A slight pain after intense physical activity, nothing more: this is how many knee diseases usually begin. It is easy to confuse the problem with fatigue or a small contracture of the muscles, especially for those who are not very experienced. Sometimes, however, it is the symptom with which osteoarthritis of the knee begins to appear, a pathology that is due to the degeneration of the cartilage that normally covers the joint surfaces, to minimize friction and improve the lubrication of the knee itself.
Osteoarthritis can be simply due to the aging of the cells or to the wear of the joint due to excessive use; however, especially in non-elderly subjects and who do not practice strenuous professional activities, it is often due to the damage that occurred in the tissues (tendons, ligaments, menisci) and, having not been diagnosed in time, have repercussions on the health of the entire joint.
Knee pain: general symptom, different causes
The knee, despite being a rather robust joint complex, is characterized by rather complicated dynamics so that small damage, if neglected, affects the entire system. Also, for this reason, it is advisable to contact a specialized professional as soon as there is a doubt that the joint is damaged in any way.
Otherwise, exactly as it happens when the gear of a clock is scratched, with time, the small error that is created also affects the surrounding gears up to cause rupture of the whole mechanism. An injury that may initially seem insignificant to a profane eye may thus be the trigger for a problem such as osteoarthritis, which has a significant impact on the patient’s quality of life.
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The main pathologies of the knee
The menisci are four fibrous structures, vaguely semicircular, which are present on the upper part of the tibias and serve to cushion the small traumas that the tibias themselves suffer, for example when we walk or jump.
Lateral stresses, such as those to which we are subjected when we make a rapid change of direction or sudden acceleration, can however cause a lesion in the fibrous tissue that composes them and cause damage that in the long term damages the cartilages and other structures of the knee.
The cruciate ligaments instead have the function of stabilizing the joint, preventing misalignment of the tibia and femur. There are two front and two rear ones (one on each side). Again, trauma and accelerations can cause injury or rupture, especially of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which for some reason is usually the weaker of the two.
Other types of damage can cause pain and arthritic degeneration in the knee, such as those to the bones (patella, femur, and tibia), which are often traumatic but are more difficult to go undiagnosed in the imminence of the event and carry on for a sufficient time without the patient consulting a specialist.
The diagnosis of the pathology
Only those with sufficient experience can be able to understand what is the primary cause that has triggered the degeneration of the cartilage, which very often causes chronic knee pain.
The diagnosis must be confirmed and deepened through diagnostic imaging methods such as magnetic resonance and ultrasound, with the addition of radiography if it is believed there may be damage to the bones.
Based on the diagnosis, the specialist will then develop the treatment strategy that best suits the characteristics of the individual patient.
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How to have healthy and strong knees?
“L’ exercise is the only unmovable cornerstone both for the therapy of knee injuries, that in case you want to simply work because of prevention”.
Sticking to a moderate training regimen, obviously without overdoing it, is the best weapon to combat knee osteoarthritis: several scientific studies have proven that exercise is even more effective than painkillers in controlling pain.
For this, I have put together, below, some simple exercises that everyone can do to strengthen the muscles that support the knees.
The exercises for the knee
- Stretching and warm-up:
While seated, place your legs outstretched over each other and slowly bring your chest as close to your knees as possible. Maintain for 15-30 seconds.
sitting on a chair, with the thigh close to the seat, bring the foot as far back as possible (under the chair). Repeat ten times on each side.
from lying down, supine, bring the leg, which must be kept straight, as high as possible. Repeat ten or twelve times on each side.
while sitting, with your back straight, contract the muscles of the two thighs alternately, maintaining the contraction for 5-10 seconds each time. Repeat five times on each side.
standing with your hands on your hips, place one leg forward while keeping the other in place, and lower yourself onto the front one until the knee forms a right angle, being careful to keep your back straight. Repeat 5-10 times on each side, alternating which leg to train.
- Partial squat:
always starting from the standing position, with the feet more or less shoulder-width apart, bend the knees without bending the back, then rise back to the starting position. The first few times it is possible to go down with the hips only of a palm, and then when the muscles are stronger it would be advisable to at least reach a right angle with the knee.
Those who have to take care of the health of the knees (or, more generally, of their joints) should follow a diet rich in antioxidant foods (fish, olive oil, fresh fruit, flax seeds, etc.) or those that contain vitamins and (kiwi, mango, spinach, broccoli, peanuts…). Calcium intake is also important, especially if you have to heal from a fracture or in any case a trauma that has affected the bones: it can be found in milk (cow or goat, leaner and more nutritious), cheese, yogurt, and soy-based foods.
- Sports activities:
In general, for those with knee problems, I would recommend practicing activities that have a low traumatic impact such as swimming, cycling, or walking, while I would not recommend contact sports (for example basketball, football, or rugby) or activities that involve using your legs explosively, such as running and jumping.