Whether you’re exercising for fitness or playing for the joy of the game, you need healthy knees to get you where you want to go. Unfortunately, knee injuries affect millions of people every year, including young athletes who many mistakenly think are immune to injury.
The joint experts at Apple Medical Centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee see a lot of knee injuries in their practice. They can help get your knees back in shape after an injury, but prefer you protect your knees before the damage is done. They explain why knee injuries occur so frequently and have put together five tips to help you protect your knees.
Why are knees vulnerable to injury?
Your knee joints are the largest in your body and are a complex network of bones, ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissue structures that make it possible for you to walk, run, and jump. You also use your knees when you sit, stand, or climb. It’s this frequent use and complex structure that puts your knees at risk for injury. The good news is that there are several things you can do to help protect your knees from harm.
Five tips for protecting your knees during exercise
Improve the strength and flexibility of the muscles around your knees
The front of your thigh is made up of the quadriceps muscle group. These powerful muscles straighten your leg at the knee joint and extend over the kneecap to help keep it in proper position. The hamstrings muscle group is at the back of your thigh and crosses both the hip and knee joints. These muscles bend the knee. Keeping these muscles flexible and strong helps protect your knees from injury. Make sure you give attention to both your hamstrings and quads so that your strength and flexibility remain balanced.
Give your knees a break with low-impact workouts
Whether you’re training for a marathon or hitting the trails to improve your cardiovascular fitness, high-impact activities such as running can create excessive strain on your knees. Add in a couple of low-impact workouts every week, such as swimming or cycling, to give your knees a rest from the pounding they take.
Check your gear
Wearing the wrong shoes can throw your knees out of alignment. This increases the risk of a knee injury. Reach for shoes that are designed to fit your sport. Check your shoes for wear-and-tear as well since this also affects the type of supportive foundation they provide. Evaluate both the inner cushioning and the soles for signs of overuse.
It’s also vital that you use exercise equipment properly and adjust it as necessary for your height and other measurements. Even riding a stationary bike, for instance, can damage your knees if the pedals and seat are not set at the right height.
Evaluate your form
Exercise is all about moving, but using the wrong form as you squat, run, jump, or even walk can throw your knees into the injury zone. The easiest way to evaluate your form is to check with a specialist who understands the mechanics of movement and how it affects your knee health.
Work with and not against your body
Not every sport is right for every body. If you’re significantly overweight, for instance, a low-impact exercise such swimming can give you the calorie burn you’re looking for and protect your knees from the high-impact stress of running. Age and previous health history are also important factors to consider when choosing an exercise program.
No matter your age, though, stop your play if you notice knee pain. It’s tempting sometimes to try and “work through” an injury, but that can greatly increase the severity of the damage.
If you’re experiencing knee pain or would like more details about how to protect your knees from harm during exercise, schedule a visit with the knee experts at Apple Medical Centers. Call the office, or book your visit online.