By Kevin DiDonato
The most complex joint in the body happens to be the knee. The knee is the largest joint in the body, and is the most susceptible to injury. There are many common injuries that can happen which can make movements difficult and painful. Some of the most common injuries that happen:
- Strains/strain/tears to ligaments and tendons
- Cartilage/meniscus tears
- Inflammatory arthritis
There are different treatment options to help restore flexibility, function and mobility to your knee.
Depending on the stage of the injury and when it happened, there are steps that need to be taken to reduce inflammation and pain. Remember the acronym RICE, which stands for:
Rest- the more you rest the injured area, the more likely you will not further the injury. If there is swelling present, chances are you have done something that has caused damage to the area, so stay off your feet
Ice- will help reduce the inflammation in the joint and lessen the pain. Use ice immediately after an injury to minimize swelling. Use ice
Compression- refers to the act of wrapping the joint in a bandage or other immobilizing device to prevent any excessive movements and to reduce swelling
Elevation- always elevate the injured area above the heart to help the inflammation get back into circulation.
Some common ways you can injure your knee:
- Sharp blows to the knee from the side or directly on the kneecap
- Planting your foot and making quick directional changes
- Overuse injuries
- Twisting the knee
- Weakness in the muscle groups around the knee
There are many different forms of treatment to consider when dealing with a knee injury. Your doctor will be your guide in determining what the best treatment plan is for you. Physical therapy and orthopedic consults may be warranted for injuries that require surgery.
The muscle groups that surround the leg tend to weaken and provide less support and stability in the knee. The quadriceps, hamstrings and hips tend provide stability but become weak when the knee becomes immobilized. Muscles that tend to weaken will then have a reciprocal effect on the opposing muscle groups, making them tight or overactive in order to maintain stability. Dysfunctions will lead to more overuse injuries which limit recovery.
Exercises to consider when strengthening the knee:
Terminal knee extension- this will help strengthen the quadriceps without adding the stress to the knee. Excellent at isolating the quadriceps and building strength
Straight leg-raises with foot turned outward- excellent for developing strength in both the hip flexors and the quadriceps. When there is an injury, the vastus medialis muscle weakens, resulting in the kneecap shifting to the right or left. This exercise is great for developing strength in the Vastus medialis and hips
Prone/standing leg curls- is great for development of the hamstring muscle groups in the back of the leg
Contact your physical therapist or certified trainer to help you determine the best strengthening exercises to do for your knee.
Kevin DiDonato is a professional health educator and a certified personal trainer. His home-based business, Human Performance Lab in Ellsworth, provides private and semiprivate fitness training, nutrition counseling, boot camp training, and private or group Pilates classes.