Whether you hike, bike, run, swim, walk, or jog, it's possible that you've experienced some sort of knee pain in your life time. If you haven't – you're one of the lucky ones. It can truly be debilitating. We've devised a simple, yet effective way to help get rid of your knee pain symptoms once and for all.
Common Knee Injuries
First things, first. It's important to understand where your knee pain is originating from. Unless you're a doctor, we recommend NOT self diagnosing. After figuring out where your knee pain is originating from, it's time to start strengthening your knee, and the surrounding muscles.
- The iliotibial band, or IT band helps to stabilize the knee during physical activity. It can easily become inflamed and painful when it's overused, leading to ITBS. Runners, hikers, and active people often experience this injury.
- Your ACL can easily tear during activities like running, jumping, and landing.
- The meniscus acts like a shock absorber to protect the knee joint from impact. This can be easily torn during activities that involve twisting, pivoting, or decelerating.
Exercising to Strengthen Your Knee
There's a lot more to your knee joint than just your knee. Every little muscle connects to another and to another. So to truly fix your knee pain, you'll need to strengthen and stretch all of the connective muscles:
- Stretch your IT band: make sure to stretch and warm up your IT band before diving into your workout to keep your knee strong. Here's 3 ways to do just that:
- Stand with your left foot crossed over your right. Stretch your arms above your head. Lean your upper body as far as you can to the left without bending your knees. Repeat on the other side.
- Sit on the floor with your legs stretched in front of you. Cross one over the other and pull your knee as close to your chest, holding it in place for a few seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
- Take a brisk walk before launching into a more complicated exercise to give your IT band a chance to loosen up. (See: How to Reach 10K Steps a Day)
- Work on your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes: the stronger your supporting muscles are, the less stress you will put your knees through. Here are 3 fantastic exercises for you to do:
- Lunges to work on your quads.
- Steps-ups to work on your hamstrings.
- Squats to work on your glutes.
- Learn to jump well: try grabbing a jump rope, and jumping in front of a mirror so you can study your form. Are your knees straight or bent? Landing on straight knees puts too much pressure on your joint, and can lead to injury. Try adding a half-squat when landing to increase your strength.
- Recreational activities that build full-body muscle tone: it's simple. If your legs aren't strong, your knees won't be either. (See: 5 Best Low Impact Exercises to Try)
The path to recovery doesn't stop at the gym. Your diet can also greatly affect how your knee recovers, and stays pain free.
- Add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet: joints become weakened and painful when they get inflamed. However, the foods you eat can greatly affect this. Keep your strength up by eating the following: fish, flax seeds, olive oil, avocados, and whole fruits and vegetables. There are also supplements out there that can be purchased at any health supplement store.
- Make sure to get enough vitamin E: This miracle vitamin hinders the enzymes that break down cartilage in your joints. Spinach, broccoli, peanuts, mango and kiwi are fantastic (and tasty) dietary add-ons that will have you kicking again in no time.
- Eat more calcium: Bone strength is key. Just like your mother used to say "drink your milk' we're telling you to eat yogurt, cheese, and goat milk along with almonds and leafy greens.
- Stop doing activities that hurt: If it hurts... STOP! Take a break and let your body recover properly. Focus on strengthening your legs, and you'll be back up and in the mix in no time at all.