Healthy knees, please! How to prevent and repair knee problems.
BY CHERYL HARBOUR
Keeping your joints healthy is absolutely essential if you’re going to stay active and enjoy life.
Almost everyone knows someone who’s had a knee replacement. But there are still many people walking around with pain, wondering whether knee surgery is in their future. So what is the latest on preventing and fixing knee problems? Here is some of the best information we’ve found.
How do you know if you’re going to have knee problems?
Some kinds of knee pain come from old injuries – for example, a torn ACL or meniscus. For most people, the problems come from wear and tear that results in osteoarthritis. Some early – and more subtle and progressive – signs are: having stiffness, hearing “popping” or “crunching” noises when you bend your knee, having pain when you bear weight or your knee tends to “give out,” being unable to fully extend or flex your knee, having swelling or fluid build-up around your kneecap. A very thorough description of various problems and symptoms is provided by the Mayo Clinic in this article.
Do knee problems come from too much or too little activity?
As people get older, they sometimes get less active. And they also start having knee stiffness or pain. It’s not necessarily a coincidence. The common thinking now is that activity is good for your joints, even if you have some arthritis. The Harvard Medical School newsletter summarizes the results of tests conducted to see how activity affects knees
Of course, it’s important to use common sense. We know an otherwise healthy woman who took up running at age 65 when she retired and eight months later, she was having arthroscopic surgery – a procedure to diagnose and treat a variety of problems. Learn more.
Which sport is roughest on your knees?
Although most people – including our friend mentioned above — would probably answer running, there are other sports that can be equally harmful. According to this information from pain experts, skiing ranks at the top of the list, followed by plyometric exercise (such as squats, burpees, and lunges), basketball, singles tennis, soccer, golf and, yes – running. Learn more about which sports are kindest to knees.
If your knees seem healthy now, what steps can you take to condition and protect them?
You might already know some of the answers – from avoiding weight gain to taking time to stretch to choosing the right shoes. We think you’ll enjoy this list of “51 Ways to Be Good to Your Joints” from the Arthritis Foundation.
Watch two friendly physical therapists, Bob and Brad show you some great knee exercises. For more knee exercise demonstrations, tune in to this slideshow from WebMD
Are there any new advances that will replace knee replacement?
One of the alternatives being considered is injection therapy. Read more about types of injections – and their possible side effects.
The Knee Restoration Center based in Indiana gives full details about cartilage restoration as an alternative to knee replacement surgery – but at this time says “current restoration is ‘filling pot-holes’ in a road and arthritis is damage to the entire road surface.”
You may also hear about something called “geniculate artery embolization (GAE),” a minimally invasive, image-guided treatment that blocks key arteries in the knee to reduce inflammation and pain, You can learn more here:
Another treatment under trial is “The Calypso Knee System.” The first of these kind of surgeries were performed at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center by Dr. David Flanigan. They implanted a device that works like a shock absorber to take the pressure off the inside of the knee while walking. This is seen as a “bridge toward total knee replacement, giving patients years, if not a couple of decades, before a total knee replacement is required.”
As always – consult a doctor you trust. And good luck with your knees!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Cheryl Harbour
Cheryl Harbour is the special editor of our “My GRANDbaby” section and author of Good to Be Grand: making the Most of your Grandchild’s First Year, a combination of up-to-date information and grandparently inspiration.