Many of you out there probably have a favorite professional athlete whose knees are always on your radar. A knee injury or ACL injury can put an athlete out of the game for a long time. But whether you are an athlete yourself or just engage in physical activity, it’s important to protect your knees and work to prevent injuries at all costs.
Unfortunately, knees can seem pretty fragile. What can you do to strengthen your knees? How can you prevent knee injuries – or treat them if an accident happens?
Be Aware of Common Knee Injuries
Before we dive into prevention and treatment, first let’s talk about the different types of knee injuries people typically suffer.
- Runner’s Knee: This is simply an injury caused by overusing the knee, similar to a strain of the muscles. It results in pain around, including behind, the kneecap. Pain is intensified while you are bending your knee, walking downstairs, or walking downhill.
- Jumper’s Knee: Similar to runner’s knee, jumper’s knee is caused by an excess of jumping or a similar activity.
- Illiotibial (IT) Band Syndrome: If you’ve never heard of this type of knee injury, consider yourself lucky. The IT band runs along the outside of the leg. When it is irritated or injured, you may feel a lot of pain outside of the knee. Without proper treatment or care, IT band syndrome can result in meniscus tears that require surgery.
- Ligament Sprains and Tears: These are the most serious injuries to the knee area. The most common ligament injuries are anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medical cruciate ligament (MCL) injuries. These usually happen from accidents or blows to the ligaments, and can cause great pain to the area around the knee.
- Fractures: The femur, patella (kneecap,) and tibia are all connected by ligaments and cartilage, but they are still bones. A severe blow to the knee may cause fractures and breaks to the bones.
What You Can Do to Prevent Knee Injuries
The best way to prevent knee injuries is to strengthen the area around the knees and the legs. Focus on stretches and exercises that will help the muscles in your legs (quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, and so on).
Do your workout buddies tease you about skipping leg day? Exercising and protecting your legs has more benefits than many people think. Whether you are at the gym or want to start exercising at home, consider the following exercises:
- Hamstring curls
- Various types of leg raises
- Calf raises
- Wall squats
- Leg presses
Additionally, exercises like planks and side planks not only strengthen your core, they’re also great for many of the muscles in your legs.
A word to the wise, though. When getting back into exercising or doing physical activity, it is incredibly important to pace yourself. A sudden burst of activity increases your risk of being injured.
Take your time and stretch before and after exercises to make sure your muscles are being properly warmed up. For best results, focus on stretches that will ease the muscles of the leg in and out of a workout.
And if you are playing a sport or doing an activity that offers knee pads or knee protection, use it. As silly as it might look, it will pay off in the long run when you don’t have to walk around with crutches or a cast.
Different Ways That You Can Treat Knee Injuries
For minor knee injuries, remember the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It may take a few hours or days of using this method to get your knee back in tip-top shape, but this is something that just about anyone can do without help.
Less serious knee injuries may also be treated by massage therapy. A massage therapist will be able to reduce pain around the knee area, as well as the rest of the leg. It can reduce tension as well. Tension in the muscles around the knee puts you at a greater risk for injuries upon falling or getting into an accident.
For more serious knee injuries, consider physical therapy. Therapists will be able to help you regain motion in the areas around your knee, and also give you exercises and motions to do on your own so you can continue to strengthen the area around your knee and prevent future injuries.
ACL and MCL tears may require braces, although this is not always the case for patients who have never had those types of injuries before.
Both massage and physical therapy are offered by many chiropractic practices. Although many people believe that chiropractors only treat issues relating to the back and spine, many practices also can help patients heal after sports injuries, and treat other areas of the body as well.
If you want to know more about how chiropractic treatments and therapy can help you regain motion and relieve pain after a knee injury, contact a Florida chiropractor today.
About the Author:
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.