Strengthen the Muscles Around the Knees
Your feet, lower legs, knees, thighs, hips, lower back, core and arms are all part of your moving kinetic chain. When one link isn't working, the repercussions can be felt all the way up or down the chain. Strong quads will help stabilize your knees. You can build this muscle with a sit-to-stand (or squat), moving repeatedly from standing to sitting. Make sure you stand all the way up to work the muscle on the front of the thigh completely. Below the knee, the muscles in your calf are important for knee control. They also help propel the body during walking, stair climbing and running. Weakness in these muscles adds stress to the knee joint. Heel raises can strengthen calf muscles. Hold onto the counter, rise up on tiptoes and lower heels to floor. Try for three sets of 15 repetitions.
Balance requires your knees to work with your hips and ankles to hold you upright. This coordination takes practice. Stand with one foot in front of the other, as if you're standing on a tightrope. Move your arms or brush your teeth while holding this position. Switch sides.
The force of each pound you carry is magnified by the time it reaches your knees. If you're walking across a flat surface, the force on your knees is equal to 1 1/2 times your body weight. Going uphill, it is two or three times your body weight. Shedding extra weight reduces this force and can help prevent arthritis and injury. It can also reduce knee pain. To lose weight, try aerobic activity that doesn't overload the knee. Swimming or walking in a pool, or riding a stationary bike are good options.
Self-care for Knees
If you have occasional pain related to a hard workout, you might be able to get relief at home. I have had great success with foam rolling my IT band (the outside of the upper thigh) for pain on the outside of the knee. Alternating ice packs and heated pads can bring relief. Try an Epsom salts soak. Arnica gel works, too.
Of course, for recurring or debilitating pain, it is wise to see your doctor or physical therapist for a personal diagnosis. Required treatments differ depending on where the pain is and the source of the discomfort.
By taking action now, you can strengthen and protect your knees before they are badly damaged. It may postpone or even prevent surgery in the future. Let's strive to be active and live full lives throughout our years.
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