The summer 2016 Olympics are well underway and watching the athletes push themselves to their limits during the events is inspiring. Even more so when you hear their stories of what it took them to get them there. We hope these stories will help motivate those of you who have slowly stopped moving over time due to a struggle with knee pain to get active again.
In general, when you feel pain this is the body’s alert system, telling you to stop doing the thing that’s hurting because something is wrong. But this is not always the case when it comes to knee pain. Stiffness and discomfort of the knee are often a sign of wear and tear on the joint in the form of osteoarthritis, a disease that worsens if you stop exercising.
It’s a phrase you’ve probably heard many times ‘motion is lotion.’ When you move, it helps lubricate your knees by releasing what’s called synovial fluid. This liquid bathes the cartilage and is necessary for the connective tissue in your joints to move more easily and provide nutrients to the area. Cartilage is made of collagen, which when dry turns to stiff rope-like fibers. However, when this collagen matrix is sodden with water, it turns into more of a gel consistency. This stiffening of the tissue is why when you first get out of bed, or up from sitting for a long period that your movements feel tense and slow. Your joints need lubrication to get going, which is created by you getting up and moving.
In the long run, staying stationary will also negatively affect your muscles as they start to atrophy due to lack of use. Lack of muscle strength can contribute to knee instability and pain as the supporting leg muscles cannot properly support the joints movement and weight placed on it.
To prevent this from happening, doctors recommend daily exercise to keep your muscles strong and your joints healthy. In fact, studies show that regular low-impact exercise is an essential part of any treatment plan for knee pain. That doesn’t mean you need to hit the gym hard or to work up a huge sweat. You simply need to be moving your joints through a full range of motion to keep them flexible and lubricated.
Two of the best activities to achieve this are walking and aquatic exercise. Walking you can do anywhere, anytime and in addition to improving your knee pain it has a multitude of health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and heart disease. Aquatic exercise is excellent, especially for individuals who are just starting to work out again or are carrying excess weight as the water relieves some the pressure on your joints and the resistance encourage more gentle and thoughtful movement.