Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Knees Hurt? Here's How To Keep Moving

Reader question: My knees hurt when I walk. Help!

Larysa's answer: You've finally gotten moving on your walking program and you've been really motivated and consistent when—BAM! You feel a pain in your knee that just won't go away. You panic. One of the hardest decisions you have to make is whether to stop or continue. Do you suck it up and press on (because gosh darn it, you're a trooper!), or do you risk making your pain and possible condition worse?

Knee pain can be caused by a wide variety of issues ranging from mild overuse injuries including tendinitis or bursitis, to more major injuries like ligament tears or cartilage damage. If you're just starting a new workout program, it's not uncommon to have a little bit of joint pain. However, if the pain lasts longer than 2 weeks, it's a good idea to consult a physician. Here are some tips to deal with and managing knee pain:

Stop. Always let pain be your guide. If you start having pain, temporarily discontinue the activity.
Stretch. Tight thighs and hamstrings can pull on your knee and cause slight pain. The good news about stretching is that it will always help, not hurt. Next time your knees feel sore (or better yet, before they start hurting and as an addition to your program) do these two quick and easy stretches:
  • Hamstring stretch: Place an extended leg on a slightly elevated surface (like a curb) and reach your opposite arm to your knee or ankle. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  • Quadricep stretch: Standing straight, bend your knee and grab the top of your foot behind you; gently pull your heel towards your butt. Keep your chest up the whole time. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Freeze it. Ice is the most effective and natural anti-inflammatory. After activity, put ice in a plastic bag and place directly on the painful area of your knees for 20 minutes. Need more help? Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory (like Advil) as well.

Manage your program. Remember to change only one aspect of your program weekly to minimize stress on your joints and injury. Pick either frequency, intensity, or duration to make your program harder. For example, if you decide to pick up your workout by doing an extra day or two, don't go faster, or at a steeper incline. Choose only one variable per week.

Keep your weight in check. Every extra pound of body weight adds 4 pounds of stress on your joints. Combine your walking program with a healthy diet to make sure you get to and keep your optimal weight.

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