Dr Dilip Nadkarni tells you how to get the best from your knee joints and try to prevent Knee replacement.
Can I prevent arthritis? Can I avoid knee replacement ?
The answer is YES if you ACT NOW.
A large majority of osteoarthritis is a result of our doing. The degeneration of the knee joints is accelerated by obesity and lifestyle. Let us see what steps we can take to prevent or postpone degeneration of our knee joints. Let us embark on a simple, easy to follow 5-point pathway to better knees.
More the weight more the wear on the joints. A truck tyre designed to carry a ton of load will wear out if made to carry 2 tons. The joint lining or the cartilage is no different. The stresses and strains of carrying excessive body weight target the knee joints and start the degenerative process. In our experience we have seen several persons scheduled to go for knee replacement avoiding the same after losing substantial body weight. If you shed your excess weight scientifically in your forties your chances of developing osteoarthritis in the sixties drop significantly.
As far as the knees are concerned there are 2 major thrust areas of workouts to follow.
Firstly the aim is to reduce weight and maintain it. Let us understand which are safe and effective exercises, which will help reduce weight and also be friendly to knees. The exercise which, tops my list, is swimming. If you could swim briskly for a sustained period, the fat can be burnt without harming the knees. If you are not a swimmer you could go for cycling. Cycling is very effective method to burn fat and provide friendly exercise to the knee. Third on the list is the ever-popular walk. Remember to wear good shoes and choose a track, which does not have too many inclines or uneven surfaces. These exercises done 4 times a week for 45 minutes at good intensity could help you knock off the excess fat weighing on your knees.
The second thrust area of exercise in knee-care is strengthening the muscles around the knee. The largest muscle of our body, which is in the front of the thigh protects the knee from wear. There are simple exercises, which can strengthen the quadriceps in your thighs. Sitting on a chair and raising your leg to horizontal helps the "quads". You could add a small weight of a kilo or so around your ankle to give better exercise. A couple of sets of twenty repetitions can work wonders on the knees. If you are the gym type, leg press, leg raises, leg curls and ¼ squats are just great.
The exercises, which can be potentially harmful to the knees, include running, jumping, high impact aerobic dance and full squats. In your action plan for knee-care start your workout by warm-up, stretching, followed by a session of cycling, weight training for your thighs and concluded by a cool-down.
To get the most from your knees keep a good posture especially while at work. Attention is to be paid to the chair you are sitting on. If the chair is too low the knees are in flexion constantly, not good. If the chair is too high you are struggling for foot support. Get a chair ideal for your height where your knees are bent at a comfortable angle, allowing you to sit down and get up easily. Sitting cross-legged and using low furniture can usher in knee problems over the years. If your job involves standing for prolonged hours you could use a small stool to keep one of your feet alternately to de-load the knees. Faulty posture leads to a host of problems to the human body and the knees are not spared.
Many cases of osteoarthritis are due to neglected knee injuries in the past. A twisted knee in badminton or a ligament injury during cricket in the younger years can lead to incapacitating arthritis in the future. The knee joint is supported and protected by important structures like the ligaments and cartilages. Twisting injuries during sports or falls or vehicular accidents can cause serious injuries to these structures. Often these injuries are missed and go on to create a focus of degeneration. Thankfully with the advent of diagnostic and therapeutic modalities like the MRI and arthroscopy these injuries can be treated and arthritis prevented. The idea is not to neglect the so-called minor knee injuries. Get treated to day and prevent arthritis tomorrow.
A relaxed mind and calm disposition can help in preventing knee problems. A constantly stressed individual is in a state of excessive tone in the muscles, which worsens the posture. A state of prolonged stress can also worsen our immune system and affect the knees along with a host of other serious problems. Exercises, meditation and music can be helpful in keeping you calm and stress free.
You can get better service from your knees if you take a few precautions in your younger years. The life span is increasing and problems associated with aging are going to increase. The idea is to die young at an old age. The seeds of arthritis are sown in the thirties and forties. Many of these contributory factors are with in our control. Weight, sedentary lifestyle, poor posture and stress are in our circle of influence and can be altered by us, unlike heredity and fate. All the best with knee-care see you in the gym and not in the operation theatre!!