As two of the most complex and reliable joints in your body, your knees are built to function flawlessly on demand and under pressure. They support 80% of your weight when you stand and absorb an impact force that’s one-and-a-half times your weight when you walk (or much more, if you happen to be carrying excess body weight).
No matter what its cause, chronic knee pain can slow you down and make routine tasks more difficult or even impossible. While a proper diagnosis and the right therapy can work wonders for getting you back on your feet, keeping your knee pain under control requires ongoing effort and extra self-care.
Just as healthy lifestyle choices and good habits have the power to keep chronic knee pain at bay, bad habits can aggravate your underlying problem and intensify your pain. Let’s explore the kinds of habits that can make knee pain worse, so you can reverse harmful patterns once and for all.
You sit too much
It’s only natural to want to rest a sore, achy knee following an acute injury, but when it comes to taking care of chronic knee pain, inactivity can be your worst enemy. That’s because sitting too much promotes joint inflammation, decreases joint lubrication, and causes the muscles and connective tissues that surround, support, and stabilize the joint to weaken.
What’s worse, being sedentary makes it harder to maintain a healthy body weight. Yet carrying even just a few extra pounds can substantially increase the amount of pressure your knees are under, exacerbating knee pain and increasing the odds that you’ll stay on the couch.
Getting regular exercise, on the other hand, promotes optimal joint lubrication, eases chronic inflammation, alleviates pain, increases joint range of motion, increases mobility, and prevents unintended weight gain.
It doesn’t have to be overly complicated, either. Simply go for a 10-minute walk two or three times each day, or choose a low-impact activity like cycling, yoga, swimming, or water aerobics.
Your workout is off-balance
Healthy, pain-free knees require a balanced fitness plan, not a one-dimensional routine that focuses on just one or two activities. You also need to strike a balance between working out too hard and not hard enough.
If you go for a 5-mile run each morning or crank up the resistance and climb a super-steep hill during your indoor cycling class every evening, your favorite workout may be causing undue stress and strain on your knees.
Scale back and relieve the pressure by varying your routine — shorten your run a bit, find softer trails or an indoor track to use, and dial the resistance down a bit when you climb those imaginary hills on your indoor bike. Don’t forget to vary your routine, too; resistance exercises and flexibility training are just as important as your aerobic workout.
You neglect proper form
Proper form and technique are also crucial to protecting your knees. Having proper form means you understand what good posture and alignment feel like, while demonstrating proper technique means you know how to perform an exercise safely and correctly.
If you’re a runner, you can protect your knees by learning the best way to land each step, as well as how to efficiently propel your weight against gravity to move forward with ease. If you’re a cyclist, you can protect your knees by positioning your feet correctly on the pedals and learning how to engage both your quadriceps and your hamstrings for efficient pedaling.
Whatever activity you happen to be engaged in — even if you’re just helping a friend move a heavy piece of furniture — keep your knees protected by consciously considering your posture, form, and technique from start to finish.
You wear the wrong shoes
Wearing tight, high, unsupportive, uncomfortable, or worn-out shoes may be a common cause of foot pain, but it also contributes to knee pain.
Why? Your feet, ankles, knees, and hips form a powerful kinetic chain that shapes and directs the way your body moves. Wearing shoes that don’t offer optimal support can give rise to the kind of poor biomechanics that cause knee problems.
Ditch the flip-flops, clogs, and high heels and opt for comfortable, supportive shoes as often as possible. And if you’re an avid walker, hiker, or runner, make sure your shoes are up to the task. Some athletic shoes are designed for stability, while others provide more neutral support. Ask an expert to help you find the shoe that best fits your foot and your preferred activity.
To learn more about the ways you can keep your knees healthy, strong, and pain-free today and every day for years to come, call our office in Chattanooga, Tennessee, or use the easy online tool to schedule an appointment.