Nearly 20% of U.S. adults experience knee pain,[i] a condition that can become increasingly painful and even lead to joint damage and disability if left untreated.
While an injury can certainly cause you knee pain, so too can chronic wear on your kneecap that may cause cartilage to deteriorate. In the latter case, knee pain often starts out as a mild discomfort and then grows increasingly worse, often due to bad habits that worsen the underlying problem.
While all joints are vulnerable to injury and overuse conditions, the knee is particularly susceptible because it bears high levels of stress just from the activities of daily life. Because the joint moves not only back and forth, like a hinge, but also twists and rotates, it has even more room for injury to occur.
Knee pain can even be the result of a condition in your lower back, hip or ankle, as the pain can pass along your nerves to other locations in your body (known as referred pain).
If you’re already suffering from knee pain, be aware that the following common bad habits may be making your pain exponentially worse:
6. Ignoring the Inflammation Connection
On a foundational level, knee pain, like virtually all forms of pain, often has an underlying inflammatory cause. Even short-term overuse can set off an inflammatory cascade in your immune system, intended to “heal” the overworked area. If that inflammation persists on a low level, it can then contribute to the very pain it was originally intended to heal.
The inflammatory cascade can easily spiral out of control, along with its associated pain, especially if you continue on with habits that cause you knee pain to begin with. An anti-inflammatory diet, or natural anti-inflammatories like Heal-N-Soothe, can help you relieve this inflammation and pain.
5. Wearing High Heels
High-heeled shoes change the way you walk, putting additional stress on your knees. According to one study, wearing high heels increased the risk of joint degeneration and knee osteoarthritis.[ii] The higher the heel, the greater the risk of knee pain becomes.
4. Kneeling Without Padding
Do you enjoy gardening? Lay carpet? Scrub your kitchen floors on hands and knees? Play volleyball? Any activity that requires kneeling can make your pain worse, but doing so without kneepads will worsen pain and potentially cause further damage.
3. Continuing Activities That Cause You Pain
If you know that playing basketball or tennis leaves your knees in agony, you may need to take a break from the sport, or at least reduce it. The same goes for other activities, such as kneeling or climbing stairs. Taking a break from pain-causing activities will give your knee some time to rest and heal, while preventing further damage. Once the pain has subsided, you can resume the activity, ideally with some adaptations to prevent the pain from recurring.
2. Gaining Excess Weight
The more weight your joints have to carry, the greater the potential for damage, and related pain, becomes. Research shows that for every 2.2 pounds gained, pain scores increased by 1.9 points on a 500-point scale.[iii] Losing weight was associated with reduced knee pain, although avoiding weight gain in the first place may be even more important to protect your knees.
1. Getting Out of Shape
Even if you’re not overweight, if your muscles are weak or out of shape, your risk of knee injury and pain increases. It’s especially important to regularly strengthen your quadriceps and hamstrings, which help support your knees.