Keep your knees strong and healthy (and avoid or postpone surgery)

Months of improper leg squatting in the gym have led to my first real bout with knee pain.  A few months ago, I was diagnosed with chondromalacia. In laymen’s terms, it is known as runner’s knee which is the deterioration of the cartilage on the undersurface of the knee cap.   I have treated many patients for knee pain both chronic and acute, and I never thought I too would join their ranks. However, the truth of the matter is that knee pain will strike most of us at some point in our lives.  And it can be worse than just an occasional injury. According to a study by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, 34 percent of Americans in their mid-50s and older say that they experience chronic knee or leg pain, meaning they are in constant pain. In many cases, this knee pain results in surgery. Seven million Americans are currently living with an artificial knee or hip. That’s a lot of pain and lot of surgery which in many instances through a few simple steps can be reduced, postponed or even altogether avoided.

Here are my keys to knee health.

1) Educate yourself:  The more you know about your knees, from things that can go wrong to what you can do to help, the better you can manage the outcome. Being educated helps you develop reasonable expectations for how your knees work and feel, helps you maximize how they perform and enables better communication with your physician. Regardless of what caused a knee problem, many of the initial treatments are the same, and can help postpone or even eliminate the need for surgery. The bottom line: What you can do to treat the knee is more important than why it went bad.

2) Lighten up:  Four each pound your body carries, your knees endure four pounds of pressure. That means that by losing just 10 pounds, you relieve forty pounds of pressure on your knees. Less pressure on knees equals less pain! I have seen patients avoid the need for surgery just by losing twenty or thirty pounds. One effective way to take off the weight: Cut your portions in half!

3) Drink more water: Staying hydrated is vital to knee health. All knees contain cartilage, the soft spongy tissue that lines the ends of joints and enables pain-free motion. Cartilage is composed mostly of water. And, drinking a glass of water before and after each meal helps control your appetite

4)Keep moving, keep muscles strong:  Exercise is critical to keep knees healthy, avoiding injury and reducing pain if there are problems within the joint. If knees don’t move, they become stiff. Low impact exercises such as bicycling, elliptical machines