Knowing your knees are susceptible to injury is one thing, but how do you care for them? Well, for the more active there’s a few fairly obvious things – such as don’t exercise on hard surfaces. That means not running on concrete footpaths and bitumen roads. Jumping up and down – skipping – or playing ball sports on similarly hard pavements is also a no, no.
If you already participate in a high impact sport or exercise, don’t take up another one. Keep all your other physical activities low impact to reduce the stress on your knee – try swimming or cycling instead.
Rest – if your knees get a hard day of working out or sport, then give them a break afterwards. Take a load off whenever you can, and if your knees are already active, avoid squats, leg extensions and leg presses. Keep your legs elevated while resting – a pillow works well – to stop fluid building up around the knees. You can also apply icepacks after activities to reduce any inflammation you may have caused – but remember not to have an ice pack on for any longer than twenty minutes.
And then there’s strapping your knees. Everyone is doing it these days. Breathable self-adhesive strapping tape when applied properly will reduce twisting in the knee and hold the joint tighter in cases where ligament damage has previously occured. But make sure you consult a professional therapist to learn how to strap your knee – there’s no point getting it wrong and causing yourself the injuries you were trying to avoid.
Even if you’re not an exercise addict or sports whiz, knee health and you is still important. The best thing anyone can do for their knees is manage body weight. The closer you can get to your body’s healthy weight range the less damage you are likely to do to your knees. Remember – every kilogram you put on is another three kilograms of impact for your knees.
Age is also against us – but a well cared for knee can last as long as you. As we get older, the cells in the cartilage forming the menisci slow their replacement rate, meaning injuries can take longer to heal. The menisci can also be worn away unevenly if the knee is unbalanced, in exactly the same way an unbalanced car tyre can wear on one side. An unbalanced knee could be the result of an injury several years earlier, so if you have injured your knee in the past, be aware of issues that may occur in the future. But most importantly – despite the injuries, age and pain, don’t stop using your knee. Knees need to be active. Immobilising your knee to avoid pain is likely to make things worse – as unused knee muscles quickly atrophy – weakening the joint further and making the knee a candidate for even more injuries. So if you want to keep it…make sure you use it.
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