How to Prevent Knee Injuries: The Ultimate Guide
Your knees are two of the most critical joints in your entire body. The knee joint is the largest joint in your body, joining your upper and lower legs. It allows you to run, jump, walk, rotate, and pivot.
How can you prevent injuries to this critical joint? Weight management, pre-habilitation routines, and lifestyle choices all can keep your knees healthy. Keep reading to learn in detail how to prevent knee injuries.
How Does Your Knee Work?
Without your knees, your lower legs do not work efficiently. An injured knee greatly compromises your movement.
Your knees consist of four different bones. The patella, commonly known as your knee cap, sits in the shallow groove between your thigh bone and your two lower leg bones. All four of these bones make up your knee joint.
Four main bands of stretchy but strong connective tissue connect your thigh bone to one of your lower leg bones, creating a hinge in the middle of your leg. Because your knee joint can both bend and swivel simultaneously, medical professionals refer to the knee joint as a swivel joint.
The four stretchy tissues which connect your bones are called ligaments. Similar stretchy tissue called tendons connects the muscles surrounding your knee joint to the bones that make up the joint.
The quadriceps tendons are two of the major tendons, connecting the muscle in the front of your thigh to your knee cap. The patellar tendons are tendons that join your knee caps (your patella) to the lower leg bone (the tibia).
These two sets of tendons allow you to both straighten and bend your knee. The quadriceps muscle which is in the front of your upper leg and the hamstring muscle which is in the back of your leg work together to stabilize and mobilize your knee joint.
In addition to bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles, the knee joint has cartilage called the meniscus. A C-shaped piece of cartilage curves around the inside and outside of the knee joint.
Bursae, fluid-filled sacs, surround the knee as well, acting as shock absorbers for the knee. Ligaments and tendons slide across the meniscus and bursae.
All of these parts work together to make the knee function smoothly. When one part breaks down, the entire knee is compromised. So, to keep your knee healthy, you need to protect all of these parts of the knee.
How to Prevent Knee Injuries
Knees wear down. Regardless of how well you care for your knees, they do wear out. Surgeons are now seeing people in their 40s in addition to older patients needing knee replacements.
So don't worry when you experience something like clicky knees. This just means your knees are revealing your age.
You can do specific things to keep your knees healthier for longer, though, and avoid the pain of knee injury recovery.
Drop Some Pounds
Excess weight puts unnecessary strain on all of your joints. Imagine a truck with a heavy load. Picture the axel sagging and the bearings groaning.
That's your body when you're carrying around extra weight.
Experts say each pound of extra weight you carry puts an extra four pounds of pressure on each knee. This means that if you lose just ten pounds, your knees will experience forty pounds less pressure.
Plus, when you lose weight, you have less knee pain. Studies are showing that a significant weight loss of 20 percent or more leads to a 25 percent reduction in pain. So if you're overweight and have achy knees, start by focusing on weight loss.
Evaluate Your Shoe Choice
There's no doubt that high heels are cute and sometimes even sexy. But they're also the culprit for a variety of joint problems from feet to toes to knees to hips.
High heels tend to shorten and thus tighten your calf muscles. As a result, the arches of your feet can collapse, causing your foot to roll inward. The inward movement will then move up, and you will feel stress on your ankles and knees.
You should wear shoes with a 1-inch or shorter heel. Make sure they fit well. Your foot should not slide in any direction when you wear shoes.
Your shoes should also have a rubber, non-slip soles that keep you from slipping. If you run or walk, keep track of the mileage on your shoes. Experts say you should replace your shoes every 300 to 400 miles.
If you're looking at getting into running or walking, go to an expert. Visit your local running shoe store. A great store will have diagnostic tests that will fit the right shoe with your foot so you can keep your knees healthy.
Sometimes a sore knee just needs a new pair of shoes with the right balance of arch and sole support.
Good shoes will promote correct leg alignment and balance. Your knees will stay in line with the rest of your leg and stay healthy.
Strengthen Your Core
You may wonder what your abs and butt have to do with your knees. Everything. They have everything to do with your knee joints.
Your knee is just the joint, but all of the muscles surrounding it keep that joint stable. Your quadriceps and hamstrings, calves and shins, all work together to keep that knee in line.
Knee pain often stems from a weak core initially. Your core holds your entire frame together, so if you can have a strong butt, abdominal muscles, and hips, then you'll have stronger, more stable knees.
All shock that your system absorbs goes through your core. If you have a strong core, then it will absorb more shock and protect your knees.
Great posture will help keep your knees healthy. So focus on not bending over throughout the day, but rather keep your back straight, butt tucked in, and abs engaged, even as you sit at a desk or commute to work.
Keep your head centered over your shoulders and your shoulders centered over your belly and pelvis. This focus will keep your body in line and your joints healthier.
