Knee Health 101

Knees like many of your body parts are rarely appreciated when they’re working great, but if they are hurting or under-performing they will define your day or even life.  Most of us at some point will have some level of new discomfort so let’s take a closer look at those amazing joints to see how best to care for them.

The design and partsknee-joint

A truly remarkable joint, knees are made unlike any other joint in the body.  They have all the similar parts:  bones (the hard stuff), ligaments (attach bone to bone), tendons (attach muscle to bone), cartilage and fluid sacs (shock absorbers and lubricant).  What’s unique is the presence of the knee cap which creates an advanced lever capable of producing more force than without it.  This design tells us the knee is made to hinge with strength and when healthy can produce tremendous force!

Training healthy knees

Healthy knees respond quickly to training that is progressive and supported with appropriate rest.  A progressive program, whether focusing on strength, power, or endurance, should start slow and increase in intensity over time.  This program must also include rest days so the knee tissue can adapt and repair.  For example a new runner with healthy knees should begin by running a short distance slowly on day 1, then rest on day 2.  If there is no pain, he/she can run further or faster on day 3.  Overtime, this runner’s knees should be capable of running multiple days in a row without needing a rest day.   The same model can be followed for strength training.knees

“I’m active and have new knee pain”

You’ve been smart about your training but have developed some knee pain.  Don’t ignore it and push through.  Assess it and move forward wisely by asking “How painful is it?”

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being most painful…

  1. if 1-2, then do a much lighter workout and see how it feels.
  2. if 3-5, then take a few days off and see if it sticks around.
  3. if 5-10, consult your physician.

Improving unhealthy knees

Your knees hurt and you want them to get better.  I am not a doctor but I know 3 proven activities you can do TODAY to help your knees be less painful.

  1. Move them! When it comes to the body “motion is lotion” because movement increases blood flow bringing with it heat and nutrients for health.  Sit on the edge of your bed and straighten your knee several times.  You may even try squatting to the bed after paying specific attention to reaching back with your hips and sitting all the way down on the bed each time.
  2. Lose weight! Even healthy knees feel bad with too much weight on them.  Begin cleaning up your nutrition today.  Start by increasing your colorful veggies and decreasing your processed foods.  You can do it and your knees will better!
  3. Hydrate! Your joints depend on water to stay fluids so drink it and decrease the soda, salt, and caffeine.

Your knees are an integral part of your life.  Please care for them wisely to keep them healthy and they will serve you well for a long time!