The majority of people have experienced some type of knee pain. Whether it’s caused by arthritis, excessive foot pronation or overuse of the muscles that protect this vulnerable joint, our knees sure work hard. In fact, knee arthritis is the greatest cause of chronic disability among U.S. adults age 65 and older.
The good news is that chronic knee pain is avoidable. The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that exercise and physical therapy can be just as effective as surgery to relieve chronic knee pain caused by arthritis. The tips listed below can help patients improve and prolong the health of their knees:
- Strengthen your gluteus maximus
When the gluteus maximus is weak, it causes the pelvis to drop and the upper thigh bone (femur) to fall inward. This imbalance creates painful downward stress on the hip, knee and ankle when you walk.
One helpful exercise which to strengthen the “glutes” are hip extensions – we suggest adding those to your regular routine.
- Stretch the muscles that support your knees
We tend to sit too much which causes the gluteus maximus muscles to atrophy. This in turn causes the hamstrings and hip adductors to become overworked (as they try to compensate for the underdeveloped gluteus maximus) and compresses the knee joint. By stretching out these support muscles, you decrease the chance that they’ll get tight and cause muscle imbalances. So remember, as you strengthen naturally weak muscles like the glutes, also stretch supporting muscles like the inner thigh muscles.
- Work out your core muscles
Weak abdominal muscles will cause your pelvis to tilt forward, creating excessive low-back curvature and shifting the leg bones inward.
Strengthening the core helps to keep your back in a neutral spine position and places the lower extremities — specifically the knees — in the best possible position for movement without joint compression.
- Maintain a healthy body weight
Being overweight increases the chances of developing knee osteoarthritis. This is because fat decreases muscle strength, and excess body weight adds strain to knee joints. In fact, there’s an inverse relationship between body weight and quadriceps muscle strength: the higher your body weight, the weaker your knee muscles.
- Care for your feet
Wearing high-heeled shoes increase the compressive force on your knee joints by 23%. Wearing heels also encourages tight calf muscles, another common cause of knee pain.
Wear flat shoes and stretch out your calves. In addition, replace your workout sneakers frequently. This is a safe way to avoid wearing a shoe with poor cushioning support for your arches and joints.