7 Steps to Avoiding Knee Pain

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Human beings are well designed for many things. We have large brains for poetry and quantum mechanics; we are good long distance runners, and of course have these awesome opposable thumbs. Unfortunately, some parts are not designed very well for our 21st century lifestyles. Chief among them is the "knee cap" or patellofemoral joint.

Good shoes, good posture

One risk for knee arthritis is the way your knees, hips and ankles are aligned.  This starts with posture.  And last I checked, we are walking on uneven, unforgiving surfaces. Wearing the right shoes makes a difference.

Make sure your muscles are strong

Having strong muscles in the back, chest, abdomen and hips actually helps protect your knee. Thus, stretching and strengthening the core, whether with Pilates, yoga or a well-designed exercise program, needs to be part of every fitness routine.

Strengthen hamstrings

Hamstrings need to be strengthened with specific exercises. Hamstring curls on an exercise ball (sometimes called a physioball or stability ball) are one of my favorites.

Stretch the quads

Hiking, cycling and stair climbing all work your quads and can be tough on your patellae. When people do stretch, they will often touch their toes or push up against a pole, thus stretching the hamstrings. The front of your body - the front of your shoulders, hips and knees - spends a lot of time folded forward, and thus needs to be specifically stretched.

Choose the right exercises

Stop using the "knee extension" machine, where you go from a bent knee to a straight leg.  This puts tremendous stress across the patella.  If you are going to do it, only extend to 45 degree angles.  Also, when doing squats, only bend your knees to 45 degree angles.

Avoid repetitive strains on the knees

Don't do jobs that require a lot of kneeling, squatting, kicking carpets, running down mountains, etc. Invest in a garden stool, knee pads, "traverse" while walking or running down a steep hill or, if you cannot avoid knee abusing activities at work, consider law school!


After an active day, give yourself a good stretch and put some ice on those knees. Remember, it's not just about what you do, it's how you recover.