8 Simple Habits for Preventing Knee InjuriesA proactive approach to knee health is always better than a knee injury interfering with your favorite activities. Whether you have injured your knee in the past or want to avoid knee injuries in the future, these tips will help you prevent knee injuries.
Why Is Preventing Knee Injuries Important?
If you’ve ever hurt your knee before, you know how much knee pain can disrupt your everyday life and stop you from enjoying your favorite activities. Depending on the cause, knee pain ranges in intensity from being mildly annoying to completely debilitating. Over time, damage to your knees can decrease your mobility, cause chronic pain and lower your overall quality of life. Fortunately, preventing a knee injury (or reinjury) is actually pretty easy.
1. Practice Mindfulness With Your Body
You can probably recall a time when your gym teacher saw a student struggling and urged him to “play through the pain” or “tough it out.” However, pain is a useful warning sign that something is not quite right with that part of your body.
When exercising, staying aware of your body is key for preventing injury. Paying attention to pain in your knees is particularly important if you have injured one or both knees from over-exertion before. If you are participating in a physical activity and experience stiffness, weakness or problems extending your knee fully, that pain or weakness could be your body signaling that it’s time to take a break.
Be patient with yourself and try not to feel guilty about temporarily slowing down your workout. Taking time to assess what is going on with your body during your workout may be the thing that’ll keep you from being benched for the rest of the season.
2. Adapt Your Exercises & Activities During Recovery
Recovering from a knee injury or starting to exercise again after sustaining a knee injury means that your knees can’t handle as much stress as they used to - and it’s important to know your limits. If your cardio activity of choice is running, swimming freestyle laps in the pool offers a workout that gets your blood pumping without taking a toll on your knees.
There are plenty of alternatives and adaptations available for specific workouts. We know that sometimes, that means giving up a favorite activity, but consider that it’s usually only temporary and you might actually discover a new favorite way of working out in the process.
3. Maintain Proper Form While Exercising
Challenging yourself in the gym is a great way to bring your fitness to the next level. However, increasing weight or doing more reps is only going to help you if you are exercising safely and properly. From squats and lunges to running and weightlifting, proper form is an essential part of preventing injury. Improper form can be the result of muscle fatigue from completing too many reps or inexperience .
If you like pushing yourself to your limits, we commend you. However, you should never sacrifice form for reps. Instead of focusing on speed as you approach total fatigue, focus on maintaining proper form. If you cannot maintain proper form, stop.
If you’re completely sure how to perform an exercise - perhaps you only know the gist of it, and maybe you even feel a twinge of pain as you do the exercise, there are plenty of resources out there to help you. Check out fitness websites and YouTube channels for free advice day or night. Additionally, working with a personal trainer or fitness coach to develop proper form can help you build strength as well as exercise without hurting your knees.
4. Wear A Supportive Knee Brace
It’s no secret that our feet and ankles need proper support for sports, but it’s easy to overlook supportive gear for the knees. If you have experienced a knee injury before, wearing a knee brace for high-impact exercise like running is a wise idea. Wearing a brace will help stabilize your knee so that it stays properly supported as you run and jump. Even if you aren’t engaging in high-impact cardio activities, wearing a knee brace in the gym will help you prevent injury by maintaining your form.
5. Work More Collagen Into Your Diet
When it comes to keeping your knees healthy, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Because our bodies are made of complex, interconnected systems, it’s important to know what our bodies need and be proactive in meeting those needs. Cartilage is a thick, rubber-like tissue in the knee that cushions the bones of joints. When knee cartilage wears down, it can lead to pain, swelling and inflammation. For proper function and optimal mobility in our knees, we need to consume foods that help us maintain (or restore) cartilage. The protein collagen is essential for preserving and regenerating cartilage. Foods rich in vitamin C, such as oranges and grapefruit, bolster collagen production. Mixing collagen powder into drinks or taking collagen supplements are also good options. Plus, collagen is known for its skin-rejuvenating properties, so getting more collagen will help you feel better inside and out.
6. Pay Attention to Your Nutrition
Proper nutrition is important for everyone, especially people who are physically active. Consuming plenty of protein, healthy fats and vegetables ensures that your body has the nutrients it needs for muscle growth, repair and recovery. Strong muscles support healthy joints, thus lowering your risk of injury. Plus, keeping a balanced diet promotes a healthy weight, which puts less strain on your joints.
7. Manage Your Weight With Diet & Moderate Exercise
The more weight your knees have to move, the harder they have to work each day. Maintaining (or getting down to) a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for your overall joint health, especially for your knees. As much as possible, plan and prepare your meals in advance to stay on top of your nutrition. Using a tracking app or keeping a food journal will help you become more aware of the calories and nutrients that are in everything you eat. Building exercise into your daily routine, such as going for a walk after dinner, gets you into the habit of exercising.
8. Visit Your Doctor For A Check-Up
Still dealing with knee pain despite healthy lifestyle choices and proper exercise? The knee is a complex structure, so plenty of things can go wrong. Sometimes an undiagnosed problem with the bones, ligaments or tendons in your knee is at the root of your sudden knee pain or mobility issues. Making an appointment with your primary care physician may reveal that you have a problem with the bones or joints in your knees that needs medical attention, such as therapy or surgery in order to correct.