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Orthopaedic surgeon shares how to keep your knees healthy

Monday, February 12, 2024 10:41 AM
Tags: orthopaedics

By Susan J. White

The largest joint in the body — the knee — helps you stand, maintain your balance and do just about any kind of movement from walking and running, to swimming or dancing, and moving through daily activities.

Complex joints, knees include bones, muscles, ligaments and cartilage and play a vital role in keeping athletes in the game and people of all ages active and able to embrace healthy movement. So, what are the best ways to keep your knees healthy?

Person kneeling down to fix shoe

Endeavor Health orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist Asheesh Bedi, MD, offers a few tips to help protect your knees.

  1. Strong muscles. “In general, regardless of age and activity level, the more we can keep our muscles around our joints strong, the more favorably they will function,” said Dr. Bedi. For knees that means strong hamstrings and quadriceps muscles. In addition to muscle strength, maintaining good balance between muscle groups is also important, meaning we don’t want to train one set of muscles to the exclusion of the other.

  2. Exercise. Improving body mechanics and neuromuscular training through exercise and practice can also help prevent some of the most common knee injuries including ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and meniscus tears, explained Dr. Bedi. These are often noncontact injuries, and the right mechanics with landing and changing direction can actually prevent these injuries.

    “Our knees are part of a kinetic chain, and can be impacted by upstream joints like the hips and can also be affected by a weak core,” said Dr. Bedi. “A strong core is important for balance and we know that many problems and injuries can start or be exacerbated by a weak core.”

  3. Physical therapy. Working with a professional physical therapist who has input from a physician evaluation and/or an experienced personal trainer is an excellent way to develop an exercise program designed to strengthen and stabilize knees, and the entire kinetic chain.

    “In general there is great value in getting professional guidance when first developing an exercise program,” said Dr. Bedi. “Exercises to strengthen and improve mechanics will be different for an elderly patient looking to relieve symptoms of arthritis and a young athlete looking to minimize risk of traumatic injury.  Individualizing the approach is part of the personalized approach we like to take with our patients at Endeavor Health.”

    Typically, people can transition fairly quickly to a home maintenance program, once they have learned the exercises.

  4. Supplements and various biologic therapies represent an area patients often want to explore, and Dr. Bedi warns that misinformation, often driven by marketing and financial goals, is quite prevalent. “There are things that can offer improvement in pain relief and there is important ongoing research related to regenerative medicine, but we cannot yet reverse the natural history of arthritis and regrow articular cartilage in patients,” said Dr. Bedi. “These therapies can have value when utilized responsibly.”

  5. Diet and nutrition, which we know are critical to overall health, also play a role in bone health and can be particularly important around injury recovery, with things like sufficient protein intake. A healthy diet is also a crucial part of weight management and maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI), which protects joints.

  6. Complementary therapies. Many modalities for injury recovery like cryotherapy and homeopathic or complementary practices including cupping and dry needling are gaining attention and are utilized by elite athletes for recovery. “These recovery strategies are worth continued investigation and as we learn more, we can incorporate these modalities for symptom management and pain relief,” added Dr. Bedi.

The team of experts at Endeavor Health Orthopaedic & Spine Institute offers world-class options close by. We use innovative, minimally invasive techniques for joint replacement, complex spine surgeries, sports medicine and more, so you can get back to the activities you enjoy sooner. Learn more.

NorthShore University HealthSystem, Swedish Hospital, Northwest Community Healthcare and Edward-Elmhurst Health are now united under one name, Endeavor Health. We’re setting a new standard for healthcare that’s focused on you, because your best health is our endeavor. Learn more.