Tips on saving your knees
August 16, 2009
Knee pain or injury is one of the most common reasons people see their doctors. Your knee is the largest joint in your body and one of the most complex. It is also vital to movement.
Because you use it so much, it is vulnerable to injury. Because it is made up of so many parts, many different things can go wrong.
Meniscal Tear: Can occur when twisting, cutting or pivoting. Direct contact, like a tackle, is often involved.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tear: A quick cutting maneuver or awkward landing from a jump can tear your ACL. Athletes often hear a “pop” at the time of injury.
Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Tear: These types of tears often occur as the direct result of a blow to the outside of the knee. MCL tears are common in skiing and contact sports, like soccer or football.
Osteoarthritis: With aging comes a gradual wearing away of the articular cartilage lining our joints. This is called osteoarthritis and most often cases pain and stiffness in the knee.
Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Tear: The PCL is often injured when an athlete receives a blow to the front of the knee or makes a simple misstep on the playing field.
Not all patients and not all knee conditions are the same. That’s why for most orthopaedic diseases and injuries, there is more than one form of treatment. To make sure your treatment matches your needs, your doctor will consider several things, most importantly, your age, activity level, and general health.
Working together, you and your doctor will find the treatment that is right for you.
Having strong, flexible muscles is the best way to keep knees healthy and prevent further injury. Strengthening the muscles that support your knee will reduce stress on your knee joint. Strong muscles in the front of your thigh (quadriceps) and back of your thigh (hamstrings) help your knee joint absorb shock. The less strain on your knee, the better the chances are for pain relief and preventing further injury.
Stretching the muscles that you strengthen is an important part of preventing injury. Strengthening exercises build muscle to help support your knee, but can also tighten the muscles. Tight muscles are more prone to injury. Gentle stretching after strengthening exercise reduces muscle soreness and will keep your muscles long and flexible.
Your doctor or physical therapist will tell you which exercises are right for you.
Start slowly. Building muscle strength takes time. As you get stronger, gradually increase the number of exercise repetitions or add weight to an exercise.
Do not ignore pain. You should not feel serious pain during an exercise. You might feel discomfort because you are challenging your muscles, but not pain. If an exercise hurts, stop the exercise.
Do not overdo it. You should not feel serious pain after exercise. It is typical to feel stiff or a bit sore the day after you exercise. If you feel so sore that it is difficult to move, then you have overdone your exercise. Rest is the best thing for your sore muscles.
Ask questions. Talk to your doctor or therapist if you have any pain or are unsure of how many exercises to do, or how often to do them.
Dr. Richard Cunningham is a Sports Medicine Orthopedist with Vail-Summit Orthopaedics.