Many who know me are aware I was a nationally competitive runner in the 1980’s and 90’s having competed in the Olympic Marathon Trials in 1984.
To be able to compete at that level I ran more miles than many people travel in their cars, running up to 130 miles in a week and more than 5000 miles annually for several years.
In conversation many have justifiably questioned whether I was crazy. The next question inevitably was if all my running had taken a toll on my joints especially my knees.
What I learned about taking care of my knees for running can help others prevent knee degeneration suffered by many. The number of knee replacements has reached epidemic proportions and eventually leads to accelerated aging. Your own healthy knees are much healthier for your entire body than prosthetic knees.
The first approach to preserving your hips and knees is to reduce overall body inflammation through diet and supplements while avoiding inflammatory producing activities such as excessive alcohol and sugar consumption. There are several supplements and additives that significantly reduced inflammation such as curcumin. Non pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory products are important to incorporate in your daily nutrition.
Secondly, the obesity epidemic (excess white fat-the obesity fat- is inherently pro-inflammatory) is a major cause of many health problems such as cancer and diabetes. One of the problems with excess weight gain is the added stress on weight bearing joints such as the hips, knees and ankles. Every step with an extra 30-60 pounds will stress these joints and combined with excessive body inflammation (inflammation causes degeneration of joints) accelerates degeneration of your weight bearing joints.
What I learned can help save your knees and other joints
Nevertheless what I learned in my early years of running allowed me to run hundreds of miles without pain and damage to my knees.
The following two strategies I successfully used can be evaluated and utilized by anyone to save their knees.
Your quadriceps muscles are the strong muscles of the upper legs in front. These muscles travel from the hips to your knees. In most people these are very weak and dangerously “tight.” Exercises that strengthen these muscles (especially lower leg extensions with weights) will stabilize your knees. Stabilized knees will not wear abnormally.
In addition to strengthening these quadriceps muscles I recommend you continually stretch them. Combining strengthening and stretching, my knees have remained healthy through thousands of miles and many decades.
The other critical structural issue which profoundly affects the knees is that of collapsing foot arches. A collapsing arch in the foot will result in the knee sliding laterally, an abnormal and stressful force on the knees.
I had collapsing foot arches and after having them evaluated my knee problems were resolved with well- fitting foot orthotics.
Combining healthy eating, supplements and weight control with structural corrections I have preserved my weight bearing joints. That is one of my best accomplishments but one that damage many people’s lives especially retired athletes.
If these strategies worked for someone running thousands of miles per year they can prevent the average person’s normal wear and tear, helping them avoid years of pain, dysfunction and knee degeneration.
Prosthetic joints don’t need to be an inevitable outcome of aging. Your own healthy knees will dramatically improve the quality of life we are all striving for.
Remember to enjoy the journey,