The knee joint is the largest joint in the human body and is also quite a complex one, as it is actually made up of 2 joints. There are 3 bones that form these two joints. They are the femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone) and the patella (knee cap). The bottom of the femur and the top of the tibia articulate to form the tibiofemoral joint whilst the patella and femur articulate to form the patellofemoral joint.
The knee is a hinge-type synovial joint, meaning its primary movements are flexion and extension, but we can also elicit a small amount of rotation medially and laterally. It functions by helping us walk and run, whilst at the same time, weight bearing and shock absorbing which leaves the knee prone to injuries. If we take the correct steps to ensure that our knees are strong and protected, the likelihood of injury decreases, and the process of degeneration slows down.
Your knees absorb a large amount of force with every step, typically one and half times your body weight. This causes wear and tear over time which ultimately weakens the surrounding muscles and ligaments. The two main shock absorbers (medial and lateral menisci) and the articular cartilage which protects the two ends of bone which meet to form the knee, start to deteriorate.
When deterioration starts to cause tissue damage, you may experience pain, stiffness and swelling. This is where your Osteopath can help!
Osteopaths can help improve range of motion and function of the lower limb which will take the load off the knee, slow down wear and tear and help improve symptoms and function.
Doing regular exercise that focuses on strengthening the lower limb and core will also help to improve knee function. Increasing muscle strength helps stabilise the knee and helps the muscles do their job by absorbing the force you put through your knee. An example of an exercise that targets the lower limb is a body squat. A body squat is a compound exercise that targets your core, hips, knees and ankles, making it the perfect exercise to improve lower limb strength.
The best thing about a squat is that you can do it anywhere! The bad thing about a squat is if you do it wrong, it can provoke injuries. To do a squat properly there are a few key steps to follow.
Firstly, stand with your feet shoulder width apart and tighten and engage your abdominal muscles.
Whilst engaged, slowly lower your body, without the assistance of your hands, like you are going to sit down on a chair.
When you reach your limit on the downward phase, push up through your heels and feet into a standing position, making sure you really thrust your hips out for full affect.
When that becomes too easy for you, you can progress it by adding weight.
Doing regular exercise will also help you maintain a healthy weight. Weight gain can have a major impact on your knees as each kilogram you gain is 4kg of extra force your knee has to absorb!
If you take proper care of your knees, your knees will take care of you.
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