Woman stretching at gym.How well do you really know your knees? Do you know what makes them tweak with pain, or cause inflammation? Whether you had a knee injury ten years ago or just recently, reduce your risk of injury by knowing your body and exercise accordingly. Here’s how to know your knees so they can feel their best!

Stretching the Right Way

Did you know that if you routinely do the wrong type of stretch, you could actually cause pain in your knees? Stretching is important for warming up your muscles and preventing injury, but if you focus just on knee specific stretching (such as bending your knee back to your buttocks) a knee injury may ensue.

To minimize chronic pain in your knees, begin every stretch session with a knee wrap that is wound tightly around your knee. You should aim to do stretches in which your legs are straight out in front of you (as opposed to bent.) Pay attention to the speed of your stretch—slow is better. Need a new exercise to help ease your pain? Add the ‘knee flexion’ to your morning routine!

The Knee Flexion

Grab a towel from your bathroom and roll it up. Sitting in a chair and with your feet firmly on the floor, place the towel under your feet (and holding each end of the towel in your hands.) Slowly bend your knee, and lift your legs up, about 5-6 inches off of the floor.  Hold this position for about 5-10 seconds (or however long you can manage) and go back to your starting position.

Your Diet Makes a Difference

When you gain weight, your confidence plummets—and everyone at one time or another has been there. If the onset of those extra pounds ‘weighs’ on your mental state, just think about what it’s doing to your physical body! Going up stairs, running, bending down to pick up your children (and especially when you lift yourself back up again) is painful—and the one to bear the burden is your knees.

If you’re at a normal (even ideal!) weight, concentrate on exercises and a nutrition plan that will support your current weight. Even if you weight more than you’d like to, a small change in your lifestyle can lead to many positive results. Many people struggle with knee joint pain and think it’s hopeless—however, the solution could be as simple as changing your diet. Inflammation (often caused by the foods you eat) can cause pain around your joints, and in particular, your knee joints.

Feeling adventurous? Give yourself just two weeks of eliminating all processed foods and wheat (which leaves you to feast on wonderful fruits and veggies all day long without having to count calories!) and notice any change in your knees. You may be amazed by what you find.

If You’re Feeling Pain, Refrain (From High Impact Workouts)

Knee PainBoot camp workouts are an exercise trend that continues to be popular. While the classes are fun and produce great results, they are also high impact and difficult on knee joints, especially.  During your next gym workout, start being mindful of the types of machines you choose. For example, the thigh machines are wonderful for strengthening your muscles around your knee. Focus on exercising your hamstrings, back of thigh, inner thigh and outside of thigh. These exercises will all contribute towards the knee prevention workout you need, thereby, lessening (or altogether eliminating) your struggle for pain-free knees.

Avoid high impact cardio when your knee pain persists. Avoid climbing stairs or running, and instead, swim, bike or walk.

When you stretch, eat and exercise correctly, the state your knees are currently in can change. As one of the most injured parts of your body, being proactive about how you care for it can make all the difference.  Feeling like you need a new pair of knees? Nope. All you need is the willingness to tweak your diet and exercise. You’ll be amazed by the difference it makes.