As you age, it’s fairly common for American adults to develop the early stages of painful knee conditions like osteoarthritis. Overuse, being overweight, and past injuries all contribute to achy knees, but the key to keeping your joints healthy is exercise. How are you supposed to move more when your knees hurt, you’re wondering?
Here at LA Orthopaedic Specialists in Los Angeles, California, we take a holistic, natural approach to your health and wellness. Exercise is important for your health, happiness, and quality of life at every age, and we want to help you stay active. Whether you already have knee pain or you want to prevent it, these five essential steps for protecting your knees during exercise can help you keep moving and minimize discomfort.
1. Choose low-impact activities
When you have osteoarthritis or knee pain from an old injury, the last thing you want to do are exercises that make your knees hurt more. You may need to take a break from running — especially on hard pavement — and opt for swimming instead. Cycling, the elliptical machine, and yoga classes are also good low-impact workouts that help you keep the pressure off your knees while you burn calories and strengthen muscle.
2. Stretch your muscles, ligaments, and tendons
Before and after your workout, it’s important to stretch. Warm up before you begin exercising and cool down afterward. Stretching helps improve flexibility and helps reduce pain and injury.
It’s a good idea to stretch all your muscles before and after exercising, but to protect your knees, focus on stretching your leg muscles, including calves, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Keeping the muscles that support your knee strong and flexible helps prevent injury and strain on your knee joints.
3. Wear supportive shoes
Whether you’re taking a cardio dance class or taking your dog for a walk, it’s important to wear shoes that support your feet and provide proper cushioning. Each time you take a step on a hard dance floor or the cement sidewalk, your feet and knees feel the impact.
Supportive shoes provide shock absorption, but worn-out shoes can cause foot, ankle, and knee problems. You may benefit from using extra-cushioning shoe inserts or custom-made foot orthotics for added support and less impact on your knee joints.
4. Avoid activities that repeatedly rotate your hips and knees
Soccer, basketball, and tennis are all activities that involve sudden directional changes and a lot of stopping and starting. Jumping and slowing down is also bad for your knees, particularly your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Anytime you land with your knee joints out of alignment with your hips and ankles — such as what happens during quick rotations and direction changes — you put your joints at risk rather than protecting them from future pain and injury.
5. Wear a knee brace
Need a little extra support around one or both knees when you exercise? Knee braces are a good way to prevent repeated strains, tears, and other injuries. A knee brace is especially helpful when you’re recovering from an injury, but you still want to keep moving and easing back into your regular exercise routine.
If you’re unsure about which types of exercises are beneficial for your particular type of knee pain, or you need to know which activities to avoid, our team has more than 35 years of combined experience diagnosing and treating knee pain, osteoarthritis, and injuries. We can recommend appropriate physical therapy exercises that stretch and strengthen your knee joints and the surrounding soft tissue so you can keep your knees strong and healthy. We can also prescribe natural treatments like shockwave therapy or PRP injections to help relieve chronic knee pain.
Before you begin a new exercise program that’s safe for your knees, it’s a good idea to schedule a consultation with LA Orthopaedic Specialists. Call our Los Angeles office at 213-455-8448, or request an appointment online today.