Whether you’re an active or a self-proclaimed couch potato, your knees take a lot of wear and tear. According to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, more than 10 million people made appointments with their doctors for knee-related pain and injuries in 2010.
And it’s no wonder the number is so high. People are more active in the summer. You see more runners, joggers and walkers. People play ball, hike, garden and mow the lawn. The knee is intimately involved in all of these actions. To make the leg move smoothly, the knee joint works:
With all of these moving parts, one minor misalignment can cause major pain. Because of its complex structure, your knee is susceptible to arthritis, tears, tendinitis, bursitis, sprains, strains and ligament injuries.
How to Avoid Knee Injuries
Here are seven tips to help you avoid becoming a knee-injury statistic this year.
- Protect your knees from the ground up. Wear proper shoes. Feet that strike the ground incorrectly apply abnormal pressures on your knees. Wearing footwear designed for your activity also can help you avoid injury.
- Strengthen your quads and hamstrings. Together, these muscles stabilize your knee. Without strong quadriceps, the knee and knee cap are prone to misalignment. Strong hamstrings protect the back of the knee from hyperextension.
- Stretch your calf muscles. While the thigh muscles provide stability, the muscles in the lower leg allow for movement. Tight calf muscles can prevent the knee from moving freely. Make sure your calf muscles are strong and supple to prevent knee injury.
- Warm up for summer fun. Family reunions and summer picnics mean everyone can get into the game. When inactive people jump into an active game without warming up first, injuries can happen. It’s always a good idea to warm up and stretch before joining the kickball, softball or volleyball game.
- Summer is a great time to get into shape and lose weight. Warm temperatures invite people to get outside to walk, hike, bike and swim. Take advantage of the weather, get active and lose weight. Each pound of weight loss relieves up to three to four pounds of pressure on your knees when you walk or stand.
- Increase activity slowly. Whether you’re 15 or 50, if you start a new walking program, take up mountain biking, or train for your first 5K run, it’s important to start your activity slowly. An incremental training program builds strength and endurance and helps you stay active and pain-free.
- Wear protective knee gear. If you are prone to knee injuries or if your job requires heavy lifting, take precautions and wear a knee brace. Work with a sports medicine specialist, a physical therapist or your primary care clinician to determine the best protection for you.
If you experience knee pain, don’t ignore it. Pain is an indication that something is wrong. After an injury, you should Rest, Ice, apply a Compression bandage and Elevate (RICE) your knee. If the pain is severe or lasts more than a week, you should seek medical attention.
Ignoring knee pain can lead to long-term damage. To help keep you moving, contact a knee specialist with Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Service.