As one of the largest weight-bearing joints in your body, you use your knees for many activities all day long. It’s no wonder that knee injuries are widespread, affecting millions of Americans every year.
At his practices in Sugar Land and Houston, Texas, J. Michael Bennett, MD, provides patient-centered, state-of-the-art treatment for knee injuries, and he also helps patients learn ways to prevent those injuries in the first place. Prevention begins with understanding your risk factors for knee injuries, including these five common ones.
#1: Being overweight
As weight-bearing joints, your knees are designed to carry your body weight — within limits. Extra pounds put a lot of strain on your joints, and that strain can lead to injuries.
Research shows that every extra pound you’re carrying translates into 3-4 extra pounds on your knees. That means even if you’re only 10 pounds overweight, your knees are subjected to up to 40 extra pounds of pressure every time you stand or take a step. Losing those extra pounds decreases knee strain, along with your risk of injuries.
#2: Prior knee injury
If your knees have been injured in the past, they can be left with areas of weakness that can affect balance and flexibility, making you more prone to joint injuries.
Some knee injuries (and prior knee surgeries, too) can lead to scar tissue that interferes with normal joint movement.
#3: Sedentary lifestyle
When it comes to your joints, the old saying “use it or lose it” couldn’t be more accurate. Joints are designed for movement — in fact, regular activity circulates natural lubricating fluids that help keep your joints healthy.
If you lead a relatively sedentary life, your joints aren’t getting the lubrication they need for smooth, pain-free movement, plus you lose muscle tone and flexibility that keeps your knees strong. All these factors combine to increase your risk of knee injuries, especially as you get older.
#4: Certain jobs or sports activities
Knees are designed to flex, bend, and bear weight, but they have natural limits like any joint. If you participate in activities that put a lot of excess strain on your knees, you’re also more likely to suffer knee injuries and chronic knee pain.
Activities most likely to cause knee injuries include:
- Heavy lifting
- Repetitive squatting
- Jumping or running
- Rapid changes of direction (pivoting)
Spending a lot of time on your feet can also increase your risk of knee injuries, especially if you stand in one place for long periods.
#5: Wearing the wrong shoes
Most physically active people choose athletic shoes to help improve their sports performance. But the right shoes also play a role in maintaining good knee health. When selecting athletic shoes, choose shoes that provide adequate arch support, distribute pressure evenly, and support your ankles, too.
It’s not just your athletic footwear that can pose a problem for your knees. If you wear high heels regularly, you’re also adding strain to your knee joints and interfering with the normal balance of the joint structure. When you change your natural balance, you also increase the risk of trips, falls, and injuries.
Treating knee injuries
If you do wind up with a knee injury, it’s crucial to seek medical treatment right away. Dr. Bennett typically begins treatment with conservative options, like:
- Activity modification
- Physical therapy
- At-home exercises
- Lifestyle changes, like weight loss and smoking cessation
- Oral medications to relieve pain and reduce inflammation
- Joint injections
- Bracing to protect the joint while it heals
If your knee pain doesn’t improve after a few months of conservative treatment or if you have a severe knee injury, Dr. Bennett may recommend surgery to repair the knee and restore joint function.
If you’ve had a knee injury or you have knee pain or other unusual symptoms, don’t delay treatment. Call or book an appointment online today to learn how Dr. Bennett can help.