Joe Fleming explains how to stay active when you suffer from knee pain.
When people suffer from chronic knee pain, it is easy for them to fall into the trap of thinking it is in their best interest to give up exercise altogether. In reality, though, this can often make the problem worse instead of relieving their pain long-term.
In many cases, rather than stopping all forms of exercise, the best course of action is to adjust the way you work out. Staying active can help keep the muscles around the knee strong and give the joint the support it needs.
Listed below are some tips that will help you maintain an active lifestyle as you work to treat your knee pain and prevent it from getting worse.
Loosen the Muscles with a Proper Warm-Up
The first step to minimizing knee pain while staying active is the make sure you are taking the time to warm-up properly. No matter what kind of activity you are going to be participating in -- a sport, a weightlifting session, a run, etc. -- a thorough warm-up is crucial.
Start your warm-up with 5-10 minutes of walking or cycling to increase your heart rate and body temperature. Then, prime your muscles with exercises that mimic the movements you will perform during your workout.
If you are going to be lifting weights, light versions of the exercises you will be doing during your workout are the perfect warm-up.
For example, if you are going to be doing squats, include some bodyweight or banded squats in your warm-up. By priming your muscles, you will have an easier time engaging them during your workout.
Choose Low-Impact Cardio
Many people who struggle with knee pain stay off cardio entirely because they feel like it aggravates their injuries.
Indeed, certain forms of cardiovascular exercise -- running, high-intensity aerobics, and sports like basketball, tennis, and soccer -- are not ideal for people with knee pain. But, that does not mean all cardio is off the table.
Walking is excellent for people with knee pain, especially those who are just starting an active lifestyle. Not only does it help ease joint pain and stiffness by keeping the blood flowing and the knees moving, but it can also aid in weight loss, which further minimizes the stress placed on the joints.
Another good option is swimming. This takes all pressure off the knees, but it can still help strengthen the joints and promotes weight loss.
Stay Off of Hard Surfaces
If you are going to make walking your primary form of cardio, you may want to avoid -- or at least limit the amount of time you spend -- walking on extremely hard surfaces.
Hard surfaces like concrete and asphalt are not ideal for people with knee pain, as they do not absorb shock and can aggravate the joints. If possible, try to walk on a treadmill or a slightly cushioned track (many gyms have these) for better shock absorption.
If you must walk outside, try to find a dirt path or walk on the grass. Remember that these paths can often be uneven, so you will need to be sure to watch where you are walking to avoid additional injuries.
Master the Basics
Whether you have been exercising for a long time or are just getting started, everyone could use some help mastering the basics.
Before you try to lift heavy weights or take on a brand-new sport or activity, take some time to learn proper mechanics and understand the technique required to perform each movement.
This will help you avoid aggravating your knees, and it will help you get more out of your workout of choice since improper technique will not be slowing you down.
Depending on the amount of experience you have, learning the basics may or may not require the help of a professional. Some people do fine learning from videos or articles they find online, whereas others require a coach or personal trainer to help them understand the changes they need to make.
At first, it might seem like a waste to pay for help from a trainer. Remember, though, that by investing in yourself now, you could be saving yourself a lot of money later. Knee surgery and long-term treatment are expensive, much more expensive than the cost of a few sessions with a trainer.
Strengthen the Muscles Around the Knees
Whether you want to lift weights in the gym or play sports outside, everyone with knee pain should focus on strengthening the muscles of the lower body to prevent their pain from getting worse.
It is especially important to focus on the muscles in the back of the body. Strong quadriceps are essential for protecting the knee, but many of the activities that people perform on a day-to-day basis -- walking, climbing the stairs, etc. -- already place emphasis on the quadriceps.
The hamstrings and hips, though, often get neglected. This sets you up for muscle imbalances that can cause or aggravate knee pain.
The following are all good exercises to include in your strength routine:
Prevent Additional Knee Pain
Finally, while you are working to strengthen the knees and improve your range of motion, you should also take steps to avoid making your pain worse. Incorporate different treatments for knee pain into your routine, including the following:
It is important to avoid letting your ego get in the way. Even if you were once able to lift extremely heavy weights or outperform everyone in your favourite sport, that might not be the case right now.
If you want to stay active while dealing with knee pain, avoid sacrificing form and safety to show off. This will not help you in the long run and could end up side-lining you completely.
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About the Author
Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Passionate about healthy lifestyles and living a full life, he enjoys sharing and expressing these interests through his writing. To inspire others and fight ageism, Joe writes to help people of all backgrounds and ages overcome life's challenges. His work ranges from articles on wellness, holistic health, and ageing to social narratives, motivational pieces, and news stories. For Joe, helping others is vital.