By: Jean Johnson for Knee1
The knees are a hard one. They tend to go in those physically active – tennis players with their abrupt sideways jarring, runners who regularly pound the pavement and team sports players who push and shove their way up and down courts and fields. Then there are the couch potatoes who even if they luck out and don’t pack on more weight than their knees were designed to carry, tend at the very least to suffer from flaccid, out-of-shape muscles that do little to help the knees function as nature intended.
|Protect your knees:|
1. Wear good shoes designed for the specific activities.
2. Keep knees strong with leg curls and presses.
3. Stretch the calf, hamstrings, quads and glutes.
4. Strengthen core muscles with crunches and body lifts.
5. Maintain good balance through a variety of exercises and get enough sleep.
6. Watch your weight and nutrition.
The good news, though, is that according to Kris Jensen, M.S., P.T., S.C.S, manager of sports medicine physical therapy in the Sports Medicine Center at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison, people with minor knee injuries can rebuild strength with a home exercise program. “With a little creativity,” wrote Jensen, “you can do very well at home without exercise equipment.” She cautions, though, that several important points need careful consideration.
Home programs are aimed at strength training exclusively and thus need to be “supplemented to create a comprehensive program.” Jensen adds that “the goals of a complete knee rehabilitation program are to regain normal strength, power, endurance, flexibility, balance, agility, and heart and lung fitness.” A tall order, admittedly.
But possible, she says if people are prudent, diligent, and work with the medical community to enhance and tailor their programs specifically to their needs. She emphasizes that “not all exercises are appropriate for every injury” and that it is important to follow the advice of a “physician as to what activities and knee exercises would work best for you.”
Jensen points also points out that exercises should be done every other day to allow muscles adequate time for recovery, and that “any exercise that causes significant pain during or after the exercise session” should be discontinued.
Approaching an exercise program conservatively pays off, Jenson continues. “One set of six to 12 repetitions for each exercise is usually adequate. As you become stronger, gradually increase to four sets of six to 12 repetitions with one to two minute rests between sets. You can increase the difficulty of the exercises by increasing the number of repetitions or by shortening the rest period.”
Jensen underscores “listening to your body and stopping exercising if you have pain, or if you are unable to perform the exercise correctly.” Particularly on this latter point, physician and director of Providence Portland Medical Center’s rehabilitation unit, Molly Hoeflich M.D., said that “Although if you have a relatively minor problem you can kind of self-help your way out of it, more major problems do require a physician’s evaluation and oftentimes at least one session with a physical therapist. My experience is that a lot of times people are doing their exercises wrong so if they can have someone review what they’re doing to see it things are correct, it would be helpful.”
Once those trying to rehabilitate minor knee injuries with home programs are confident they are proceeding according to Hoyle, though, Jensen suggests keeping a log of the sessions to both monitor progress and stay motivated. Between written data and diligence, people trying to rebuild knee strength can expect good prospects, she says.
Tom Brown of Goldendale, Washington, who had a knee replacement when he was in his sixties, said, “I had an old football injury that I never did take care of like I should. These days with all this rehab focus, it seems that folks won’t have to suffer like I did. I hope so because having knee surgery was a killer – and so was having bum knees most of my adult life.”