Happy, healthy kneesRunner’s knee, jumper’s knee, housemaid’s knee (yes, it does exist!) and so on – the list of painful complaints that can affect this complicated joint is as long as your arm. Problem knees are surprisingly common in people of all ages, placing severe restrictions on both movement and lifestyle as a whole.

Strong and stable joints

On a day-to-day basis, we expect great things from our knees. As the largest joint in the human body, the knee basically forms a sort of hinge  where the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia), meet. This enables the leg to bend, straighten and generally move freely so we can run, twist, jump, fall over and so on. Knees must be also strong and stable enough to support our weight, even if it increases. These joints are ably assisted in their task by bones and soft tissue including muscles, cartilage, ligaments and tendons – all of which have the potential to go awry.

The knee joint may be a sophisticated mechanism but it’s still relatively easy to injure. For example, a sudden increase in intensity or duration of exercise can temporarily damage the bone, muscle or ligaments. Problem knees can lock, click, catch, give way or refuse to straighten. More gradually developing pain, especially in older people, points to conditions such as osteoarthritis. Here, the cartilage facilitating smooth movement between the femur and tibia gradually wears away, forcing both surfaces to rub together and resulting in pain and stiffness.

It’s all a bit of a catch-22. With persistent knee pain, most people’s instinct is to rest the knee and avoid putting any weight on the joint, therefore taking less exercise. While this would appear to be a sensible thing to do, if not diagnosed and treated, long-term weakness of the surrounding leg muscles can slowly develop.

Looking after problem knees

So, what should you do if you suddenly develop painful knees? Here are a few initial things that you can try at home:

  • The key is basically RICE: rest, ice, compression, elevation. This means, at the very least, not irritating the joint and, at best, giving the joint a chance to recover under its own steam;
  • When icing, use ice wrapped in a wet towel for 5 minutes and remove for 10 minutes, repeating twice more;
  • Sit, rather than stand, with the leg elevated, to avoid putting weight on the knee – rest as much as you can;
  • If suffering with acute or severe pain, in the short term, take painkillers such as Paracetamol;
  • If you feel up to it, try some gentle exercise, such as walking at a pace that does not aggravate your symptoms or non-weight bearing exercise such as swimming;
  • If your knee pain is still present after several days or is getting worse, why not book an appointment with Osteopath Robin Kiashek to see if we can find the cause of your discomfort and get you back on the road to recovery.

 

Mental health - Cartoon brain walkingIt’s well known that regular exercise brings huge benefits. In a society where sitting has become the norm, being active helps to regulate weight, build and maintain strong muscles and bones, boost energy and promote healthy sleep. It can also reduce the risk of injury and chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and osteoporosis. It can also protect memory and thinking skills. But did you know that physical activity can help stave off depression too?

Backed up by research

Recent research among 200,000 people by King’s College London showed that regular exercisers are 16% less likely to develop the blues. This rises to 31% if you follow the Government’s advice and opt for 150 minutes’ physical activity a week – that’s just 20 minutes per day. Interestingly, the results applied across all age groups, from children to pensioners.

The reason? Exercise of any type or intensity brings about changes in areas of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety, allowing you to relax and enjoy life more.

This is partly thanks to the increased production of endorphins, (‘feel-good’ chemicals). These are known to help produce positive feelings and reduce one’s perception of pain.

So the message is get moving, whatever your age, state of fitness, experience or ability. It’s never too late and there are many forms of exercise to choose from, either alone or as part of a group – from gardening, walking or dancing to joining a gym or aerobics class and so on. The better your preferred activity fits in with your lifestyle, the more likely it is that you will remain motivated and keep it up.

Staying safe

If you’re starting out or a bit rusty, here’s how to exercise safely to minimise the risk of injury:

  • Seek advice from your GP, osteopath, gym instructor or personal trainer. He or she will assess your current fitness levels and put together a personalised training programme if appropriate.
  • Always warm up and stretch muscles before exercising and cool down/stretch properly afterwards.
  • Rest for a day between exercise sessions to prevent overuse and enable the body to repair itself.
  • When starting a new exercise programme, expect a little post-exercise aching and soreness. This should ease within a couple of days but if not or is very painful, rest, use ice (wrapped in a wet towel for 5 minutes and remove for 10 minutes, repeating twice more) and anti-inflammatory gel to help relieve symptoms.
  • Never train if injured or experiencing discomfort.
  • If you experience acute pain or any post-exercise discomfort continues beyond a day or so, book an appointment with osteopath Robin Kiashek to check you over.