Keep Your Hips And Knees Happy - FOX Carolina 21

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Keep Your Hips And Knees Happy

© Meredith Corporation © Meredith Corporation
© Meredith Corporation © Meredith Corporation
© Meredith Corporation © Meredith Corporation
© Meredith Corporation © Meredith Corporation

If your joints hurt, get in line—millions of women deal with the pain. But you can stay physically strong, avoid injuries and prevent damage with exercise and our guide.


My friend Ashley mentioned a weird thing that happened at the gym. "This guy I've been working out with told me that my foot's turning out a little while I'm exercising and I should work on strengthening this muscle," she said, as she ran her hand from the inside of her upper thigh down to her kneecap. "He said that I'm compensating for the weakness, which I guess is bad for my knee."


A little alarm went off in my head. "That is bad!" I said. "I bet it's throwing off your alignment and eventually, if you don't do something about it, you're probably going to end up in a lot of pain."


Not that I'm an expert or anything, but I just spent seven months talking to doctors and physical therapists about why women's hips and knees hurt so much. Ashley, who's in her 20s, isn't too worried about her joints—not yet anyway. Maybe you aren't either. But that's the thing. These problems can creep up on you.


Hip and knee pain is incredibly common: More than 10 million women have to deal with it and almost everyone's at risk. Whether you're a super-fit workout fiend or totally exercise-phobic, your lifestyle could be contributing to joint problems that can lead to osteoarthritis—even surgery. In fact, hip replacements in women have increased by nearly 40 percent in the past 15 years, and knee replacements have more than doubled. While these procedures are still most common in older people, incidence among women 45 to 64 is growing.


Many women's knee problems start because of repetitive stress injuries from a high-impact activity like running. That's what happened to Barbara Goldrich, 43, of New York City, who trained regularly for marathons. She actually first noticed her knee pain while taking a Zumba class. "I pivoted and felt something go ‘zing,' " she says. Over the next few months, that little pain escalated. "I would get up from my desk at work and be hobbling," she says.


When she finally saw her doctor, he told her that her kneecaps were out of alignment; there was probably also some wear and tear from running. The cause? Despite all the miles she logged, certain muscles surrounding the joint didn't have the strength to support her knee properly. So he prescribed physical therapy to strengthen her thighs and increase her flexibility.


While overdoing certain types of exercise can lead to joint trouble, being overweight and inactive may be even more risky for your hips and knees. Excess body fat not only puts stress on joints but it also contains pro-inflammatory cytokines, protein molecules that can cause cartilage to break down, says Stephen P. Messier, Ph.D., professor and director of the J.B. Snow Biomechanics Laboratory at Wake Forest University. Sitting all day long weakens core muscles important for stability, makes you less flexible and affects how you move, causing pain in your hips and knees—and sometimes in both.

"People think, ‘I'm getting older, so of course my joints are wearing out and I have pain.' But that's a mistake," says Ann Duffy, physical therapist and an advanced hip clinician with New York City's Hospital for Special Surgery. "Pain means there's something wrong."

 —Amelia Harnish


This plan works for everyone, whether you're hurting now or want to head off a problem before it starts. If you're in serious pain, you should be evaluated by a physical therapist or orthopedist, who can suggest modifications.


Go for a walk or something

You may think rest is best for your joints, but experts say the opposite: Exercise keeps joints healthy by increasing the blood flow to them. If you're not already doing some type of aerobic activity, like brisk walking, tennis or swimming, now is the time to start. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week. If you're a beginner or in pain, start by walking for 10 minutes just two days a week and increase the length and frequency as it gets easier.


Build up your muscle support

Strengthening the muscles in your midsection is just as important to your hips and knees as strengthening the muscles in your legs. "When the muscles in your core are weak, your pelvis tilts, which throws everything off," says John Galluci, Jr., founder of JAG Physical Therapy in New Jersey. Do these exercises, which work your legs and important core muscles, three times a week.


  • Chair Squat  Stand in front of a chair with feet shoulder width apart. Keeping your back straight, stomach muscles pulled in and knees above your ankles, slowly lower your butt toward the chair, raising your arms forward to help with control and balance. Pause before actually sitting. Then slowly return to standing. Do one set of 10.


  • Seated Knee Extensions Sit in a chair with your feet dangling, not touching the floor. Grip the sides of the chair for support and slowly extend your left leg so it's almost completely straight, tightening the thigh muscle with your foot pointed toward the ceiling. Pause for five seconds and then slowly flex your knee to return to the starting position. Repeat with your right knee. Do two or three sets of 10.



  • Side-Lying Clam  Lie with your left side in almost-fetal position with your knees bent and legs together so your ankles and knees are stacked on top of each other. Keeping your ankles together, lift your right knee, hold for three seconds and close. Do a set of 10, then roll over and repeat on the right side. You can also do the reverse clam: In the same starting position, lift your ankle while keeping your knees together. Do two sets of 10.



  • Bridge  Do this on a mat or blanket to cushion your spine. Lie down with your knees bent and feet hip width apart, knees directly above your heels. Press your feet into the floor and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips off the floor. Try to lift one vertebra from the floor at a time while tightening your abdominal muscles. Hold for 10 seconds. Do one set of 10.



Now stretch it out

Improving your flexibility even a little bit can work wonders for joint pain. These three basic stretches target the muscles that help support your hips and knees and will help keep them in alignment.



  • Hamstring stretch  Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front, feet flexed. Bend forward, keeping your back straight, until you feel the stretch in the back of your thighs. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.


  • Quadriceps stretch Standing with your feet at shoulder width, hold your left ankle with your left hand and gently pull your left heel toward your butt until you feel the stretch in the front of your thigh (hold on to a chair or table for balance if needed). Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and switch sides.


  • IT band stretch  Cross your right leg in front of your left leg. Extend your left arm over your head. Place your right hand on your hip and reach to the right. Push gently on your right hip so you feel the stretch down the left side of your hip. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and switch sides.


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