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Giving Your Knees What They Need:
Keeping These Complex Joints Healthy and Happy

There's no way around it - when you're an active individual you are at a higher risk for injury. And few injuries can be more devastating than a blown knee. Not all knee injuries happen suddenly, either. Sometimes it starts with a bit of discomfort that grows over time and when you finally go to the doctor, you've already caused irreparable damage. It's a scary thought for anyone who has a physical activity he or she loves. Yoga, running, dancing, even your occasional Sunday afternoon touch football game all make use of your knees. Damage your knee and you've compromised your ability to enjoy to the fullest whatever type of exercise you love doing. You've also compromised your chances of having a vital and satisfying old age.

Hopefully you won't be one of the over 4 million people whose knee problems land them in the doctor's office every year. Knee injuries aren't inevitable and there are ways you can slow down the wear and tear that exercise and daily life bring to these all-important joints. It doesn't take a whole lot of effort to learn how to take care of your knees. And it certainly takes a lot less time than it would to rehabilitate them.

(Article continued below.)

First of all, realize that the knee is a very complex joint. It doesn't just bend in one direction, it also rotates. In addition to involving your femur (thigh bone), tibia and fibula (lower leg bones), there's also the patella, a small but very crucial bone that forms your kneecap. Surrounding all these bones is an array of ligaments, tendons and muscle, all of which enable your knee to do the marvelous things it does - letting you squat to pick up your dropped pen, enjoy a scenic walk or perform Swan Lake in front of a few thousand people (of course, you may require some training for the latter activity). Can you kneel on the floor without pain? Then thank your bursa, which contains a few drops of fluid to cushion you. If you can't kneel without it hurting, perhaps you have damaged your bursa at one point or another (only your doctor can tell you that for sure, however).

Because of all the ways your knee can move, it's not a terribly stable joint and it's not too hard to tear a ligament. One of the most common knee injuries, especially among women is that to the Anterior Cruciate Ligament. This ligament, deep inside your knee, can be torn if your leg is twisted the wrong way. Runners sometimes get iliotibial band syndrome, especially if they run frequently on concrete or their legs are different lengths (something which is not all that uncommon). You can tear the menisci, which forms a cushion between the bones, just by accidentally twisting your leg while carrying a big load of groceries. Then there's osteoarthritis of the knee, when the cartilage wears away. The more you abuse your knees, the quicker osteoarthritis is likely to develop. These are only a few troubles your knees can have, and to treat them requires anything from merely an ibuprofen tablet to R.I.C.E. (more on that later) to major reconstructive surgery. While nothing can guarantee that your knees will remain injury-free for a lifetime, there are some preventative measures that will improve your chances of retaining healthy knees.

Next page >> Keeping Your Knees Healthy >> Page 1, 2, 3

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