Health & Fitness

5 Ways To Keep Your Knees In Good Shape

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Physical activity is important for staying healthy, but it also puts wear and tear on your joints. Dr. Stephen Rochell, an orthopedic surgeon at Crystal Lake Orthopedics, shares a few ways to keep active joints in good condition.

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Dr. Steven Rochell, of Crystal Lake Orthopedics, encourages patients who experience knee pain to maintain preventive habits and pursue alternate treatments before seeking joint replacement surgery. (Lindsey Gapen photo)

Physical activity is important for a healthy lifestyle, but it can also put wear and tear on your knees. Dr. Steven Rochell, an orthopedic surgeon at Crystal Lake Orthopedics, 750 Terra Cotta Ave., Crystal Lake, and 12519 Regency Pkwy., Huntley, tackles a variety of joint-related conditions, from sports injuries to chronic ailments such as arthritis.

“The importance of staying active cannot be overemphasized,” Rochell says. “My goal is to relieve pain and restore function in regards to orthopedic injuries and illnesses, so patients can return to a healthy, if not healthier, lifestyle.”

It is possible to keep your knees healthy and pain-free, with some simple preventive techniques. Rochell offers five tips for keeping your knees in optimal condition.

1. Maintain Strength and Balance

As you age, your muscles lose their strength. You also tend to lose your ability to balance.

“Balance is something that’s frequently neglected in terms of one’s exercise program,” Rochell says. “One of the main reasons people experience orthopedic injury is because they fall. Balance gives you the ability to react to changes in terrain, and the ability to respond appropriately to objects in your path, so you don’t end up on the ground.”

To improve your balance, a simple practice may be standing on one leg with your eyes closed.

2. Maintain Healthy Habits

Exercising and eating well can help to sustain a healthy weight, which helps to avoid putting extra pressure on your knees. Regular activity such as walking, running, swimming and cardiovascular exercise can help to keep your weight in check.

“We obviously don’t want people to become obese – we want them to be fit,” Rochell says. “Eating the appropriate food and elevating your heart rate to its target zone for a period of time is helpful in maintaining overall fitness, which helps prevent overbearing weight on your knees.”

3. Set Rational Exercise Goals

Too much of a good thing can be bad. Rochell sees many patients “overdoing it” with their physical activity.

“You have to approach your goals, such as a 5K run, a marathon or even a single workout, in a reasonable way,” he says. “Pushing yourself too quickly can result in orthopedic injuries.”

People who experience arthritic pain may need to avoid certain actitivies.

“Changing your lifestyle to avoid aggravating the arthritis is important,” Rochell says. “Examples involve avoiding squats and other high-impact activities.”

4. Don’t Ignore Pain

Knee pain can happen for many reasons, such as joint degeneration, infections or even tumors.

“Pain is your body telling you that something is wrong,” Rochell says. “If you deal with it immediately, progression can be prevented.”

It’s important to see a physician if pain is persistent.

5. Ask About Alternatives to Surgery

If you do develop arthritis, proper knee function can be restored with complete or partial joint replacement.

“Replacement involves metals and plastics that have a life expectancy as well,” Rochell says. “If we can delay that surgery to a time when a patient will only need it once in his or her lifetime, that would be ideal.”

Alternatives to surgery that relieve pain and restore function include physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, injectable treatments and topical preparations. “The best treatment is always specific to the patient,” Rochell says.

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