Winter sports are fun, but can take a toll on your knees. Follow these tips to keep knees healthy and pain-free.
Sledding, skiing, snowshoeing . . . they're all fun, but as we get older winter sports activities can cause pain in aging knees. Much of it is caused by arthritis, which is inflammation of one or more of your joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the knees.
Osteoarthritis most often occurs in people age 50 and over due to the wear and tear of daily living and physical activity. Pain, swelling, and stiffness are the main symptoms of arthritis. Any joint in the body can be affected by osteoarthritis, but it is particularly common in the knees.
We consulted with orthopedic surgeon Douglas Boylan, MD, of Bucks County Orthopedic Specialists, and Peter Wang, MD, sports medicine surgeon at Rothman Orthopaedics, about their suggestions for maintaining strong, healthy knees. These tips can help you survive winter sports and be ready for more action in the spring — and throughout the year.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Stretching and gentle exercise before and after more intense activity is very important and reduces the chance of injury, according to Dr. Boylan.
Think Like a Professional Athlete
"Prepare yourself properly with pre-activity conditioning and ensure that you have the proper equipment," says Dr. Wang.
Quit When You're Feeling Tired
"I can't tell you how many times I've had skiers and snowboarders tell me they were injured on the first or last run of the day," says Dr. Boylan. "Muscle fatigue can be an issue leading to injury when someone has not gotten into shape prior to increased exercise."
Be Aware of your Surroundings
Ice is a real problem when you encounter it unexpectedly. Dr. Boylan also recommends being aware of those exercising around you, as they can lose control and cross your path, leading to injury.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
The more overweight you are, the more pressure you put on your joints. Every extra pound exerts four pounds of pressure on your knees. To your knees, being 10 pounds overweight is like carrying 40 extra pounds. Joints like your knees support much of your body's weight. A healthy weight decreases pressure on your joints and decreases the risk of developing osteoarthritis in the first place.
Exercise and being physically fit not only help you maintain a healthy weight, they're also good for the joints. If you already have achy knees, try activities that are gentle on your joints, like swimming in a nice warm indoor pool during the winter months. Gentle yoga, walking and floor exercises can also be joint-friendly activities to help keep your knees in shape for the occasional intense activity like skiing.
Exercise also builds muscles around the knees, like the quadriceps and hamstrings, to help the joint function properly. Unused muscles stiffen more easily than muscles that move.
Ice, Ice, Baby
Try icing your knees for fifteen minutes after exercise or activities if you tend to get sore. Icing your joints can help reduce swelling.
Don't Overdo It
Certain exercises or activities might be a bit much for your joints to handle at first, especially if you haven't been active for a while. Take it slow to prevent injury and pain. You shouldn't feel serious pain after exercise or recreational activity.
Professional athletes train for their sports. Think twice before hitting the slopes if you've been hitting the couch instead of the gym.
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About Doylestown Health's Orthopedic Institute
For joint repair and replacement, spine and hand surgery, sports medicine and osteoporosis care, you’ll find Doylestown Health's Orthopedic Institute is the perfect fit. With same and next day appointments available, our board-certified and fellowship-trained physicians treat all types of bone and muscle conditions. Here, experienced orthopedic surgeons offer the latest technology and progressive-care pathways to return patients to the activities they love – fast.