While attempting a Warrior Two position during a free YouTube yoga class with the wonderful Adriene, I heard a weird and rather disconcerting noise – a sort of dry crunching. Then I realised the source of this sound was my very own left knee. Painful knees can often be a bit of an issue for women in their fifties because, as we age, these are the most common joints that need attention – usually because we are (annoyingly) developing osteoarthritis.
This and other joint problems affect over ten million people in the UK, of which around 70,000 end up each year – four out of five being women – having total replacement surgery (which may require another two or three repeat operations). So thought I would do some research to discover if there is anything we can do ourselves to improve the condition of our knees before we have no option but to make an appointment to see the doctor.
Eat more fibre
It appears that a fibre-rich diet may lower the risk of knee osteoarthritis. Your shopping list could include more:
- Wholegrain breakfast cereals, wholegrain bread and oats, barley and rye and wholewheat pasta
- Fruit such as berries, pears, melon and oranges
- Vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and sweetcorn
- Peas, beans and pulses
- Potatoes with skin
Keep your knees moving
Don’t keep an osteoarthritic knee bent for too long (ie sitting on a sofa watching an entire Netflix box set) as this will have a negative affect on your muscles. So stand up and walk about on a regular basis.
Lose 5% of your body weight
According to one of those ubiquitous studies, being 10lb overweight increases the force on your knees by 30 – 60lbs for very step you take. Just losing 5% of your body weight is enough to slow down cartilage loss.
Wear low heeled shoes with soft thick soles
Trainers are ideal but there are lots of ergonomically designed shoes and sandals out there – think FitFlop or therapeutic shoes like Crocs. Thicker soles act as shock absorbers for your feet, hips and back as well as your knees, while high heels put extra unwanted strain on them.
Exercise your quadriceps
If your knees are aching/creaking, you might not think that exercising is one of our better tips. But actually strengthening the ligaments that are located within and just outside the knee joint capsule and quadriceps (your thigh muscles), helps to hold the knee joints in place which reduces pain and improves their performance. Swimming, cycling and cross-training are particularly good forms of exercise (especially on a little and often basis).
If your knees are swollen or painful
Avoid standing for a long time (ie put as little weight as possible on them). Wrap a bag of frozen peas in a tea towel and put on your knee/s for up to 20 minutes every two to three hours. In colder weather, a wrapped hot water bottle can ease pain and stiffness. Do not apply either ice or heat directly to your skin though. Take paracetamol to ease the pain. Do see your GP if the pain doesn’t improve within a few weeks. More info on knee pain from NHS Direct.
Having knee pain when you go up or down the stairs?
This could be the sign of a damaged knee cap. The medical profession call it chondromalacia patellae which is usually linked to overuse of the knee. It can be treated at home by anti-inflammatories (for example ibuprofen**) or paracetamol, and you’ll get some comfort from those peas wrapped in a tea towel that I mentioned above.
**ibuprofen Buy own brand ibuprofen – it is a fraction of the price of brands such as Nurofen and has exactly the same ingredients.
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