Originally Posted @ Conceptual Powers
Almost everyone has experienced some form of knee pain. Whether because of arthritis, excessive pronation (inward roll) of the foot or the overexertion of the muscles that protect this vulnerable joint, our knees take a lot of abuse. In fact, knee arthritis is reported to be the single greatest cause of chronic disability in the U.S. among those age 65 and older.
The good news: The majority of chronic knee pain is in fact avoidable. A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that an exercise and physical therapy routine are just as effective as surgery for relief from the chronic knee pain associated with arthritis. Learning how we can strengthen and stretch key muscles that support the knees, and other ways to protect and take care of our knees, can ultimately prolong the health of this crucial part of our anatomy.
The following are 5 natural recommendations that anyone can do to bring relief and prevent knee pain by addressing some of the root causes.
1. Building the Bottom Up
Research shows that knee injuries, such as common Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tears, often occur when the large hip muscles become weak. ACL tears, which are about three times more likely to occur in women than men, have been shown to lead to other cartilage tears and eventually to knee arthritis later in life.
Lets face it, in our modern age we as a species spend a lot more time sitting on our caboose then we did in previous generations, whether we’re at school, our desk at work, the commute in the car or even at home on the couch watching the tube. The result of such reduced use over time is that our butt muscles become weak. When our largest butt muscle (gluteus maximus) is weak, it causes the pelvis to drop and the upper thigh bone (femur) to tilt inward. This lopsidedness in our core causes a painful downward stress on the hip, knee and ankle every time you take a step. Hip extensions are a very simple yet effective exercise to strengthen the glutes.
2. Stretch Your Muscles to Help Release Painful Tension
When butt muscles become imbalanced and weak because of under-use, the hamstrings and hip adductors (inner thigh muscles) begin to overwork – in order to compensate for the underdeveloped gluteus maximus – which in turn results in abnormal compressive forces on the knee joint. By stretching these support muscles out on a regular basis, you can help keep them from getting tight and causing muscle imbalances.
Stretches are best performed after an exercise routine, when the muscles are warm. Try hamstring and hip adductor stretches.
- Strengthen Your Core
Abdominal weakness is another precursor to chronic knee pain. Lack of core strength will cause our pelvis to tilt forward, creating an excessive low-back curvature which shifts the leg bones inward. Try this out on yourself in the mirror: Over-arch your back so that your stomach pokes out and notice how your legs and knees tilt inward toward the mid-line of your body. Then suck in your tummy and flatten your back and notice how your legs naturally move in the opposite direction.
Strengthening the abdominal muscles helps to keep your spine in a neutral position which places the lower extremities – specifically your knees – in the ideal position for movement without joint compression. Not to mention the relief this can generate for those who suffer with low-back pain!
And no, you don’t have to do crunches…
We have many good options like Pilates that are designed with a strong emphasis on strengthening our core muscles to improve our overall body function. Or try something fun like exercises with an abs ball, an abs workout using a fitness ball, or if you’re looking to step it up with more diversity, you can get a great core workout that includes elements of dance, yoga or kickboxing.
4. Maintain a Healthy Weight
We all understand that the more weight we carry the more pressure we’ll have bearing down on our knees. But the seriousness of this little “duh” fact is that being overweight actually makes men five times more likely (women four times more likely) to develop knee osteoarthritis. One study found that just a 10% decrease in body weight results in a 28% increase in knee function (during activities like walking and climbing steps). In another research study it was found that for every 11 pounds that a woman loses, the risk for knee arthritis dropped by more then 50%.
The problem here is two fold;
The fat in our body actually decreases muscle strength. The excess weight adds pressure to the knee joint.
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, there is in fact an inverse relationship between increased body weight and quadriceps muscle strength: the heavier your body weight, the weaker your knee muscles will be.
This is where the JBIT MedPro really shines. Because it is designed to automatically engage the large leg muscles that support your knees, you can start burning those extra calories needed for weight loss with the exercise program of your choice without putting additional stress on your knees. In fact, the added resistance actually causes the targeted muscles to get stronger.
Other great options are water aerobics, an elliptical trainer or bicycling (just be sure to have the proper seat height).
5. Have a Strong Foundation
My dad once said, “The two most important items in a persons life are their shoes and their bed, because they’ll always be in one or the other ~ Conceptual Powers.”
You may look fantastic in those three-inch stilettos, just be aware that high-heeled shoes will increase the compressive force on your knee joints by 23%. Wearing high-heels stimulates the calf muscles to tighten, which is another common cause of knee pain. Tight calves can cause the foot to pull inward to a position called pronation, which effectively collapses the arch of our foot and makes the lower leg roll inward, putting stress on both the ankle and knee.
So do your feet a favor and embrace the flat shoe trend and stretch out those calves. On the other hand, replacing your workout sneakers frequently is also important – every 300 miles, or three months to a year dependent on your activity level. This is a safe way to prevent wearing a shoe with poor support for your arches and joints.