Knee pain can be disabling; if it hurts to put pressure on your knee, you’re not going to be able to walk very far. Keeping your knees in good shape is one of the most important things you can do to keep yourself healthy and mobile.
At Tri-State Orthopaedics and Robotic Surgery, board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Apurva Dalal and our medical staff want to help you understand the most common causes of knee injuries and how you can prevent them.
Common causes of knee injuries
Knee injuries are most often the result of the following:
Sudden trauma, also called acute injury, is the most common reason for knee injuries. A direct hit to the knee, falling on the knee, quickly pivoting or twisting the knee, or jumping and landing awkwardly can all cause many types of knee injuries, including sprains and strains to tendons and ligaments surrounding and supporting the knee.
If you’re an athlete and play your sport several times a week, you can develop an injury from overuse. For example, frequent jumping when playing basketball or pivoting on the tennis court puts a lot of pressure on the knee joints.
While moderate jogging doesn’t qualify for overuse of your knees, studies indicate that if you’ve had a knee injury in the past and continue running, you can develop knee arthritis. Running fast — a five-minute mile, for instance — or running marathons can also result in arthritis over time.
Osteoarthritis is most common in people over the age of 50, and your risk is higher if your close relatives have it. In your knee joint, the space between the bones is filled with cartilage, which protects the bones from rubbing against each other. When you have arthritis, your cartilage degenerates, leading to bone rubbing against bone — an extremely painful condition.
Arthritis may develop after an injury. For example, you may have torn your ACL and had it surgically repaired. You’re more likely to get arthritis after trauma to a joint because it can change the joint mechanics, so cartilage wears out more quickly than it normally would.
Avoiding knee injuries
To keep your knees in good working order, follow these tips:
Stretch your joints gently before working out
Stretching before working out helps prevent injuries not only to your knees, but also your entire body.
Gently stretching your knee joints before going out on the court slowly releases synovial fluid in the joints, which helps lubricate them and keeps them working well. Stretching your thigh muscles lessens stress on the tendons and consequently reduces pressure on your knees. Stretching the muscles and tendons in the hips, legs, and ankles also protects your knees.
Warm up with gentle exercise
Warm up your body temperature before giving it your all on the court. You want to get the blood flowing and release the fluid in your joints so that they’re prepared to take the pressure of those sudden turns and twists during a basketball game or tennis match.
Using an exercise or spin bike is a great low-impact activity that warms up not only your knees, but also your hips, legs, and ankles. If any of them have a restricted range of motion, it can affect your knees.
Always cool down after exercising
You may be tempted to walk off the court right after you’ve finished playing a game or a match, but doing so can cause your muscles to become stiff, resulting in inflammation and pain. Always build time in your schedule for a 10-20 minute cool-down period after exercising.
Perform knee strengthening exercises regularly
Strengthening the muscles in your hips, thighs, and legs helps protect your knees from injury. Learn how to do strengthening exercises properly with help from a trainer, coach, or physical therapist. If you don’t do the exercises the right way, you can actually damage your knees. You also need to know which exercises are best for your knees, because some exercises can cause knee pain.
If you already have a knee injury or knee pain, call or book an appointment online today with Tri-State Orthopaedics for the most advanced treatment available.