Knee Pain—and What You Need to Know Right Now

Ideally, the only concern you should have about your knees is whether to bare them or cover up with a longer skirt.

But if you wince while climbing stairs or feel a dull aching pain in your knees after a few hours of gardening, you may have bigger problems than fashionable skirt lengths. The good news is that there’s a lot you can do to prevent, alleviate and even eliminate knee pain.

The distaff side

When it comes to knees, women are often the weaker sex. All women, whether physically active or not, are subject to knee problems.

A combination of Mother Nature, improper sports training, genetics, high heels–maybe–and longevity take their toll. Those same anatomical differences that give you a shapely figure may also put you at risk for more knee problems.

Women have a larger pelvis relative to men. It puts their hips further out and puts different forces on the knees.

If you’re a younger woman you’re probably more likely to suffer knee trauma from physical activities; if you’re older you may be feeling the results of a lifetime of wear on your knees, especially if you’re overweight.

Knee-friendly exercise

Ignoring knee pain by limiting your mobility isn’t a good option, since you need exercise to reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. But it’s important to take preventive steps during sports or exercise to head off knee problems.

Women playing sports tend to land with their knees extended, which puts the joints at risk. Women could be shown how to land with their knees in a protected position, a crouch landing.

In addition, you can choose a physical activity such as walking, bicycling or swimming that has minimal effect on your knees.

Don’t do high-impact exercise such as running marathons or jumping rope. It’s also important to exercise to build muscle around the joints so that they don’t hurt as much.

Women are four times more prone to anterior cruciate ligament injuries because of their muscle imbalance. Strengthening and conditioning are very important and should be year-round for women.

‘Wear and tear arthritis’

You don’t have to be a jock, however, to have an aching or throbbing knee. As you age, you’re more likely to develop “wear and tear arthritis.”

Doctors see it in people in their 40s and 50s but typically in older folks. The worse the arthritis, the worse the pain.

If you’re carrying excessive weight, your first step should be reducing your calorie intake. When doctors see women who are in pain, they often encourage weight loss, which decreases the force across the knee and helps save cartilage.

Surgical options

If less invasive techniques like exercise and weight-loss don’t improve your knee problems, it may be time to consider some form of surgery.

If you’re young and in the early stages of arthritis, your physician may recommend a newer technology such as culturing cartilage to make a patch over the knee bone. This is for people in their 30s.

Once you’re older or if your arthritis is severe, you’re probably looking at knee replacement. Although this is the most radical solution to crippling arthritis of the knee, the procedures are less debilitating than they used to be.

Most centers are developing accelerated rehabilitation and pain management, which make the greatest difference. Knee replacement used to be a week-long stay–now it’s two to four days in the hospital.