Tips You “Knee-d” to Know to Help Ease Joint Pain

As we hit the milestone of 50, it’s only natural that our bodies will start feeling new aches and pains. While there is no fountain of youth, there may be measures we can take to mitigate some of the issues we face as our bodies evolve.

One of the most common culprits of discomfort is knee pain.

“Every time you walk, there are up to 7 pounds of force on the knee for every 1 pound of body weight you carry,” explains Dante Marconi, MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon and Sports Medicine Specialist with Shore Physicians Group. “So, after 50 years of stressing the knee cartilage with weight bearing, walking, running, and repetitive cyclic movements, there is a high possibility that people will experience some degree of pain in their knee.”

So, how physiologically does this happen? Let’s start with a broad view explanation of how the knee works. The knee joins the thigh to the shin and is made up of the femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone), fibula (small bone that runs alongside the tibia), and the patella (kneecap).

The knee joint has four major ligaments that connect the bones together to keep the knee stable.

  • The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) prevents the tibia from sliding forward onto the femur;
  • The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) prevents the tibia from sliding backward onto the femur;
  • The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) stabilizes the knee on the outside of the joint; and
  • The medial collateral ligament (MCL) stabilizes the knee on the inside of the joint

All of the joint surfaces are covered with strong joint cartilage which provides a well-lubricated surface for low-friction movement between the bones. This cartilage contains a natural lubricant called the synovial fluid, commonly known as joint fluid. The menisci (shock absorbers), also help lessen the total load seen by the bone and joint cartilage.

Over time, this joint cartilage can wear down, which increases the friction and results in pain. And, because there is limited blood flow in the knee joint, healing is poor compared to other areas of the body.

So, what can you do to prevent knee pain, especially after you hit 50? Dr. Marconi offers these tips:

  • Strengthen the muscles in the front and the back of the leg. This will keep everything balanced and stabilize the knee. Maintaining a strong core (abdominals, low back, glutes, and hip abductors) also contributes to maintaining healthy knees.
  • Maintain full range of motion by stretching before and after exercising.
  • Always use proper form during exercise and activity.
  • Use footwear with proper support, as there is a kinetic chain from the foot to the hip. Moderate use of:
    • high heels (which can strain the calf muscle, tighten the Achilles tendon, and lead to ankle sprains)
    • flip flops (lack of ankle support and changes how your foot accommodates to the ground)
    • sliders (lack of support and can increase the risk of ankle sprains and falls)

“Proper exercise protects our joints and is very important for overall joint health. I encourage exercise at any age, and it is certainly never too late to start,” said Dr. Marconi. “I advise for everyone to know their limitations, especially if they are trying something new, and I highly stress to use good mechanics and keep good form.”

Dante Marconi, MD treats patients at the Shore Physicians Group Division of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine, located at 710 Centre Street in Somers Point, NJ. To make an appointment with Dr. Marconi, call 609-365-6280.