It might seem surprising that daily life activities can wreak the most havoc on your knees. Whether it’s general wear-and-tear as a result of aging or an acute injury from an overzealous hike, chronic knee pain can keep you on the sidelines of an active lifestyle.
Every year, there are roughly 700,000 knee replacement surgeries performed in the US, and the number is rising. Athletes and active adults have the highest risk, as 40% of people who play sports like basketball, soccer, or football will suffer a knee injury at one time.
The procedure for knee replacement surgery is serious but by being proactive you may be able to prevent surgery altogether. Even small lifestyle adjustments can make a big difference when it comes to easing chronic knee pain. With a few lifestyle changes, you can step on to a path of better health and less pain.
We’ve talked in previous articles about the impact of being overweight and the direct link to chronic pain. Every day is an opportunity to make small but impactful choices when it comes to losing weight.
Harvard Health suggests smaller adjustments to your lifestyle, instead of lofty diet and exercise goals. Simple solutions such as cutting 125 calories a day in your diet while also burning 125 calories a day through exercise can help you lose weight without a dramatic a lifestyle change.
Daily chores may offer unexpected ways to burn calories. Activities like mowing the lawn, carrying groceries up the stairs and mopping floors are all ways to burn an extra 125 calories a day.
Cut back on sugar
Sugar is known to be linked to inflammation in the body. An increase in sugar in your diet results in an inflammatory response, which can lead to more pain in your knees and the rest of your body.
With an impact on everything from chronic pain to rising cholesterol and weight gain, added sugar in your diet can be the culprit for long-term health problems.
Make conscious choices to remove added sugar and replace it with natural alternatives. Keep in mind “sugar-free” products are often filled with sugar replacements which can be just as bad, or worse, than added sugar. Opting for whole fruit, water, and a lot of leafy greens will help curb cravings to make the reduced-sugar transition easier. You’ll notice a reduction in inflammation and an overall long-term reduction in chronic pain.
Choose the right cardio
A regular exercise routine can be the key to protecting the health of your knees. However, high-intensity workouts and long-distance running can do more harm than good when it comes to chronic knee pain.
If you experience knee pain but are looking to lose weight, you will need to change the way you think about cardio to achieve results. Exercises that get your heart rate going, while protecting the impact on your lower body will be the most effective. Activities such as swimming, cycling, using an elliptical trainer, and resistance weight training will protect your knees while still maintaining your health and weight goals.
Learn how to lift
Whether you’re picking up heavy boxes or incorporating “leg day” into your fitness routine, it’s essential to learn how to correctly lift with your legs to protect your knees.
When lifting heavy items, or doing lower body exercises, make a few subtle tweaks in your movements to protect your joints. Keep a full range of movement when you lift and don’t stop halfway between a squat or a lunge. Make sure to keep your shin in a vertical position and rely on your quads to do the work instead of your knees.
Know your options
Swelling and reddening of the skin are key indicators of immediate inflammation and should be your cue to schedule a time to see a doctor or pain specialist. Pain or swelling in the back of the knee is another sign. The back of your knee is home to a number of blood vessels that feed your lower leg. Chronic inflammation can often damage this area of the knee and result in pain.
Invasive surgery is not your only option to ease chronic knee pain. A technique called Radio Frequency Knee Ablation is a procedure that uses a heat lesion to “blind” the pain signals from the nerves around the knee. The pain-relieving effects last anywhere from 6-12 months and is a solution for severely arthritic or bone on bone knees.
Other regenerative procedures such as PRP, amniotic allograft injection, bone marrow aspirate concentrate or Viscosupplementation are other options that may be suitable alternatives to alleviate chronic knee pain. The beneficial effects of these various regenerative procedures are unique and a series of injections combining the healing power is often the most effective.
Knee pain doesn’t have to keep you from doing the things you enjoy. Schedule a consultation with a pain management specialist to find the ideal treatment for your active lifestyle.
Dr. Alex Bigham is the owner and CEO of Novocur Pain Management Clinics and has over 18 years of healthcare experience in private practice and Ambulatory Surgical Center settings. Novocur offers advanced treatment options in a concierge type practice without the concierge price tag. Dr. Bigham appears frequently on local TV and radio programs to discuss the latest in Pain Management or related health topics.
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