FEELING GREAT: Why exercise can be bad for your knees

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last week I wrote about why knee pain is so common and why knees make a lot of unwanted noises…

This week, some tips on how to limit both of the above.

To avoid, or get relief from, knee pain that happens because of a gradual wear and tear process (as I’ve just described to you), you need to be doing the right type of exercises, done in the right way, at the right time.

It’s helpful to be doing routines that specifically strengthen your muscles - and add something called “control”.

And before I tell you more about what exercises to do, let me give you a little word of warning about “doing some exercise”:

I hear a lot of people talking about their painful knees in conversations with friends.

Because everyone thinks they have the answers to issues like this, people are unfortunately giving each other often bad and even dangerous advice, which is usually more confusing than it needs to be and often dilutes the importance of the message that something needs to be done – like exercises or physio.

Because there’s a lot of confusion around it, I want you to know about this medical fact: there’s a big difference between exercising and doing exercises

Note: I define exercising as doing something like walking for 20 minutes per day, and exercises being a steady and controlled sequence of movements designed to strengthen or make flexible a specific muscle group.

One of the big mistakes I see GPs make is telling people looking for a solution to knee pain to just ‘go and do some exercise’, as if more exercise will make the pain go away.

But, as you’re about to discover, more exercise is rarely the right answer. Not when it is already painful, anyway.

You see, the BIG mistake currently being made out there in society when it comes to healthy living is to think that when knee pain gets really bad, doing exercise - such as running and even more walking - will help make your knee stronger and therefore less painful. It won’t.

In fact, exercise will often make a swollen, painful knee, even worse.

The only thing you should ever consider doing is to stop exercising completely for a short period and instead, strengthen the muscles that are designed to protect and support the knee by doing specific exercises prescribed by a specialist physio.

In case you are wondering, the muscles you should be strengthening include your thigh, hamstring and lower back muscles and it pays to have your feet looked at - just to make sure they’re in the right position before you exercise too

And don’t worry – I’m not talking about doing exercises that involve any heavy lifting of weights or sitting on machines (the latter I never advise), or anything like that.

No. It’s possible to strengthen your knee muscles sufficiently just by using something as easy to get hold of as a resistance band.

What’s one of those, you might ask?

Well, it’s a large elastic band that has different levels of strength (often distinguished by colour) and all you do is strap it or tie it to something heavy or firm like a couch leg, and continuously work your knee muscles against the resistance.

You could even do a few simple exercises on the bottom of the stairs in your own home, or on a step.