The knee is the largest and one of the most complex joints in the human body. It is also one of the most commonly injured joints among athletes, weekend warriors, and laid-back folks alike. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, knee injuries account for more than 10 million doctor’s visits each year. Many of these injuries could have easily been avoided with simple preventive measures like warm-up exercise, knee braces, and proper alignment. If you work out regularly or even just occasionally, you may want to pay special attention to your knee health to prevent fractures, strains, and tears from happening to you. Once pain and injury do happen, restoring knee functioning is difficult and may sometimes involve surgery. Now that you know why you should take care of your knees when working out, here is a couple of ways you can keep those joints healthy.
No matter what your workout routine involves, be that running, cycling, yoga, or weight-lifting, warming up is key to injury prevention. Warm up exercises are usually gentle forms of stretching, bending, or jumping, and their goal is to raise your body temperature. As explained in an article published a long time ago in Sports Medicine, a raised body temperature enhances physiological processes important for a good workout. When you do warm up exercises, your body sends more oxygen to muscle tissue; increases blood flow to the muscles; speeds up the metabolic rate; reduces muscle viscosity; speeds up nervous system impulses, and increases nerve receptor sensitivity just to give a few examples. But to put it simply, warming up prepares your muscles and joints for a rigorous workout and that makes them less prone to injury. To prep, your body for a workout routine, five minutes of warm-up exercises is all you need.
Know the rules of proper alignment
Knee injuries often occur as a result of poor alignment of the knee with the upper body. This is especially true for runners and weight lifters. One way to prevent poor alignment from ruining your knees and even causing some types of arthritis is by strengthening the structure that gives your knees support. Experts suggest strengthening leg and buttock muscles to improve leg biomechanics which was found to be effective in preventing knee injuries. Leg presses and squats are good examples of exercises that strengthen the legs and glutes. Another thing to keep in mind if you are a runner or jogger is to learn the correct way to run. The NHS suggests keeping your head straight, shoulders straight but relaxed, arms at 90 degrees and your upper body leaned slightly forward. As far as your foot strike goes, most people hit the ground with their heels and roll to the ball of their foot as they go. However, some suggest that you should land mid-foot when running while others debate if forcing an unnatural foot strike does more damage than good. To play it safe, we suggest striking your foot in a way you feel puts the least pressure on your knees.
Never overdo it!
Another common cause of joint problems like patella fractures, dislocations, ACL injuries, tendon tears, and rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis is joint overuse. Many professional athletes tend to ignore the pain in their knees caused by overuse which puts them at greater risk of serious injuries like the ones listed above. Giving your knees and surrounding tissue time to recover is important if you want to avoid spending time in the hospital recovering from a serious injury that can affect your mobility and flexibility. However, some amount of pain following a workout is to be expected. As a general rule of thumb, if the pain in your knee is preventing you from doing things you normally can do, that’s a good sign that it’s time to see a doctor. Otherwise, apply a cold compress after a workout and follow up with a warm compress later on. This will help reduce any inflammation in your knee and help with the recovery.
Respect your knee’s limits
The knee serves a double function: it needs to provide flexibility during walking and bending, and it also provides stability during standing. This means that your knee already has its fair share of challenges it needs to put up on a daily basis. Keep that in mind and don’t torture your knees with impossible squatting angles, weights you can’t handle, and dangerous knee is locking during leg pressing and leg extensions. Leg press or leg extension movements should never involve complete knee locking because this causes a transfer of weight from muscle tissue to the knee joint. On the other hand, not locking your knees puts the majority of the weight and pressure on the leg muscles.
While exercising is considered a sure and safe way to maintain good health, it does put you at greater risk of injury. The most common type of injuries from poor exercising techniques and a lack of preventive strategies are knee injuries. Knee injuries involve damage to the knee joint and surrounding tissue, and they happen for a variety of different reasons. Learning the correct techniques to prep and exercise is key to knee injury prevention as is giving your knees some rest and respect. In addition to the tips provided here, those at risk of knee injury can benefit from wearing knee braces and taking joint supplements.