It’s common to feel all kinds of pain as one age, knee pain isn’t an exception. As the largest joint in the body, the knees are believed to sustain a lot of wear and tear over the years. As a result, it can become harder to climb a flight of stairs, walk long distances or even get into and out of a chair as one’s knees grow older and frailer.
That said, it’s possible to live a knee pain-free life. This content feature shares the science of aging knees and how you can keep your knees healthy as you grow older.
How Do Knees Age
With every step taken, your knees fight against gravity and absorb a significant amount of pressure— which is usually one-and-a-half times your body weight. That enormous pressure for every step, plus regular wear and tear can take a toll on your knees’ overall health over time. Your ligaments and muscles get weaker and the two shock absorbers in your knee (menisci) will start deteriorating.
This results in common injuries and problems including:
- Crunching or popping sounds with movement; and
- Inability to fully straighten the knee.
How To Keep Your Knees Healthy
Worry not! You can still enjoy the later years of your life without any major knee pains. Aging is an irreversible and unstoppable process. But if you happen to be able to take on healthy habits early on, such as using a knee support pillow, you’ll be able to keep your knees healthy as you age.
Below are some of the tips you can consider looking into:
Avoiding injuries is one of the best ways to protect your knees as you age. It reduces the risk of post-traumatic osteoarthritis, a form of arthritis, which develops in the joint that was previously injured.
Physical injury to your joint can damage the bone and the cartilage, hanging the joint’s mechanics and causing faster and more significant wear and tear. The wearing-out process is also accelerated by continued injury or excess body weight.
Although you can’t avoid all injuries, getting proper medical care ensures that the injury heals properly and helps prevent permanent damage as your knees age.
2. Improve Your Posture
Your posture is important to the alignment of your joints including your knees, hips, and shoulders. Thus, poor posture causes joint pain.
Sitting down for extended periods is believed to be one of the most common causes of poor posture. Office personnel and those who are busy with launching their startups are stressed and usually spend a large part of their days on a chair and desk.
Prolonged periods of just sitting down tend to make people become too relaxed or lazy, which often results in an improper sitting posture. Thus, it’s important to be mindful of your sitting position to improve your posture.
When in a seated position, avoid sitting on your knees since it can reduce blood circulation and place stress on your joints. Instead, you need to sit with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Don’t cross your legs as well.
If you’re sitting on the floor, make sure to keep your legs stretched straight out in front of you or bend your knees with your legs to the side. Maintain a neutral spine and switch sitting positions frequently in order to minimize posture issues.
Also, stand up and take brief walks around to stretch out your muscles every now and then.
Other than sitting, you also need to promote good posture while sleeping, particularly if you’re a side sleeper. Most adults prefer sleeping on their side, one study finds, since it can be comfortable. Nevertheless, it also puts pressure on your knees, back and hips, particularly if you have a condition such as arthritis or you’re pregnant.
In this case, a knee support pillow can help relieve the pressure while promoting spinal alignment. Even if you’re a back sleeper, putting a knee pillow at the back your of knees as you sleep can support the natural curve of your back and shoulders.
3. Always Stretch, Exercise; Stay Active
Contrary to popular belief, exercise can help in keeping your knees healthy, as long as it is low-impact.
Stretching, in particular, helps the muscle in your legs to loosen up and provide relief from the pain. It also helps in reducing stress on your joints while improving your mobility and flexibility.
A good knee stretching exercise should target the tendons and muscles surrounding your knees. Plus, a variety of stretches are needed to target different muscle groups around your knees. This includes stretching your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip adductors and flexors, calves, and iliotibial band.
Other than stretching, you also need to do exercises that strengthen the muscles around your knees. Certain strengthening exercises can alleviate current knee pains while preventing future problems by giving your knee the extra support it needs. It’s important to note that strong, flexible muscles can help keep the knees healthy and strong.
Additionally, low-impact exercise such as biking or walking can help in rebuilding the joints and strengthening your legs.
4. Follow A Healthy And Nutritious Diet
There’s no specific diet plan that can ease joint pain. But adding specific nutrients to your diet can help keep your joints healthy and strong.
Studies revealed that regular consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids can help lower inflammation caused by prolonged knee pain. You can also follow the Mediterranean diet that focuses more on whole grains, veggies, and fruits, yogurt, healthy fats like olive oil and nuts, and Omega-3-rich fish.
Make sure to avoid inflammation-inducing food items to keep your knees healthy. Ditch processed foods that can result in systemic inflammation and affect your joints. You also want to limit red meat, sugar, and most dairy.
You also need enough intake of vitamin D and calcium, both of which are critical for healthy joints and strong bones. They can also help in preventing osteoporosis and other bone diseases which are caused by aging.
If you can’t maintain a balanced diet, try taking supplements that you can easily find in health food stores and pharmacies to make up for the missing nutrition in your daily food consumption.
5. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Excess weight or obesity contributes to knee pain, arthritis, and injury. In fact, for every pound of weight you gain, your knees will have to deal with four more pounds of pressure on them and even more pressure when you go down or up the stairs.
Thus, losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight can help take the pressure off your knees and prevent complications such as an increased risk of inflammation.
And there you have it!
These tips can help keep your knees strong and healthy and prevent injury. If you listen and take care of your knees and take the appropriate preventive measures, you can ensure mobility and independence during your golden years.