Knees are such complex joints. No wonder there is so much that can go wrong. However, let’s focus on what we can do to help ward off issues and keep us mobile.
Before looking at the positive stuff, you ‘kneed’ (no more puns I promise) to know a bit of anatomy.
Your knee joint consists of 3 bones – femur (thigh bone) tibia (shin bone) and patella (knee cap). It also contains menisci (cartilage) which act as shock absorbers and ligaments for stability. Your knees are synovial hinge joints so designed to flex and extend. They have a lot of weight to support and are potentially quite vulnerable so ligaments help to stabilise the area. The lateral collateral and medial collateral ligaments prevent the femur from sliding from side to side. The anterior/posterior cruciate ligaments prevent the femur and tibia from sliding forward and back. Your knee cap is known as a sesmoid bone and is embedded in the quads. It rotates slightly to lock the knee and provide additional stability.
Problems with knees
During my research, I discovered 13 potential problems with knees which is pretty depressing! So, I thought I would concentrate on the ones that will probably be more familiar to you.
Osteoarthritis is, sadly, a side effect of growing up. It’s caused by wear and tear of the cartilage. Those of you who have it will know how painful it can be and how debilitating the stiffness and swelling can become. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that can affect any joint including the knee and can cause permanent joint damage. Meniscal (cartilage) tears happen often as a result of twisting the knee in a way it was never designed to go and large tears may cause the knee to lock. Finally, we have ligament tears/strains. The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is responsible for the bulk of knee stability. A tear in the ACL may lead to your knee ‘giving way’. A tear in the Posterior Cruciate ligament (PCL) is less common and will cause pain and swelling.
Treatment is dependent on what has happened to your knee. Interventions range from physiotherapy through to surgery and anything in between!! Some injuries (ACL and meniscus tears) will probably require surgery fairly swiftly. But what about those of you with osteoarthritis? Exercise will be a key player here. And don’t forget to do the exercises on both legs!! Sadly, you’ll probably be on a waiting list for a knee replacement for a long time. So do everything you can to help prepare your body.
In this weeks FLexercise matters I have given you a few basic exercises to help strengthen and lengthen your quads and hamstrings https://www.facebook.com/flexerciseuk/videos/1225496011207523
Remember, these are all exercises that your own FLexercise teacher often does in class so they won’t be at all alien.
There are also some really excellent leaflets available with more information on good basic exercises. The one from our friends at Versus Arthritis is particularly good https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/exercising-with-arthritis/exercises-for-healthy-joints/exercises-for-the-knees/
And the Royal Berkshire Hospital have produced an excellent leaflet for post knee replacement https://www.royalberkshire.nhs.uk/patient-information-leaflets/Physiotherapy%20Knee%20Total%20knee%20replacement
Remember – talk to your GP about your knees. There’s plenty that can be done to help. But most importantly, keep exercising. If you don’t you’ll seize up!!