Bad Habits That Could Be Making Your Knee Pain Worse


Your knee is one of the largest joints in your body, and it takes a beating. Not only does it support most of your body’s weight, it’s a complex joint with a lot of moving parts that can become injured or torn. Jumping, stopping short, or landing wrong when you run or walk can twist your knee, ripping tendons, cartilage, and muscles.

Another common cause of knee pain is osteoarthritis, which is usually the result of long-term wear-and-tear on your knee. All that pressure, those sudden stops and twists, and simply flexing and bending your knee over time wears down the protective cartilage that separates your knee-joint bones, such as:

  • Femur (thigh bone)
  • Tibia (shin bone)
  • Patella (knee cap)

Whether your knee pain is a result of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, injury, or another condition, learning to treat your knee well helps you keep it injury- and pain-free.

Resting your knee too much

If you’re trying to avoid pain by limiting your physical activity, your strategy is going to backfire. Your knee — like all of your body parts — needs to move to stay in shape.

How does physical activity help your knee? First, exercising regularly strengthens your muscles and tendons so they can better support your knee joint, reducing your chances of injuring your knee further. Weight training, in particular, makes your tendons and muscles stronger and can even strengthen the bones in your joints.

Second, movement increases the flow of blood and oxygen to your knee. Blood brings nourishment to all of the tissues that support your knee and also flushes away toxins.

Third, simply moving your knee makes a special lining in your joint called the synovial membrane release a lubricating fluid known as the synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is to your knee what oil is to your car’s engine: It keeps the moving parts gliding along smoothly.

Standing or sitting too long

Even on your feet, your knee may get stiff and sore over time if you don’t vary your position. Be sure you shift your weight from foot to foot if your job requires long-term standing. Try to take a sitting break now and then.

Conversely, if you sit all day long at your job, get up every half-hour and move around the office, or walk outside for at least five minutes. You won’t just be helping your knee, either. The medical community recommends five-minute breaks every 30 minutes to ward off killers such as heart disease. 

Working out without warming up…

… or cooling down. OK, you got the message, and you’re all-in for adding more activity into your life. In fact, you’re already something of a weekend warrior.

But concentrating all of your physical activities into a short period — especially if you don’t take time to warm up beforehand and cool down afterward — risks serious injury to your knee. Take at least 10 minutes to stretch your legs, warming up all of your muscles, tendons, and ligaments so they can take the stress of the coming workout.

Making unhealthy lifestyle choices

Before you smoke that next cigarette, do you really want more knee pain? Just about all of the lifestyle choices you need to keep your body optimally healthy also apply to your knee. Smoking, for instance, dehydrates the muscles, cartilage, and other soft-tissues in your knee.

Being overweight puts extra stress on your knee, increasing your risk for injury. Not getting enough quality sleep also deprives your knee of the rest it needs to regenerate cells. When you’re sleep-deprived, you also may be more likely to lose your balance and injure your knee.

Locking your knees

Over-straightening or “locking” your knees during exercise can harm them. Always stay just short of the locked position so that your knee remains flexible and can adjust to the forces of your exercise routine. If you have a knee injury and like to work out, consider hiring a trainer to evaluate your form to be sure you’re using your knees safely.

Squatting the wrong way

Done correctly, squatting is good for your knees, as it helps your joint produce that lubricating synovial fluid. But if you hold your weight too far forward or back, you may put unneeded stress on your joint. Work with a trainer until you perfect your form.

Pretending knee pain will go away

If you have chronic knee pain or if you acutely injured your knee and are still in pain a few days later, you could be setting yourself up for a permanent injury. If your knee is hurting, you either need treatment or you need to strengthen your knee with physical therapy, bracing, or other therapies so that your joint can rehabilitate and be pain-free again.


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