By Rajinder Hullon, MD, JD
Knee pain is one of the most common complaints seen in outpatient medical-treatment centers. This disorder affects 20 percent of our population and is the fifth most common health complaint, accounting for millions of doctor visits each year.
Physicians treat knee pain more frequently these days for a number of reasons. Better health care options and availability have resulted in people living longer. Because the knee joint is one of the key weight-bearing joints in the body, it is subject to more wear and tear with age. Older people are more likely to suffer from some degree of knee pain.
The nationwide problem with obesity has also contributed to the increasing frequency of knee complaints. More stress is placed upon the knee joint the heavier a person is. At some point, the knee joint will be unable to support this stress, and surgical intervention may be required.
Preventing Knee Injuries
As everyone knows, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of the knee joint, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine offer these suggestions to avoid pain or injury:
- Stay in shape. Good general conditioning helps control or prevent knee pain, particularly patello-femoral pain. Overweight individuals may need to lose weight to prevent excessive stress on the knees. Doctors recommend a 5-minute warm-up before running or beginning any other exercise.
- Stretch. Stretching is a good warm-up technique before and after any exercise. When performed in the prone (face down) position, it helps maintain the flexibility of the ligaments, muscles, and tendons within the knee joint.
- Increase training gradually. Work up gradually and avoid sudden changes in the intensity of exercise.
- Use proper running gear. Running shoes should have good shock absorption and quality construction. Be sure shoes fit properly and are in good condition. If you have flat feet, you may need shoe inserts. Running shoes should be replaced every 3-4 months if used consistently.
- Use proper running form. Lean forward and keep the knees bent. Also, try to run on a clear, smooth, and reasonably soft surface. Never run straight down a steep hill. Walk down it, or run in a zig-zag pattern.
Since there can be many different causes for such pain, the clinician must take great care to make an accurate diagnosis in order to ensure proper medical and/or surgical treatment.
Many knee pain cases also involve overuse or injury from sporting activities. In these situations, individuals should be aware of the importance of warm-up exercises and, and if pain arises, the need to seek early treatment to avoid permanent or disabling knee injury.
Of course, if you experience knee pain, the best thing you can do is see a doctor, and remember that if you’ve been diligent about exercise for a long time, a week off for rest and recovery might be the best thing you can do, whether you’ve come down with an injury or not.
INR (Institute for Natural Resources) offers continuing educations courses that cover many medical conditions including knee pain.