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7 Ways to Ruin Your Knees

Posted 10/17/2016 by UHBlog

Are you feeling a little weak in the knees? Ask us how to rebuild strength and stave off knee pain.

7 Ways to Ruin Your Knees

Knee pain can sideline both casual and professional athletes from activities ranging from jogging in the park to playing wide receiver on an NFL team.

“Knee pain is pretty common and one of the biggest reasons people come to my office," says sports medicine specialist Michael Salata, MD. “The causes are certainly multifactorial, including early osteoarthritis, cartilage injuries, ligament tears and meniscal injuries.”

Common doesn’t mean inevitable or that you need to hang up your cleats at the first twinge. However, certain habits can lead to or worsen chronic knee pain if they aren’t changed, he says.

Dr. Salata, who also serves as a team doctor for the Cleveland Browns, shares seven strategies for safeguarding your knees:

  1. Don’t: Skip the warm-up and cool down.
    Do: All athletes should perform 15 to 20 minutes of warm-up activities before a game or run, and 15 minutes of stretching afterwards. If you have osteoarthritis or a history of knee pain, you should also apply a warm towel over your knee before the warm-up and ice following the cool down.
  2. Don’t: Always run on a hard surface.
    Do: Pavement and asphalt are tough on joints, including knees.
    “Mixing it up by sometimes running on a trail or a rubberized track can be a good way to give your knees a break because the softer surface absorbs energy when your foot hits the ground as opposed to all the energy being transferred to the knee joint,” Dr. Salata says.
  3. Don’t: Be a camel.
    Do: Push fluids before and during every workout. This lubricates the joints and makes them less susceptible to injury, especially if you have a history of soft tissue injuries, such as hamstring strains around the knee.
  4. Don’t: Pack on the pounds.
    Do: Shed some weight, if necessary.
    “Keeping yourself around your ideal body weight is one way to decrease the pressure on the cartilage around the knee,” he says.
  5. Don’t: Stick to one pursuit.
    Do: Runners who only run, hockey players who mainly skate and placekickers who just punt may develop painful repetitive-use injuries around the knee. It’s important to cross-train by periodically mixing in a day of strength-training, walking, swimming or another activity, Dr. Salata says.
    “You need to stay strong in the muscles around the knee, plus the core musculature,” he says. “Be careful with activities. High-impact activities take more of a toll than low-impact activities. Try to mix in both as part of your workout or recreational activities.”
  6. Don’t: Resume training too soon after an injury.
    Do: Not allowing your knee to recover fully before hitting the track again can lead to a nagging problem that may be harder to treat later.
    “The rule of thumb is to not immediately go back to the same level of activity you had before the injury,” Dr. Salata says. “You want to wean yourself back. Give yourself a day or two after adding an activity to the mix to see how your knee reacts before adding another activity.”
  7. Don’t: Avoid doctors.
    Do: Certainly some knee pain can be managed with the strategies outlined above, as well as by taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs. But when pain persists – or the knee joint “pops” or gets swollen during activity – it’s important to consult with your physician. Physical therapy or other interventions may be your quickest path back to the gym.

Michael Salata, MD is an orthopaedic surgeon, director of the Joint Preservation & Cartilage Restoration Center at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and associate orthopedist team physician for the Cleveland Browns. You can request an appointment with Dr. Salata or any other doctor online.

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