When it comes to dealing with injuries, the knee is often one of the biggest problem areas of the body. Whether you’re focused on long-distance runs, aerobics, or lifting weights, it can halt your fitness journey.
Winston Musa, a personal trainer known as Stoney in fitness circles, says knee pains can be caused by engaging in vigorous exercises without using protection. He knows knee pains too well, having been diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter disease, a condition that causes pain and swelling below the knee joint.
The disease ended his rugby career and now he trains fitness enthusiasts in Nairobi. It took him 13 months to recover from his injury, he says.
Winston says knee pains can be caused by arthritis which often affects women from the age of 40 onwards. It starts with throbbing pain. “The pain develops over time if you don’t exercise often,” he says.
The pain can be so severe that it results in disability and weakness in the legs. Tendonitis is also a common cause of knee pains and mostly affects athletes.
Sudden movements shock the knee and over time the tendon connecting the knee gets stretches and tears causing pain. Another cause of knee pain is Osgood-Schlatter Disease which is a growth in the plate of the knee.
It can be painful when it’s really hot or too cold. Knee pains can also be common among pregnant and overweight persons.
“When you weigh above your body mass index (BMI), your knees tend to struggle to keep up with your weight resulting in knee pains,” he says, adding that “Knee pains are also caused by tears and sprains.”
Dealing with knee pains
The moment you develop knee pains, take a break from exercising, preferably, a two week-break to observe your knee.
You can also take a break from walking or running long distances. If after two weeks the pain persists, seek medical attention. Another way to deal with knee pains is to use ice packs. “The cold helps numb the nerves,” he says.
You can also use hot treatment; using a hot towel and hot water to soothe the knees. The knee muscles expand and contract. Therefore, when you expose them to heat, the small micro-tears can expand and relieve the tightness.
You can also use ointment. If the doctor advises then you can do surgery, especially for people with arthritis or advanced cases of Osgood-Schlatter. This can help relieve the pain.
“However, this should be under the advice of your doctor and the last resort when maintaining an active lifestyle has failed,” he says
Stretches to do to strengthen knee mobility?
“The important thing is to strengthen the muscles around your knees. Before exercising, you should actively warm up.”
You can do bodyweight squats, deadlifts, or child’s yoga poses. It will help your knees get ready for the workout making sure that you do not feel the pain. “After the workout, do some more stretching. That way if your knee has been engaged for a long period the pain will reduce,” he says. You can start with light stretches like kneeling on your knees and leaning back. “The leaning back stretches the knees to relieve some tension. When working out, start with small weights then progress to bigger weights, says Winston.
Suspend your legs when sitting down and use ice packs if you're pregnant. “Pregnant women recover after childbirth. Walking short distances, and doing seated workouts like shoulder presses can help control their weight,” says Winston.
When to see a doctor
“If the pain persists after two weeks of adequately resting your knees, it will be prudent to see a doctor. You should also see a doctor in case there is any swelling, if your knee is hot, if there is acute throbbing pain or if pus is coming out of your knee,” he says.
How to prevent knee injury during workouts
—Wear knee sleeves. Get knee supports that are verified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards. Some knee supports are very thin and hence not useful.
—Warm up before starting your workout. Ask for a trainer to guide you through your workouts.
—Don’t go down the stairs as a form of exercise. Up the stairs is okay but down the stairs exerts a lot of pressure on the knees.
—Train to your capacity. Do not train to the point where your body cannot handle it.
—Avoid running on tarmacked roads. You should run on soft ground; either sand or grass.