Here’s something to act on today so you don’t have to give it too much thought in the future.
Knee care is especially important for women.
Interestingly, women receive most of the knee replacements performed in the United States.
By middle age, it’s common for both men and women to develop degenerative meniscal tears and early osteoarthritis. As women progress still further along in age, osteoarthritis becomes more common for women than for men.
So why are women more prone to osteoarthritis in midlife?
The answer lies with our genetics, our hormones, female body anatomical alignment and with weight gain.
Our knees are load-bearing joints. They’re hinged permitting our lower legs and feet to swing back and forth in one direction. This range of motion includes a bit of side-to-side movement, some ability to rotate and perhaps to twist some 5-7 degrees.
Articular and meniscal cartilage (shock absorbers) cushion our knees. Through normal wear and tear or injury, cartilage can be damaged.
Since there are limitations to self-healing and self-repair, it behooves us to take good care of our knees.
Today, let’s focus on knee care, specifically one practice that you can do to maintain and care for your knee health.
And that practice is maintaining proper alignment. To reduce the chance for injury or osteoarthritis — keep your hips, knees and feet in proper alignment.
Start with your feet. When you bend your knee, be sure your kneecap is centered over the middle of your foot. This will distribute the pressure in your knees evenly.
Did you know that the pressure between the kneecap and the thigh bone is equal to about seven times your body weight?
Being as little as ten pounds over your ideal body weight can increase stress and accelerate cartilage breakdown, while doing normal daily activities.
If you bend your knee with your foot pronated, and we all pronate to some degree, your kneecap will pass over the big toe side of your foot and not the center.
Pronation is the rolling inward motion of the middle of the foot that twists your knee inward. This in turn lowers your arch producing a kind of knock-kneed effect.
Be careful not to overpronate doing sports, dancing or while exercising, for example.
Now for your knees.
Your kneecap is intended to slide along a groove. When your kneecap slips out of the groove, grinding of the cartilage beneath it occurs.
This may happen often due to the force we experience on our knees from various activities such as walking, climbing, running, moving from side-to-side, bending, jumping and so forth.
Reduce the powerful effect of the muscles pulling the kneecap out of alignment by stretching, training and conditioning the muscles surrounding your knee joints to absorb and react better to unwanted movement.
Specifically, you’ll want to strengthen your quadriceps – including your inner quads (your vmo’s or vastus medialis obliques), hamstrings and calf muscles surrounding your knees.
Doing this will help to stabilize your knees and help you to control the position of your ankles better. Standing yoga poses are particularly good for helping to strengthen and stabilize your knees.
Lastly, check your hips.
Compare your body to that of a man’s. Men tend to have narrower hips than women that line up directly with their knees.
Women tend to have hips that are wider (allowing for childbirth) than our knees. Our female body alignment leads to a higher number of knee injuries, which in turn may also contribute to osteoarthritis as we get older.
For example, the muscles that support a woman’s knee are smaller and weaker than the muscles supporting a man’s knee. Also, a woman inclines to knee injuries because of a muscular imbalance. A woman’s quads are generally stronger than her hamstring muscles.
Misaligned hips may lead you to distribute your weight unevenly to one side of your body (maybe your shoulder bag is weighing you down), causing the knee on that side to experience greater stress.
It’s wise to be vigilant about your alignment.
I’d love to know if you’re strengthening the muscles that support your knees. Please comment below.