Knee pain is often caused by the wearing away of cartilage. Fortunately, there are ways to postpone or even avoid knee problems altogether. "In many cases, you can postpone or avoid surgery, such as a knee replacement," says Dr Kristof Smeets, orthopaedic surgeon at AZ Vesalius in Tongeren.
Wear and tear on the knee
Your knees absorb a gigantic amount of pressure with every step - usually one and a half times your body weight. This pressure, plus regular wear and tear, takes its toll over time. The result? Muscles and ligaments weaken. The knee's shock absorbers - cartilage cushions called menisci - begin to deteriorate. So does the articular cartilage that protects the ends of the leg bones where they meet at the knee. When the cartilage is gone, the bones rub against each other and you get pain, stiffness and swelling.
Optimal knee protection
Does this mean you should let knee pain, or the threat of it, rule your life? Nothing could be further from the truth. By applying the right strategy you can optimally protect your knees.
6 strategies for your knees
1. Strengthen your muscles
Strengthening your muscles stabilises the knee joint and helps to cushion the pressure.
Strengthening usually includes the quadriceps and hamstrings, but it should not end here. Strengthening the hip and core muscles is also essential to maximise the function of the knees.
Recommended exercises for strengthening the knee include squats, step-ups and wall-sits. Is your knee pain severe? Then work with a physiotherapist who can recommend suitable strengthening exercises.
2. Lose weight
If you are overweight, every extra kilogram translates into another 4 kg of pressure on the joints. Losing weight helps relieve the pressure on your joints and improves your overall health.
Not only can excess weight increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis, it can also contribute to an increase in inflammatory factors associated with the knees and other joints.
Conclusion: Losing a few pounds can significantly reduce the pressure on your knees and protect them from daily wear and tear.
3. Increase your range of motion
Range of motion is the normal amount your joints can move in certain directions. Everyday activities such as climbing stairs, bending and lifting do not move your joints through their full range of motion.
Are your joints swollen and painful? Then use gentle stretching exercises to increase the range of motion of your knees - if necessary, seek help from a physiotherapist.
4. Practise good posture
Good posture is a basic rule for everyone. Your body is constantly at work, holding itself upright against gravity. Therefore, good posture is the key to avoiding unnecessary strain on the back, hip and knee joints.
5. Eat right
There is no specific diet plan to relieve joint pain, but adding certain nutrients to your diet can help protect your joints.
Studies show that regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids reduces the inflammation caused by long-term knee pain. Some good sources are fish, such as mackerel, sardines and tuna, as well as green leafy vegetables such as spinach.
Many people with knee pain do not get enough vitamin D, which is important for strong bones and healthy joints. Vitamin D can also help prevent osteoporosis and other bone diseases caused by ageing.
6. Choose appropriate supplements
Supplements contain nutrients that can help protect your knees from wear and tear and pain. It is important to choose the right supplements, as not all products on the market are created equal.
Quality matters. Rely on scientifically supported supplements recommended by experts. All-in-one supplements are preferred, to provide powerful protection.