Basic exercises like planks and back extensions performed daily will strengthen your core muscles. Here's how to do these two basic moves:
- Planks: lie on the ground face down. Point your toes to the floor, and put your forearms slightly in front of you, keeping your elbows at a 90-degree angle. Tighten your stomach and butt muscles, and then slowly lift your body off the ground, keeping yourself elevated for 15 to 45 seconds.
- Back Extensions: Stay face down on the ground after you've completed your plank, and stretch your arms in front of you, like you're superman. Keep your hips on the floor and lift your arms, head, and shoulders. Keep this hold for 5 to 10 seconds.
Repeat both of these exercises at least three times, building to five times every day. You will see your core get stronger, and your knees will stay healthier.
Pre-Hab Your Knee
Rehabilitation takes place after you've injured your knee. You can complete pre-hab exercises, though, before you experience an injury. These basic moves will prevent knee pain and injury.
Picture your knee. You have a series of tendons and ligaments connected muscles to bones and bones to bones. If those muscles are tight, your knee will hurt.
To prevent a knee injury, you need to stretch all of the muscles surrounding your knee and beyond. All of the muscles and joints from your hips to your ankles are connected, so treat the entire leg as one system that needs stretching.
Begin with your hips, and then move onto your quadriceps and hamstrings. Complete basic stretches like lunge stretches and gentle toe touches. Then move onto your calves, ankles, and feet.
Stretches can be either static or dynamic. When we think about stretching, we usually think of static stretching, where a person holds a particular pose for a given amount of time, allowing a muscle to stretch and release. When you hold a static stretch, hold it for 10 to 30 seconds.
Dynamic stretching happens when a person runs through a full range of motion before an activity. The stretch will look like a slower version of the activity, to warm up a joint.
To keep your knees healthy, run through a series of both static and dynamic stretches. Stretching not only keeps your knees healthy, but it just feels really good.
Stretching matters even more as you age, so do not neglect this simple activity.
Warm-up and Cool Down
Whether you're 18 or 80, you need to warm up your muscles before any activity. This is where dynamic stretching plays a part as well. Your warm-up should begin with static stretching and then move into dynamic stretches.
Dynamic warm-ups should raise your body temperature. You should feel your heart rate go up a bit, and you should be moving the parts of your body that will move during the activity you're preparing for.
A runner's warmup will look like light jogging that eventually moves into strides or short sprints. Your warm-up should mimic the light movements of your activity. So you may do jumping jacks, hopping motions, or just specific drills.
You'll know you're warmed up once you've broken a sweat.
Once you've completed your activity, you need to cool down. Do not just stop what you're doing and collapse on the ground. Just quitting the activity will cause your muscles to stiffen up more quickly and inflammation to follow.
After you're done with a jog, a power walk, a swim, or whatever you've done, do the same activity but at a much slower pace, keeping your breath under control. In the same way that you attempted to rev up your engine, you're attempting to cool it down.
You should absolutely stretch in the moments before your activity. To keep yourself healthy, keep stretching even when you're not preparing for an activity. Maintain a basic stretching routine that you complete every day before you go to bed or when you wake up in the morning.
As we age, we lose flexibility. To keep your knees healthy, you need to keep your hips and ankles flexible. Plus, stretching just feels so good.
Athletes with a zealous goal often believe that more training means they'll improve even more quickly. Little can lead to an injury more quickly, though, than overtraining.
Think about your athletic history. If you're prone to lower leg injuries, for example, perhaps it's not a good time to pick up running. Take on swimming or cycling to keep your knees healthy.
Keep your long-term future in mind as you strive for big goals. You might want to run a marathon, but you also need to be able to bend over and pick up your grandchildren.
How to Stop Knee Pain
When you experience knee pain, you may not necessarily be experiencing a knee injury. Quell the pain with a basic RICE routine first. Rest your knee, ice it, compress it, and elevate it.
Do this for a few days until the aching subsides. Then begin to focus on strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee so you can resume regular living. A few daily moves will keep these muscles stronger.
Is Kneeling Bad For Your Knees?
Kneeling definitely puts more pressure on your knee joints than simply standing or walking. But your knees were designed for this type of movement, so if you keep your muscles and joints healthy, you can still kneel even as you age.
However, as your knees age, you need to care for them even more. So avoid spending time on your knees without a knee pad or cushion. Repetitive kneeling on a hard surface without any cushioning can compress your joint and damage the bursae.
The end result of this type of knee damage is bursitis, a condition that requires a physician's attention. If your job or hobby requires you to be on your knees regularly, then wear proper knee protection.
Protect Your Knees
You now know how to prevent knee injuries. Maintain your weight, stay healthy by warming up and cooling down regularly, and protect your knees.
For all of your knee protection needs, contact us. We'd love to help you.