Knee pain is a common affliction that can lead to severe consequences and interfere with your life. It may start as a dull ache in the background of your day, or as an occasional twinge that you barely notice.
If you are lucky enough to not have had knee pain yourself, chances are you know someone who has. Maybe you knew a classmate who had to take a break from sports. I’ve had several coworkers who gave up an activity because it was too rough on their knees. It’s one of the most common injuries, especially for athletes or for people who do manual labor. The consequences can vary in seriousness, ranging from needing a few days of rest to something warranting surgery and months of physical therapy.
The good news is most cases of knee pain are mild. There are easy steps you can take from the comfort of home to get yourself feeling better. Mobility routines, better form, and strengthening the muscles and structures around the knee can all make a difference. Keep reading to learn more about knee pain and how you can fix it.
Knee Pain Causes and Concerns
Knee injuries and knee pain are usually caused by either bad form while exercising or working, or from accidents. Sometimes it results in a mild pain, but in other cases, it can lead to excruciating pain. Lifting weights wrong, turning a joint improperly, or an accidental slip or fall are some of the most common behaviors that lead to knee pain.
When doing an exercise, a good rule of thumb is that your knees should never go forward farther than your toes. Even extending the joint two or three inches over the toes can lead to damage. Extending just an inch too far over the course of a couple of months can lead to chronic pain and soreness. This is why maintaining proper form is so important, and why trainers consider it the best way to protect against injury.
Signs You Have a Knee Injury
Chronic knee pain is the most reliable sign you have injured your knee, especially if it happens while you aren’t doing anything physical. If an exercise like lunges or squats feels harder to do than normal, you may also have a knee injury.
Other signs of injury include knee pain when bending laterally, any sharp pains, discomfort with walking, or the inability to entirely straighten a leg. It’s not uncommon to have sore knees toward the end of a long day. If it happens on a regular basis, however, it could be a sign of a knee injury.
If you notice swelling on both or one knee, or that one leg is stronger than the other, stiffness, redness, or odd noises, a knee injury might be able to explain that as well. Sometimes you’ll find out during an early morning workout or while jogging. If your injury is serious, you’ll likely know right away, but chronic conditions have a way of sneaking up on you. It’s important to listen to your body and not ignore anything that keeps recurring.
Seek professional help when the joint is tender to the touch, pain interferes with daily activity, or the pain keeps getting worse. If one knee is swollen more than the other or gives out when you put weight on it, you should immediately seek medical attention.
How to Fix it
Once you’ve had an injury, it’s important not to rush your recovery. Don’t assume that you can jump right back into your old activity level. Overextending yourself will only put you back at square one, or it might even make your situation worse.
Adding a knee mobility routine in the morning can help relieve discomfort and speed your recovery. The more flexible your tendons are, the less likely you are to aggravate an injury, and the better you will feel. Even some simple motions like ankle dorsiflexion or passive knee extensions done during your downtime can make a difference.
I like to play around with the Deck of Pain Workout. It’s a fun way to work out based on prison exercises where space and equipment are in short supply. Many of these exercises are quick and easy to do and can help you quickly and easily strengthen your knees.
Getting up early for morning exercise is another great idea, especially if you need to exercise for patellar tendonitis or other complaints. Starting your day with a workout elevates your mood and energy levels and improves your flexibility, so I recommend daily exercise for everyone. I like using the Durable Athlete app to help me stay on track and keep my routines organized. A great piece of equipment you can use for multi-tasking is the DRAGONN kneeling chair. It was ergonomically designed to help you relieve back and joint pain, and using this chair can help you strengthen your knees. Just be careful, because it can aggravate an injury if you use it too much.
It’s Not About the Knee
This statement may seem counterintuitive, but there’s a limit to how much you can do with your actual knee. It’s designed to be a stiff and stable joint, and you perform better when it doesn’t move much. It wasn’t designed with mobility in mind.
Knees are meant to provide support. Trying to improve the mobility of the knee is more likely to cause injury. You’re better off strengthening the muscles and tendons around your knee to increase your stability. This will help you have the necessary support, and improve performance and decrease pain.
Other joint types like the hip and the ankle can have their mobility improved with some consistent effort. Making sure your joints have maximum mobility for their specialized motion is important, and will help you avoid injuring your knees. Your body is an interconnected machine, and in order to protect one part, it helps to strengthen all of the other parts. Doing this can drastically decrease your chances of injury.
It’s important to remember that you can’t swap your knee out for something new. But when you improve your overall flexibility, range of motion, and strength, you can make your knees feel like new. Making sure your whole body gets exercise and looking out for your problem areas can make you the durable athlete you want to be.
If you’re experiencing knee pain, I recommend adopting daily exercise that will strengthen the muscles and connective tissues around the joint. Pick up a kneeling chair or other equipment that can help you strengthen your joints. And if you need additional help, consult a physical therapist or your personal trainer to get professional advice.