10 Ways to Guarantee Bad Knees
I have worked with my fair share of ‘bad knees’. Lifestyle change is the number one way to improve knee function and reduce joint pain. That can mean a lot of different things. What we do in the gym represents only a percentage of what needs to be done in order to reverse knee pain. The individuals that truly make leaps and bounds in improvements are the ones that put in the effort outside of the gym as well. So here is a list of the top 10 things you can do to ensure F’d up knees. If you have trouble with your knees or would like to prevent any future knee pain, listen closely, take notes, and do everything in your power to not do what is on this list!
10. Sedentary Lifestyle (1)
We all know that if you don’t use it, you lose it. Great way to lose function in the joints is to limit their usage over a long period of time. Strengthening exercises, and just being active in general facilitates the promotion of growth and retainment of structure. The body has a great mechanism of discarding what it doesn’t need.
9. Being Overweight (2)
Every pound of bodyweight increases force on the knees by 5lbs. So lugging around extra weight only wears the knees out quicker. This is a slippery slope for many as knee pain can lead a person to a sedentary lifestyle and increase their overall bodyweight. This puts more pressure on their knees and often discourages them from painful exercise.
8. Sitting for too long (3)
Sitting for a long stretch of time sucks for the knees. People prone to knee pain will feel this especially. Sitting holds us into a knee and hip flexed position. This shortens the hamstrings and hip flexors, while elongating the quadriceps and glutes. This furthers muscular imbalances, can create faulty joint mechanics, poor movement, and puts unneeded pressure on the knees. Limited knee extension weakens the Vastus Medialis who’s job is to not only extend the knee but more importantly stabilize it.
7. Partial Squatting (4)
Squatting is great for the knees. Anyone telling you otherwise has zero understanding of the human anatomy. However, partial squatting, which is not allowing the femur to reach parallel to the floor, over the long term, is detrimental to the knees. As you approach parallel and lower, the glutes and hamstrings kick in a little more. Partial squatting activates more of the quadriceps and less of the posterior side. Overtime, this can create an imbalance. Partial squats are for those who cannot fully squat due to limitations already exhibited by the knee or a lack of mobility in the hips or ankles, changing the mechanics of the squat. It is recommended to put additional emphasis on training the hamstrings and glutes additionally to counter act dominate quads.
6. Allowing for the knees to collapse (Valgus) (5)
One of the reasons why we isolate and strengthen weaker muscle groups is that it can encourage better mechanics. Same reasons why we release and elongate shortened muscle groups. When muscle imbalances exist between the ankles and hips, it can throw the knees out of proper alignment. During squats, lunges, running/walking gait, step ups, jumping or landing, we want proper knee alignment. Sometimes just knowing where the knee needs to be is half the battle, other times we encourage greater use of stabilization and mobility techniques. During these movements you should be able to draw a straight line from the hip to the ankle and have the knee in line or a little outside of that line. By all means, the knee should never be inside of that path. A knee here is considered collapsed, A-Framed, or Valgus. ‘Push the knees out’ is a great reminder.
5. Dehydration (6)
Water makes up some of the most important structures of the body. Cartilage in the joints is composed mostly of water which acts as a lubricant and is involved in force absorption. In joints, the lack of blood vessels means that water becomes the main transporter of nutrients for repairs. Hydration is important for many more reasons outside of joint health.
4. Accepting Flat Feet (7)
Flat feet, or a collapsed arch, drives the joints inward starting with the ankle, then followed by the knees and hips. Isolating and strengthening the arch is simple yet almost never done in a gym setting. While shoes with arch support may place the ankle in a proper position, it may also inhibit the muscles from being used on their own accord. Simple arch exercises and kicking off the shoes may be the best medicine for fallen arches.
3. Poor Ankle and Hip Mobility (8)
When the ankle/hip lacks mobility the knee may take some of the load. Tight calves do two things to the ankles. They rotate them out and collapse the arch while caving in the ankle. Do this and the knee is likely to follow. Tightness of the hip adductors and flexors will limit glute activation and internally rotate in the hip. Do this and the knee follows. Often the problem with your knee is really a problem with your ankle and/or hip.
Whether from sitting all day, limited range of motion in the hip, or just being sedentary, weak glutes lead to less stable hips and allow the hip and knee to internally rotate. Same can be said about the hamstrings in order to counter balance powerful quads. In many cases the hip flexors and hamstrings need to be released to ‘gain access’ to the glutes, as those muscle groups can dominate exercises/movements preventing proper activation of the glutes. If the overactive hamstrings have been inhibited, isolating them with strengthening exercises is acceptable, but if not, the hamstring will cramp quickly.
1. Ignoring what your knees are saying
If you suffer from knee pain, or even if you feel the slightest of twinges, you need to listen to your knees. Ignoring them will only worsen them over time. I have seen and experienced myself what a little bit of myofascial release and stretching can do to rid knee pain almost immediately. I have also witnessed through multiple clients what good exercise form, corrective exercise, proper mobility and strengthening work can do to improve the health and function of the knees. Also, make sure you get proper recovery when it is needed.
You might be asking “Well, what about running? Surely that is not healthy for you knees.” (11)
Well a long term study involving 75,000 runners found that for those starting with healthy knees, running did not increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis. Infact, runners in the study had less risk of developing osteoarthritis than non active individuals. Pointing to cyclical loading (repetitive force) as beneficial to the knees. Another study showed that while running produces greater forces in the joints, walking increases force frequency. Given the same amount of distance, by the end, the amount of force to the joints were equal in both runners and walkers.
There are many factors that can affect your overall joint health when it comes to running. Starting with healthy knees, proper joint alignment and footwear, gradual progressive loading, good running mechanics, limited asymmetries and muscular imbalances, good joint mobility, and proper recovery methods.
(1) Sedentary lifestyle to blame for knee ailments http://www.dnaindia.com/health/interview-sedentary-lifestyle-to-blame-for-knee-ailments-1531749
(2) Obesity and Knee Pain http://www.everydayhealth.com/knee-pain/obesity-and-knee-pain.aspx
(3) Sitting and joint health http://www.salli.com/en/Sitting_and_joint_health_2
(4) Squats are sage, but you’re probably doing them wrong http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-rippetoe/squats-lifting-knees_b_4490749.html
(5) All about the knee http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-the-knee
(6) Dehydration http://www.causeof.org/dehydrate.htm#DehydrationEffectsJoint
(7) Having flat feet can destroy your knees http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2147899/Having-flat-feet-destroy-knees-Many-think-wonky-feet-joke–effects-crippling.html
(8) 6 common causes of knee pain http://fitnesspainfree.com/6-common-causes-of-knee-pain-and-how-to-fix-them-part-1/
(9) Train your butt to fix your knees http://www.fix-knee-pain.com/train-your-butt-to-fix-your-knee-pain/
(10) Quad-Hamstring Ratio http://www.precisionnutrition.com/quad-hamstring-ratio
(11) Why runners don’t get knee arthritis http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/25/why-runners-dont-get-knee-arthritis/