We had a gentleman stop by in our clinic last week and he asked us this…
“Is walking bad for my knees?”
He told us he started to experience knee pain a few years ago when walking down the stairs and thought nothing of it at first, and thought it was just something that would ‘wear off’ with time.
But when he noticed the pain in his knees every time he either went down the stairs, or walked up and down hills with his dog, he thought he better do something about it.
So he went to his Doctor, who at first told him to rest and to take painkillers to help ease the pain.
But the word ‘rest’ can be confusing…
What does ‘take some rest’ even mean?
Does rest mean you have to sit on the sofa cooped up inside all day when you’ve got things to do?
Does it mean no walking until your knee feels a bit better?
And then when it does, how much walking, is too much?
Does it mean you have to avoid exercise altogether?
Being told to rest, and take painkillers is one of the most common things we hear when people are given ‘knee pain’ advice, but the thing is, this cocktail mix of rest and taking pills will do absolutely nothing to help you get back to being active…
And it will 100% not get to the root cause of what brought on your knee pain in the first place so you can start to get back to living life without it.
In fact instead of ‘rest’, you should actually move! (As long as it’s not a serious knee injury that’s caused damage).
Now I know if you are one of the many people suffering with knee pain, you might be worried to use your knees and might want to take some time off to let your knees heal, but walking is a safe, low-impact activity, that can actually help get you on the road to recovery.
You see when we don’t move our joints they become stiff and immobile, which can cause inflammation – which actually makes joints like our knees even MORE painful!
If you’ve had a serious knee injury that’s actually caused damage, then that’s another story altogether… But if you’re experiencing daily, annoying knee pain then there’s some simple things you can do to keep moving, and walk safely, without making it worse.
Something as simple as changing your shoes and gentle bodyweight exercises anyone can do from their comfort of their own home, are just two examples.
When it comes to shoes, have you thought about getting a good pair of walking shoes?
Walking shoes should have good cushioning and shock absorption, so if your shoes are old and have lost their cushioning, you should replace them.
If you have low arches (and your feet roll inwards as you walk), a shoe with enhanced support, or a pair of orthotic inserts, will help alleviate the stress on your knees.
Always begin a walk with a slow, gradual warm-up, and try to get out for a walk during a time in the day when your knee pain doesn’t feel bad.
Begin with short walks and build up time and distance gradually, rather than jumping into a 30 minute walk straight off the bat.
When it comes to simple exercises, doing safe strengthening exercises for the legs can help keep your knees in good walking condition.
Bodyweight exercises like squats, calf raises and glute bridges are good choices.
Flexibility exercises for the leg muscles help maintain movement and range of motion in your joints and reduce the amount of strain places on them.
Always warm up before stretching and performing any of these exercises and don’t over-do it.
It’s important that you never feel pain when you do these movements.
Knees are made to bend. They’re designed to help us walk, kneel down, bend to help us grab objects, walk up and down the stairs – not to stay still and rest all day!
(Which is what a lot of people are told to do!)
Start slow, with gentle walking and strengthening exercises, and builds up slowly so you can do more.
Although it may feel like knee pain is something you’ll have to learn to live with and might not be able to be as active as you once were – that’s not always the case.
Don’t just accept rest and taking painkillers as your only solution – there’s a way to get back to living a life you enjoy.
Dr. Tony Tanzi: Physical Therapist, Triathlete, Runner, Performance Coach