At least 20% of Americans report suffering from knee pain regularly. This pain may be due to the breakdown of cartilage that comes with age, known as osteoarthritis, or other mechanical issues with the soft tissue in the joint. Much knee pain can be avoided, however, if you change some habits that are making your knee pain worse.
You wear the wrong shoes
High heels and suit shoes may match your outfit, and flip flops are sure convenient, but they’re wreaking havoc on your knees. High heels change your gait, negatively affecting your knee joint. Flat, tight, and unsupportive dress or casual shoes fail to provide cushioning for your joints, which also contributes to knee pain.
Choose shoes that support your foot and the way you walk. It’ll benefit your whole kinetic chain -- including your knees. Ask about custom orthotics and even medical grade knee braces to keep you supported.
You eat poorly
Poor dietary habits -- such as lots of processed foods, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, and sodium -- leads to inflammation. Inflammation aggravates arthritis pain in your knee. Poor food choices can also lead to weight gain, which puts extra pressure on your knee joints.
Think of it this way: Every step you take on flat ground puts force equal to 1½ times your body weight on your knees. So if you weigh 160 pounds, your knees feel it as 240 pounds. Going up stairs increases this force to two to three times your body weight.
Losing just 10% of your body weight can make a big difference to your knees, so make healthy eating and portion control a habit.
You sit too much
When your knee joints hurt, you find relief when sitting, but it’s one of the worst things you can do for your knees. It allows stiffness to set in, reduces the flow of synovial fluid to the joint, raises inflammation, contributes to weight gain, and causes surrounding muscles to atrophy.
You don’t have to go run a marathon or spend hours lifting weights to be active. Find an activity that you can do for about 30 minutes on most days. Good options include walking, swimming, water aerobics, or low-impact aerobics. This keeps your joints mobile, improves circulation, and reduces knee pain.
You ignore your form
Poor form during movements like lunges and squats make your knees hurt. These movements are fantastic for strengthening the muscles of the thigh that surround your knee, effectually taking pressure off the joint itself, but when done sloppily, they contribute to pain.
When you squat or lunge, always keep your knees behind your toes and your weight in your heels. Master the exercises first, then gradually add weight in the form of dumbbells or a barbell. If you’re not sure about your form, consult a trainer to help you.
You skip stretching
Stretching may seem unimportant, but it can do a lot to relieve knee pain. If you’re always skipping this important part of your exercise program, it’s time to start. Tight hamstring, quadriceps, gluteal, or calf muscles pull on the soft tissue around the knee, aggravating pain.
Consider using a foam roller to ease tension out of tight muscles, or use good old-fashioned static stretches such as seated forward bends to keep your thighs limber.
If revising your habits doesn’t help you, consult us -- the experts at the The Vanguard Clinic in St. Louis. We can help you by providing treatments ranging from physical therapy and medication to orthotics and knee braces.