Millions of Americans suffer from knee pain, including about 14 million older people who’ve been diagnosed with knee arthritis. Even mild knee pain and stiffness can take a significant toll on your life and your activities. But there are some things you can do — starting today — to help prevent knee pain or at least reduce its severity.
At Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, Joshua Harris, MD, offers the most advanced knee joint preservation options to help patients of all ages enjoy normal, pain-free movement. Here’s what you can do to help your knees stay healthy, even as you age.
Shed excess pounds
Every excess pound you carry is equal to about three pounds of pressure on your knees — for every step you take. That means for every extra pound you shed, you can decrease the strain on your knees threefold. (And of course, there are plenty of other health benefits associated with losing extra weight, too.)
Regular exercise and physical activity keep your joints lubricated and flexible, plus it helps strengthen your knee joints and leg muscles. Another bonus: Maintaining a routine of low-impact aerobic activity can help you lose those extra pounds, too. Mix up your exercises to ensure all your leg muscles are getting a gentle workout during the week.
Cartilage damage and increased friction aren’t the only factors that can cause or contribute to knee pain. Weak leg muscles can cause pain, too. That’s because when your upper or lower leg muscles are weaker than they should be, the forces on your knee can be uneven, which means increased wear and tear on specific parts of your joints.
Strengthening exercises for the muscles in your thighs, calves, and even your buttocks can provide your knees with the support they need for proper function. The key is to work with a physical therapist to avoid overstraining your knees while focusing on the muscles that can provide you with both strength and flexibility.
Invest in good footwear
You might think shoes have more to do with your feet than your knees. But your legs and feet are all part of an interconnected system. When your shoes don’t provide enough support — or the right kind of support — it can also increase uneven strain on your knee joints, resulting in pain and stiffness.
Good shoes also help distribute the weight of your body more evenly. If your shoes don’t fit properly or don’t provide adequate cushioning, your knees will be absorbing a lot more weight — and that can lead to muscle and ligament strain, along with cartilage damage in the joint.
See your doctor
Knee pain is never normal — even as you get older. Even minor pain or stiffness is a sign your knees need some medical attention. Like other musculoskeletal issues, early treatment is critical for preventing more serious problems from developing.
In addition to conservative options, like physical therapy, vitamin supplements, and knee injections, Dr. Harris is skilled in cartilage regeneration techniques using state-of-the-art approaches to replace damaged cartilage or promote the growth of new, healthy cartilage. Depending on your specific needs, he can recommend the best treatment to get rid of your pain, improve your range of motion, and help your knees stay healthy.
Age-proof your knees
You rely on your knees for a lot of the things you do. If you’ve got knee pain and stiffness, it can limit your activities and make even small activities uncomfortable. The best way to prevent pain or keep it from getting worse is to have your pain evaluated and treated as early as possible.
Whether you’ve got knee pain now or you’d like to avoid it in the future, Dr. Harris can help. Call the office or use our online form and schedule your visit today.