Knee pain is a common complaint among people of all ages, but it's an especially big issue among older adults. In fact, 25 percent of women over the age of 70 and 16.5 percent of men have reported experiencing knee pain.
There are many explanations for the increase in knee pain among older adults.
One is just the fact that younger people are typically more physically resilient. When you're younger, you usually don't notice — or are able to push through — pain caused by degeneration of cartilage or wear and tear on the joints. But, as you age, issues that once didn't cause any problems can become debilitating.
Aging also comes with a decrease in muscle mass, which leaves your joints — especially your knee joints — more vulnerable to strain and other injuries.
Although your chances of experiencing knee pain and knee injuries increase as you get older, there are lots of things you can do to prevent these issues. Listed below are five tips for preventing knee pain as you age.
1. Strengthen Your Muscles
Resistance training on a consistent basis will help you build and maintain muscle. This, in turn, will help protect you from the muscle loss that often accompanies aging.
Increasing your muscle mass also helps to stabilize the knee joint and will reduce the amount of stress placed on the knee.
When it comes to resistance training for knee pain and injury prevention, make sure you're focusing on strengthening all of the muscles in the lower body. Focus on compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, step-ups, and lunges to get the most bang for your buck when working out.
2. Lose Weight
When you're overweight, the amount of pressure placed on your joints — including your knee joints — increases. In fact, each additional pound of weight translates to about four pounds of added pressure on the knees. If you're twenty pounds overweight, for example, this means you're adding 80 pounds of extra pressure to your knees!
Exercise is an important part of losing weight, but changing your diet is crucial. Don't eat more calories per day than your body needs, and focus on healthy changes like increasing your vegetable and fruit intake and minimizing consumption of refined, processed carbohydrates and sugar.
3. Improve Mobility
In addition to strengthening your muscles, improving your mobility — which is your ability to move your joints through a full range of motion — is also important for preventing knee pain and knee injuries.
Aging is often accompanied by joint stiffness and tight muscles, especially if you don't stretch regularly.
If you're looking to minimize knee pain and injury risk, focus on improving your knee, hip, and ankle mobility with exercises like calf raises, lunges, and hip-opening stretches.
4. Quit Smoking
Not only is it bad for your lungs, but smoking will also significantly increase your risk of experiencing knee pain and knee injuries. It also increases your risk of developing osteoarthritis (joint inflammation) and osteoporosis (decrease in bone density).
Smoking negatively affects circulation. Healthy blood flow is essential for delivering oxygen and other nutrients that are needed for cartilage and muscle repair and recovery. Smoking also increases oxidative stress, which contributes to cartilage loss.
5. Use Supplements to Protect Your Joints
There are also a number of supplements you can use to protect your joints and ensure they're getting all the nutrients they need.
One of the best supplements you can take to prevent and relieve knee pain as you age is collagen. Collagen supplements help stimulate the body's synthesis of collagen, which is necessary for maintaining joint structure and reducing pain.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are also beneficial. These substances are naturally produced in the body to make cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and synovial fluid. They also signal the body to repair damaged tissues and suppress inflammation and cartilage breakdown.
As you age, the production of glucosamine and chondroitin decreases, so supplementation can protect against damage and oxidative stress.
Whether you're already experiencing knee pain as you age or want to do everything you can to prevent it, these five tips can help you stay strong, healthy, and mobile for as long as possible.