Knee pain and knee injuries are extremely common in the general population. Tears to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) are common in turning/twisting sports like skiing, soccer and football. I have three friends in their early 30’s who all had ACL surgery last year alone! Menisus tear are also very common and affect jocks, couch potatoes and moms alike. These can often brew from years of overuse, poor biomechanics in sports or just silent deterioration of connective tissue. And let’s not forget our good friend, osteoarthritis. I’ve had some patients present with this even in their late 20’s….so it’s never too early or late to develop arthritic knee joints.
The knee has two basic movements: flexion and extension. However the joint also allows for a bit of internal and external rotation that is insufficient enough to protect it from some of the torquing forces that get placed upon it in life and sporting activities. Our knee muscles function to propel our bodies forward in movement and also help cushion the impact of movement. The best way for you to help keep your knees healthy is to maintain the balance and strength of those supporting muscles.
Here are some quick chiropractic tips on how to prevent knee injuries and maintain good knee health:
- Avoid prolonged squatting, for example while gardening or doing housechores. Extreme flexion of the knee places alot of stress on the cartilage and connective tissues in the knee joint.
- Ladies, avoid heels that are over one inch as much as possible. The change in angle alters your centre of mass and subsequently puts more stress on the front of the knee joint and tendon. The occasional wedding or dinner party will warrant something high but keep them in the closet day-to-day. Your knees, hips and back will thank you for it down the road!
- Don’t prop you feet up on a table or ottoman without some kind of support under your knees. Just like extreme flexion is bad for your knees, hyperextension of the knee in this ‘relaxed’ position is also not advisable.
- Don’t sit with one leg tucked underneath you or sit on the floor with your legs to the side. There is too much rotation torque applied to your knees in these positions. It was fine when you were a kid but now that you are older and less flexible, those joints can’t handle it!
- Runners will kill me for saying this but I’ll say it anyway! I don’t advise running as your main form of exercise or fitness because it is simply too much pounding on your knees and rest of your body. There are a lot of other way to stay fit or lose weight that don’t create such a toll on your body. At the very least, try not to run more than every other day, run on softer surfaces and cross-train on your off days. Competitive runners…keep doing what you’re doing because I know you won’t listen to me anyway!
- Wear properly fitting athletic shoes for whatever sport you participate in. This also means that you shouldn’t wear running shoes to play soccer or basketball in, nor should your wear basketball shoes to run in. Shoes are designed for specific purposes and are best used in the appropriate court, field or pavement.
- Lose some weight if necessary. In climbing stairs, an extra 50 lbs of weight translates into over 150 lbs of extra pressure on your knees!
- Invest in a foam roller to perform self-myofascial release in key muscles such as your quads, hamstrings, ITB and calves. By releasing excessive soft tissue tension around the knee joint, there will be less pressure on the joint when doing any activity.
When looking at knee pain, the common conditions you may hear thrown around at the office, in the gym or at home include:
- ACL/MCL/mensicus tears,
- Jumper’s Knee, Runner’s Knee, Patellofemoral Pain,
- IT band syndrome,
- quad/hamstring pull,
- knee arthritis
Whichever one of these you may or may not have, you should always see a qualified health professional to have it assessed properly. Most of the time rehab therapies, manual treatments and properly addressing muscle imbalances will help you get back to normal in short order while surgery and injections should only be viewed as last resorts.
What is the best medicine?…PREVENTION!