Knee pain is a common medical problem for people of all ages and genders. While different problems can cause painful symptoms, cartilage wear is a major cause and becomes more common as we age.
At his Houston, Texas, practice, Joshua D. Harris, MD, helps patients preserve their knee joints and repair their knee cartilage with cutting-edge treatments and therapies to relieve painful symptoms. In this post, he reviews ten possible causes of cartilage wear, so you can take steps to stop it.
Your knees bear a lot of weight all day, and if you combine that with high-impact activities like jumping or running, you can wear away that protective layer of cartilage. Heavy lifting has the same effect since your knees must bear that extra weight.
Like overuse, repetitive use can damage knee cartilage or cause it to wear down more rapidly. Repetitive bending, lifting, squatting, or kneeling can also increase joint inflammation, another factor leading to cartilage damage and wear.
Since your knees are charged with carrying your weight all day, it should be no surprise that maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce cartilage damage. In fact, you could decrease the load on your knees by 4 pounds for every pound you lose. That means a 10-pound loss could decrease the strain on your knees by 40 pounds.
Your knees can suffer if you spend too much time sitting at work or on your time off. That’s because being relatively inactive quickly leads to muscle weakness, which means more of your weight is transferred to the joint surfaces. Inactivity can also lead to an imbalance in how weight is distributed, causing focused areas of cartilage to wear down more rapidly.
Using good posture when standing or walking helps distribute your weight evenly, relieving potential stress on your knee joints. If you tend to slump or hunch, you can throw off your body’s alignment, which means you’re more likely to suffer from pain in your knees, hips, lower back, and feet, too.
Not only can unhealthy eating lead to weight gain (and more knee strain), but a poor diet leaves you with nutritional gaps that can also take a toll on your joints. Healthy joints rely on plenty of calcium, vitamin D, and healthy omega-3 fats. Moreover, processed foods and sugary snacks may increase inflammation inside your joints.
More common than you might think, joint misalignment usually happens due to poor posture, weak muscles, lack of activity, or a previous knee or leg injury. When the knee components are poorly aligned — even slightly — it creates uneven wear that hastens cartilage damage.
Injuries like falls and car accidents can damage your cartilage or alter your knee structure, putting more pressure on the cartilage. Even injuries to connective tissues, like ligaments and tendons, can increase cartilage wear over time, as can some surgical scars.
Smoking damages blood vessels, impairing circulation and making cartilage harder to heal. Smoking dramatically increases inflammation, a major factor in cartilage wear and tear.
Your genes can play a role, too. Some genetic conditions are associated with an increase in cartilage damage. Other conditions interfere with cartilage healing, making it harder for your cartilage to repair itself.
Cartilage damage starts gradually, meaning even mild discomfort must be medically evaluated immediately. Early diagnosis means your treatment can help slow down joint damage so you can enjoy your healthy lifestyle without nagging knee pain.
To learn more about how we can help you maintain your healthy knees, call 713-441-8393 or book an appointment online with Dr. Joshua Harris today.