are one of the most common reasons for knee pain and can contribute to arthritis. To better track your fitness progress or body weight, check out our reviews of the best fitness trackers and bathroom scales (available to CR members).
Physiotherapeutic treatments. If you already have knee pain, physical therapists can provide personalized information about the best options for relief and identify habits that may be contributing to the pain you are not aware of, Kelcie says.
Bonus Reading: How to treat pain in knees, feet, back and head. And if you want to do strength training, here are four simple strength training moves.