It may be one of the most common problems encountered by active people, afflicting golfers, bicyclists, runners, skiers, tennis players, gardeners, swimmers, and everyone in between.
Knees. When those tough little joints start to hurt, everything stops. Suddenly, you can’t push down on a bicycle pedal, can’t even move for fear of tearing something.
Knee pain treatment depends on what you like to do. Say you are an elite runner named Elise, training for a marathon. You develop soreness that lingers after each training run.
You have an old anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) partial tear, which you suspect is the perp.
Or you are a middle-aged golfer named Gary who plays every chance he gets. Other than golf, you don’t have time for exercise. Lately, you’ve noticed that your knees are aching when you get out of bed in the morning.
Or you are a retired woman in your 70s named Grace who’s always had a beautiful garden. From the first warm days of spring until late in the fall, you are outside– kneeling, bending, pushing a wheelbarrow, carrying plants. Your left knee has been bothering you, and now you can hardly stand to finish the watering on a warm evening.
Knee pain: Wear and Tear Where it Hurts
In each of these cases, chronic stress– not sudden trauma– is the probable cause of pain. Chances are the pain is related to worn cartilage, ligament sprain, arthritis or bursitis. (A thorough exam would give us an exact diagnosis.)
But in any case, knee pain may be alleviated, or at least postponed, with the help of strengthening and therapeutic exercises.
So what can we tell Golfer Gary, Elite Elise, and Gardener Grace?
For starters, Elise exercises illustrated here include knee bends, thigh contractions, and straight-leg raises. Try some of these routines and let pain be your guide. If an exercise is aggravating your knee pain, stop.
For Golfer Gary we recommend low-impact endurance exercises, such as the stationary bike or just walking. In fact, the best thing our golfer Gary could do for himself loses the cart! He may need to start out gradually, walking just a few holes a day.
Grace is prone as well to an aching back. I suggest she avoid squatting with her heels off the ground, which puts additional strain on the ligaments. Instead, she might want to cultivate the practice of kneeling on one knee and changing knees from time to time.
Grace would do well to strengthen her quadriceps muscles (in the front of the thigh) and the hamstrings (in the back of the thigh).
Here’s a good source for exercises specifically designed for those muscles: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/PDFs/Rehab_Knee_6.pdf
The main thing is to keep moving. Don’t think that exercise will shorten the life of your knees. Cartilage, muscle, ligaments, tendons, bone . . . all benefit from increased blood flow and low impact exercises.