Are you living with knee pain?
Is it impeding your regular fitness routine?
Is it negatively impacting your ability to perform your activities of daily living?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you aren’t alone and this is for you! Knee pain is among the most common orthopedic complaints across all age groups and activity levels. It can often be debilitating and can restrict your activity level significantly- but it doesn’t have to be that way.
The first step in resolving knee pain is to make sure you are performing the activity that causes your pain correctly. Often the improper execution of an exercise can lead to increased joint stress that causes increases in pain. If you are unsure if you are performing an exercise correctly asking a healthcare or fitness professional (such as a Physical Therapist!) can help- they are experts in proper form and technique for a variety of activities. The next step is to ensure you are warming up properly prior to your workouts. A general low level warm-up is recommended, such as walking or riding a stationary bike for approximately 5 minutes (enough to break a light sweat). This creates and overall increase in blood flow which “warms up” the muscles while the repetitive motion helps lubricate the joints to prepare them for the activities to follow. A dynamic warm-up, which consists of performing various movements through a full range of motion is recommended following your general warm up if your activity is going be of a higher intensity.
The second step in resolving knee pain is to look for outside culprits. Often, we overlook hip strength when we are facing knee pain. Hip strength is crucial for controlling dynamic activities at the knee during motion to prevent excess stress across the joint. You can find several hip strengthening exercises on the ReQuest Physical Therapy Instagram @request_physical_therapy.
The next step in evaluating the cause of your knee pain is to look for inside culprits- studies have shown body weight to be a factor in the development and progression of osteoarthritis which is a common source of non-traumatic pain in the knee joint. For every pound of bodyweight you gain there is a 4-fold increase in the amount of pressure across the knee with every step. That increase in joint stress can contribute to pain and discomfort. A recent study in Arthritis & Rheumatism on the effect of weight loss on knee-joint loads in overweight and obese people showed that for each pound lost, there is an associated 4,800 pound reduction in compression load per mile walked! That means losing 10 pounds could decrease knee-joint compressive load by nearly 50,000 pounds per mile!
If these tips don’t help with your pain, the next step in your road to recovery is to determine if the issue is something that needs to be managed by a health care professional. With the advent of “direct access” to physical therapy in all states, this is easier than ever. Even with most insurance plans, you can see a licensed physical therapist (PT) without seeing a physician first! The physical therapist may determine you would benefit from physical therapy or be able to help you navigate your own path to recovery. If you and they decide physical therapy is right for you, the PT will identify your impairments in strength and endurance, coordination, and balance before establishing an individual plan of care for you.
Nick Israel PT, DPT
Penny Goldberg PT, DPT, SCS, ATC