Knee pain does not just get in the way of your exercise routine; it can affect your whole life. Normal daily activities can even seem like a chore when your movement is limited or you have to avoid certain tasks due to pain. Did you know that your everyday activities could be worsening knee pain? There are several triggers of knee pain, and not all are from old age and arthritis.
And knee pain is not limited to the elderly. People of all ages can suffer from knee pain. Everyone from high school athletes, marathon runners, office workers and nursing home residents can develop knee pain. Arthritis, injuries, cartilage damage and more can put you on the sidelines with extreme pain.
Before you go on diagnosing yourself (we have all done it), it is important to see a doctor or physical therapist to give you a professional diagnosis. Without one, you could be doing more harm than good. Is it just a temporary ache or is it a nagging injury that just doesn’t seem to heal? Getting the right diagnosis is extremely important but so is how you treat the pain.
Without even knowing it, there are some things you could be doing that are making your knee pain worse.
Anatomy of the Knee
Joints are the areas where 2 or more bones meet. Most joints are mobile, allowing the bones to move. The knee is basically 2 long leg bones held together by muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Each bone end is covered with a layer of cartilage that absorbs shock and protects the knee.
There are 2 groups of muscles involved in the knee, including the quadriceps muscles (located on the front of the thighs), which straighten the legs, and the hamstring muscles (located on the back of the thighs), which bend the leg at the knee.
The knee consists of the following:
- Femur: Thighbone or upper leg bone
- Tibia: Shin bone or larger bone of the lower leg
- Patella: The kneecap
- Cartilage: Tissue that covers the surface of a bone at a joint. Cartilage helps reduce the friction of movement within a joint
- Synovial membrane: Specialized connective tissue that lines the inner surface of capsules of synovial joints and tendon sheath
- Ligament: Tough, elastic connective tissue that surrounds the joint to give support and limits the joint’s movement
- Tendon: Tough connective tissue that connects muscles to bones and helps to control movement of the joint
- Meniscus: C-shaped piece of tough, rubbery cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between your shinbone and thighbone
6 Ways You Are Making Knee Pain Worse
1. You Sit For Long Periods of Time
When we are in pain, our first instinct is to rest the injured area. While rest is a critical part of recovering from a knee injury, you do not want to become a couch potato. But if your doctor has cleared you for exercise, do your best to develop an exercise routine that works for you. Try low-impact exercises that are easy on the knees. Exercises such as swimming or cycling can help you maintain your overall fitness while increasing the range of motion and strength in your knees.
2. You Hit the Ground Hard While Walking or Running
If you are a runner, you are probably no stranger to aches and pains that can be caused by running on pavement or other hard surfaces like old tracks or sidewalks. Running on hard surfaces will stress your knees. While the exercise is definitely a big plus, the stress from running on pavement can cause your knees (not to mention your back and hips) additional troubles.
Additionally, when you walk downhill or downstairs, you are putting additional stress and pressure on your knees. While you cannot always avoid walking downhill, you should avoid steep slopes and opt for flat surfaces if you can. If you have stairs at home, try to avoid them as much as possible until your knee heals.
Other forms of exercise that involve pounding your feet across hard surfaces, like playing basketball or CrossFit, can cause similar stress. If you plan on walking or jogging to exercise your knee, avoid cement and pavement in favor of something with a little bit of bounce or give, like a running track or trail.
3. You Ignore your Body
Working through pain might be nice for motivational posters, but in reality, it is not very good for your body. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something and you should listen, especially when it comes to your knees. Ignoring your pain and just pushing through it can be very detrimental, and could be making your knee pain worse.
It is important to recognize the difference between soreness and sharper pains. Soreness after athletic activities like running is normal. The problem is ignoring those sharper, more persistent pains. One of the best ways to treat knee pain initially is the “RICE” procedure, which is rest, ice, compression, and elevation. When your knee hurts, stop what you are doing and let it rest, keeping it elevated.
4. You Are Overweight
Every pound you are overweight puts more stress on your knee joints. Being overweight is a risk factor for developing osteoarthritis and other conditions; your knees bear your weight every time you take a step. Fortunately, losing just a few pounds will help relieve your knee pain and improve your overall quality of life.
Again, consider exercises like swimming, elliptical training, or even cycling for solid workouts that can help you lose a few pounds (combined with a healthy diet) while protecting your knees from added pain.
5. You Are Wearing the Wrong Shoes
The right gear could make a difference! Many recreational runners assume that any type of footwear labeled “sneakers” will be appropriate for all forms of exercise. This assumption could actually be the first step to a serious knee injury. The ideal running shoe is lightweight and flexible, with adequate shock absorption to protect your foot and entire leg while running.
If you are a consistent runner, we recommend that you do not pinch pennies when it comes to running shoes. Also, be sure to replace shoes as soon as the sole becomes worn. You can either spend the money now on quality shoes or spend it later on a knee brace and orthopedic appointments later. Save yourself the headache, or knee ache as it were, and shell out the extra money for proper shoes.
Arch support is key because it helps absorb some of the pressure your knees normally take on. Are you wearing flip-flops to walk around the neighborhood? If you have knee pain, that is not a good idea. Your shoes need the proper support and shoes with cushioning, so opt for a good pair of athletic sneakers if you are walking for exercise.
Getting the proper fit for your feet is a more complicated process than just picking a pair off the shelf — but it is worth it. The same goes if you choose to wear a knee brace. Relying on a flimsy, cheap brace is not going to help you at all.
6. You Have Bad Mechanics
Bad mechanics can have a huge impact on your knee pain, especially if you are a runner or a high-mileage walker. Your form when you are running or walking could be off, and when you use an improper form over and over again, it can cause pain and injury.
A gait analysis, performed by a physical therapist or exercise physiologist, can pinpoint mechanical issues in your gait which will lead to the recommendations for stretches, gear and changes to your stride that will improve your exercising and alleviate pain.
Call Ventura Orthopedics Today!
If none of these changes or even rest help ease the pain, contact your Ventura Orthopedics provider to make sure there is not something more serious behind the aches. You don’t want knee pain or injuries to hold you back from living an active life! Our board-certified orthopaedic surgeons specialize in knee, foot and ankle surgery and deal with both common and complex disorders associated with running.
If you are experiencing pain associated with knee injuries that need professional help, contact Ventura Orthopedics or to schedule an appointment with one of our hip replacement specialists, call us at 800-698-1280.