Evidence based medical wellness for active people from a doc who walks the walk

Why our knees hurt and what to do about it


After a lifetime of running, tennis, skiing, hiking, figure skating and rock climbing, I finally decided to have “a little work done” on my knee. We will not talk about the outcome (no more pity parties!) but instead will focus on why knees hurt and what to do.

My personal belief is that our knees were designed only to last til age 49, but we are way outliving them! So what’s up with this diva of a joint that it tends to get injured so often?  And how to protect this complicated joint that takes a lot of abuse?

First, myth busting: running does NOT cause arthritis and can actually prevent development of “wear and tear” arthritis! Link So get out there and run! No excuse not to do that 5K, 10K, 1/2, full marathon, iron man…

Well, not so fast: before you go tear up the track or weight room, follow a couple of rules:

  • Wear good shoes. “Flat feet” (“falling arches”) can put more pressure on the inner part of the knee. Get orthotics if you need to!  (I just got some per my orthopod’s recommendation and I can really tell the difference.)
  • Practice good form whatever exercise you do.  Leaning too far forward during squats, and allowing the knee to be in front of the foot during any weight training is a good way to damage the tender knee. (It’s a high maintenance joint!)
  • Strengthen your hips, buttocks and core as well as your ankles and calves. Weak hips translate to weak knees! A good rule of thumb is that any time you have an injury you need to look for weakness above and below the involved joint. It’s a good idea to strengthen both legs, but at this point there is no direct evidence that shows a weakness in the non-injured leg caused the injury in the other leg. Link
  • Skinny down! (Duh, that’s why some of you are running, right?!) Excess weight translates to excess pressure on the knee.  More on weight in later posts.
  • DON”T do the following exercises: full arc leg extensions, lunges, deep squats (too hard to do good form) hurdler stretches.
  • I can’t really recommend glucosamine/chondroitin. Take it if it makes you feel better.

Alright, ’nuff said! Go move, roadrunner!



Author: PookieMD

I am a board certified internal medicine physician. I love medicine and seek to bring evidence based medicine to the fitness and wellness world.

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