The knee is often one of the biggest problem areas of the body, as it is a joint, in fact, the largest joint in the body. The first thing to understand about knee health is that the knee is a stable joint that functions and exists directly between two very mobile joint the hip and the foot. If the hip or foot is injured, mobility of the knee is limited. Your knees provide stability and allow your legs to bend, swivel, and straighten.
The knee is made up of bones, cartilage, muscles, ligaments, and tendons, all working as one. What makes knee injuries complicated is they could be caused by stress or damage to any of these parts. The knee sits in the middle of three bones: the tibia (your shinbone), the femur (your thighbone), and the patella (the kneecap). The patella is a flat and round bone that protects the knee joint.
If you ever had any sort of injury, especially a knee injury, you probably appreciate how your knees power you through various sports and activities: kicking, jumping, running, and pivoting. To avoid knee injuries, it helps to understand how your knees work and what you can do to protect them. Good news! There are multiple exercises you can do to help with your bad knees, and improve function.
Exercise may be the best medicine for chronic achy knees, as strengthening the muscles around the knee joint protects you from injury by decreasing stress on the knee. Here is a guide of exercises to help you along the way:
RULE: To avoid further injury, never bend your legs to a point where your knees stick out past your toes. That puts a lot of pressure under the kneecap. This not only applies to the following exercises but also when you’re stretching or doing aerobic activities.
1. Partial Squats: Grab a chair and stand about 12 inches away from the front of it. Stand with your feet about hip width apart and your toes forward. Bending at the hips, slowly lower yourself halfway down to the chair. Keep your abs tight, and check that your knees stay behind your toes.
2. Step-ups: Using an aerobic step bench or a staircase, step up onto the step with your right foot, and then the same with your left foot. Step up each time by doing reps with one foot or alternating feet each time you step up. Tap your feet on the top of the step, and then lower. Each time you step up, your knee should be directly over your ankle.
3. Side-Lying Leg Lifts: Lie on your left side, legs straight and together, with your left arm supporting your head. Keeping your right foot flexed and your body straight, slowly lift your right leg to about shoulder height, then slowly lower. Repeat with your left leg.
4. Hamstring Stretch: Lie on your back with your left leg flat on the floor. Loop a towel or rope around your right foot and pull your leg as far as comfortable toward your chest, while keeping a slight bend at the knee. Keep your back pressed to the floor throughout the stretch. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and then release. Repeat three or four times with each leg.
The following exercises can be done safely if you have chronic knee problems. It is best to avoid these:
· Full-arc knee extensions
- Deep squats
- Hurdler’s stretches
To learn what exercises are beneficial and helpful to strengthening your bad knees, call Dr. Bill Hefley at (800) 336-2412 to request an appointment.