I notice people. I am a nurse, and a Certified Nutritional/Wellness Consultant and observation is what I do. I am shocked at the increase in knee pain in all ages. As I began to research this sad phenomenon, I discovered that it is considered an epidemic by medical professionals.
It’s common knowledge that excess weight can cause knee pain, but as I was reading about the effect that obesity has on our musculo-skeletal system, I was shocked when I read that there is a type of knee dislocation, that can be caused by obesity, that injures the artery that runs down the leg. (1)
“Knee dislocations are an extremely traumatic injury and can be limb threatening. Because of the potential neurovascular damage associated with this injury, knee dislocations are considered one of the most serious knee injuries, albeit one of the most rare. Due to spontaneous reductions, the true frequency of knee dislocations is not known. Unreduced dislocations present with an obvious deformity, but spontaneously reduced dislocations can lead the examiner to underestimate the severity of the injury, thereby risking the limb. After suffering a knee dislocation, the patient is faced with a long and difficult rehabilitation program, which must focus on full range of motion (ROM) and strength in order to achieve functional recovery.” (2)
Are you willing to give up a leg for that cupcake that is bigger than your head? Notice that the above referenced government research refers to “risking the limb”. This type of vascular injury is more than twice as likely to occur in an obese individual. (3)
Even without the injury to the artery, obesity still causes more severe knee dislocations, longer hospital stays and slower healing. The longer it takes for a surgical site to heal, the more likely you are to get an infection. The hospital stay for the obese individual averages 15 days as opposed to about one week for others. The cost of this extra care is significant, being $131,000 for the obese and $60,000 for everyone else, on average. (4) How much money have you got for surgery that may not be necessary if you would just take care of yourself? Even with good insurance, there is time off work, co-pays, prescriptions and dressings to buy. Add these costs to the costs of all that extra food and eating in restaurants, and you have a financial nightmare.
While knee pain can be caused by factors other than obesity, such as injury, mechanical problems and arthritis, the main risk factor for knee pain is excess weight. Lack of muscle strength also contributes by causing the knee to be unstable. Strong muscles, tendons and ligaments hold the knee stable and help to protect your joints. Regular exercise that has been approved by your doctor can help keep your legs strong.
While you may not be able to prevent knee pain altogether, there are steps you can take that may prevent injuries and/or joint deterioration.
1-Manage your weight. Every pound of excess weight puts 4 pounds of extra weight on your knees for every step that you take. If you are 10 pounds overweight, your knees are carrying about 40 pounds of extra weight due to the mechanics of our bodies. This is the main factor in knee pain for almost everyone.
2-Get strong. Find an activity that will strengthen you all over, especially your quadriceps and hamstrings. Balance and stability training helps the muscles around the knee work together more effectively. Take the time after your workouts for some gentle stretching because muscles that are too tight can also contribute to knee pain.
3-Work out smart. I lift heavy weights and I cannot progress in weight until I make improvements in my form with the lesser weights. This helps to prevent injury. When I was still squatting shallow, my knees hurt occasionally. When I improved my form, the knee pain disappeared. Take the time to learn good technique and form for whatever exercise you choose.
4-Use common sense about exercise. If you have knee pain, you may need to limit your high impact activity. Switching to low impact exercise for even a few days every week can make a significant improvement in your level of pain. Swimming and water aerobics may be smart choices that your doctor may approve.