Why we need to look after our knees
So, lets talk about knees. Our knees allow us to move about, walk, run, and jump. Take away our knees; and we can’t really do much. Which is why it’s essential to take care of our knees now rather than later.
If you’ve ever had dodgy knees (or knee) you’ll understand where I’m coming from. An injured knee can stop us from playing sports, squatting heavy, deadlifting, and/or a long list of other activities. In a worse case scenario, you could be in a wheelchair before you’re 50. No I’m not trying to scare you… The solution? Read on.
How to avoid injuring our knees
So here’s the deal. Some people are simply more susceptible to joint injury than others, and we’ve already established that injured knees suck. Now let’s discuss what we can do to minimise the chance of injuring your precious knees. Check it out:
Maintain a healthy weight:
Arguably one of the most obvious ways to avoid injury, is to avoid reaching an unhealthy weight. It’s hardly rocket science that unnecessary stress on your knees, isn’t going to end well. This is especially noticed when walking up or down stairs. As this is where the weight is shifted onto your knees.
If this is all to relatable, and you fancy saving your knees, then maybe you need to consider dropping down to a healthier weight. Which is actually a lot easier than you may think. Take a look: ‘Gentleman’s guide to a better physique’
Strengthening your legs:
The hamstrings, and the quadriceps in our legs are the muscles that support the joint (the knee). Therefore if these muscles are weak, it leaves our knees susceptible to injury, as they will also be weak. Still with me? Basically, by strengthening the muscles in our legs, we increase the support provided to the joint. This can be done through a variety of exercises, such as squats, lunges, leg extensions etc.
‘But what if I can’t do any exercises because of my knee pain’. In this case you’re pretty much fucked…
Fortunately for you, I’m only joking; and there are Infact a few ways around it. Firstly I would recommend seeing a doctor as soon as possible if the pain is that severe. Secondly I would recommend taking some anti-inflammatories (if appropriate) as this can reduce the pain and the swelling. Finally I would recommend that you begin strengthening your legs via bodyweight exercises, to avoid unnecessary stress. This can be done though some of the exercises below:
Wear a knee support when lifting heavy:
It’s one of those you’ve probably seen in action before. When performing heavy squats or deadlifts our knees go under a lot of stress. Even if the form is perfect, some level of stress is unavoidable. Therefore it is sensible to provided some added support when going heavy. You will often see Powerlifters, and Crossfitters taking the same approach.
In addition to wearing a support when going heavy, they can also be worn in other situations. For example if you’re experiencing particularly bad pain when playing sports, or running, then you can always resort to a knee support to help yourself out. Just remember that knee supports are NOT a long-term solution (Unless the damage to your knee is irreversible). Exercising the knee, and returning it to its former glory, is the end goal.
Once again we find ourselves at exercise. It seems to be the solution to everything these days, and with knee pain it’s no different. Although some exercises may seem to make your condition worse, increasing the mobility of the joint and allowing it to loosen up it essential. Just remember that if it hurts, it’s not right. Therefore any exercise that is low impact, or doesn’t hurt your knees is a great starting point, for improving its strength and mobility.
According to Boston University’s David Felson, regular running actually improves knee health. It also strengthens bones (as we know) and joints. Just incase you thought running was hurting your precious knees…
Finally, rest is important for all means of recovery. It allows our bodies to slow down, assess the damage and begin working on fixing it. Without sufficient rest you’ll be waiting an awfully long time to recover. Not sure how much rest you need? The average adult needs at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
One very common cause of knee injury is overuse. In addition to sleep, sometimes you’ll just have to bite the bullet a give yourself a day off from the gym, the rugby, or whatever you’re into. A good rule of thumb is to have at least one day off a week, where you don’t engage in any intense physical activity. Make sure to listen to your body, and give yourself plenty of rest.
Using proper form:
A very common mistake amongst gym goers is using in-proper form when exercising. In this case, it is particularly important when squatting. When we squat with poor form it can not only cause problem for our knees, but our back as well. Which is another reason to ensure that we get it right. When we squat down and stop halfway, the weight is then transferred onto our knees (which is unnecessary stress). The solution to this is squatting down as low as possible until the stress is relieved from our knees, before driving through our heals and coming back up. If it important to execute proper form before you jump up in weight.
In conclusion the knee is the biggest joint in the body. Therefore it is no surprise that is gets its fair share of ware and tear. Whatever you’re into, whether it be the gym, running or sports we need our knees to enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle. If the health our knees takes a turn for the worst, the chances are that our active lifestyle will follow. In an attempt to prevent this from happening it is essential that we look after out knees. This can be done through maintaining a healthy weight, wearing knee supports when appropriate, exercising when appropriate, using proper form, and getting sufficient rest.