Managing Knee Pain and Arthritis through Exercise

Our knees have been overused and abused since the day we were born. Every step that you take, every time you stand up and sit down, you are using your knees.

When your knees feel good it is easy to take them for granted. But when they flair up and are in pain, you will not take them or any of their motions for granted.

I very commonly see people in my office who wince every time they have to get out of a chair or sit down. They even yell with pain when they put a knee down first when laying down on my treatment table.

It is easier to manage and prevent knee pain then it is to get rid of it when it flairs up. It can be hard to stay off your knees and give them a rest if they flair up.

Sitting for long periods is very tough on your knees. Sitting tightens up the muscles in the back of the legs (hamstrings), front of the shins (tibialis anterior), and hip flexors (quadriceps and abdominals). All of these muscles attach to the knee and can irritate, and be irritated by, the knee.

When these muscles are tight they will pull on the knee joint and the patella (knee cap) and cause it to move differently than it was designed to. This can be commonly diagnosed as a patella tracking issue. And it can be very painful, as anyone who has had patella tracking issues can attest to. But if you can keep these muscles loose and balanced, it will keep your knee feeling good and prevent it from flairing up. And if your knee is flaired up, doing the right exercises will reduce the pain and calm it down.

Sitting for long periods and running on top of that is a great recipe for knee (and hip) pain. Sitting tightens up most of the muscles that attach to the hips and knees. Running tightens up most of the same muscles as well. But adding running adds the element of impact as well. Impact will make all of these issues worse. If you have any knee pain, running should be avoided.

When the muscles that attach to the knee get tight and irritated, spasmed and inflamed, they will pull on the knee joint and cause it to wear differently than it was designed to. This will produce knee pain, patella tracking issues, and will irritate any knee issue or pain.

Even if your knees are not that bad right now, if you run, then they will get bad eventually.

I used to run. I even ran a marathon at one point. I wasn’t fast, but I finished it. I was sore for days if not weeks afterwards. This is consistent with what I have read in that it can take 3 to 6 weeks to recover from a marathon.

I don’t run anymore. I have seen too many times the result of being a life long runner. I see the tightness and soreness and stiffness in the hips and knees and ankles from running for many years. I wanted to stop before I had to stop running.

I now race mountain bikes and do ultra endurance races on them. I regularly compete in “dirty centuries” or 100 mile mountain bike races. I don’t win them, but I finish them. They are regularly  compared to Iron Man Triathalons.

I finished the marathon in four hours, and I finish the mountain bike races in nine to twelve hours. I am tired after finishing the mountain bike races, but not beat up. Not nearly as beat up as I was after the marathon.

If you have knee pain, running should be avoided. If you sit at a desk, then get up every thirty minutes. This allows you to stretch out your hips and knees and get blood flowing to those areas. There are other details that can minimize the effects of sitting for prolonged periods.

You can sit on one of those big gym, or physio, balls ten minutes out of every hour. This will keep you sitting actively rather than passively and prevent you from becoming one with your chair. I can’t imagine sitting on one of those balls all day, but sitting on one 10 minutes out of every hour will help to keep you loose and prevent knee and hip pain.

A standing desk might help out if you have knee pain, but I wouldn’t advise it if you have knee arthritis. Standing all day can irritate knee arthritis. But depending on the cause of knee pain, a standing desk might actually help out. I do recommend a standing desk for those with hip pain and low back pain. And hip and low back pain usually accompany knee pain.

Once you have knee arthritis, you will never get rid of it. Knee arthritis, or Osteo-arthritis, is the slow degeneration of the cartilage that lines the joint. Once the cartilage is worn away then the bone itself that makes up the joint will start wearing away. Any area that you have had an injury, trauma or pain, no matter how many years ago, will get arthritis sooner or later. And any joint that becomes bone on bone is going to be extremely painful.

There are many ways to manage knee pain and arthritis, and prevent it from getting worse.

Lose weight. The more you weigh, the more stress is put on each knee joint each and every step. It is a minor irritation that adds up to a lot of extra stress over time.

Exercise and stretch. The looser and stronger the muscles are that surround the knee joint, the more stabile the knee joint will be. The more stabile the knee joint and the more activity you will be able to get out of that joint.

Muscle work. I am a chiropractor who specializes in the Nimmo trigger point technique. I get the muscles out of patterns of spasm and inflammation. This helps to reduce pain and inflammation. If you are in pain, see someone like myself, or someone who specializes in muscles or muscle therapy, or joints. A chiropractor, myotherapist, or someone else who can treat the muscles. Someone who can get the muscles to loosen up and balance out and prime them to be strengthened up through exercise and stretching.

I am attaching a slide show that has tips for dealing with and managing knee pain and arthritis. I feel that surgery should be a last resort. If the pain gets too bad to deal with on a daily basis, then consider surgery. Otherwise you will be better off managing the pain, and preventing it from progressing and getting worse. The best way is through low impact exercise and stretching. You just have to know the right exercises to do that will strengthen up your knees and won’t irritate them.

Reducing pain and increasing use of a painful and inflamed joint is ideal. And doing it through diet and exercise is the Pain Free Way.



One thought on “Managing Knee Pain and Arthritis through Exercise”

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