Wish I had the bees knees, actually, I have old man knees.
May 1, 2008 12:24 PM   Subscribe

My knees feel a little old. Is there anything I can do?

I'm 32, 5'9". Maybe 10 pounds or so overweight, but nothing serious. I'm not a jogger. I'm not athletic but generally healthy. Until yesterday I lived in a 4 floor walk up and I can easily run up 4 flights of stairs with no big problem.

My knees have been feeling occasionally crappy. Not really crappy or really painful. Just sort of wingy once in a while. I can feel them, and they feel a little old.

For instance: I moved last night, carrying several large boxes down the four flights of stairs. On my way down, as I was getting my balance and looking down at my feet at the top of the stairs, carrying a pretty heavy load, I felt a little winge on the rear outside of my right knee. It didn't hurt much but felt like it could give out from under me.

It's mostly my right knee. I've also been dealing with some psyatic pain on that side, most of which has gone away from stretching and exercising.

I should say also that right now, and many times in the past, I work in an office chair for long periods. And I have a tendency to cross my legs, and I notice a similar sensation when I do that.

Is there anything I can do to make my legs more healthy? I try to avoid crossing my legs, and work on good posture. I'm taking a long hitchhiking/backpacking trip this summer and I'm concerned my knee is going to give out from under me.

I know you are not a doctor. I don't have health insurance either, so we're even.
posted by sully75 to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Basically, I'm wondering if there are exercises I can do to make my knees stronger and less achy. I've never injured them, and they seem to operate fine in general, but these occasional pains make me concerned.
posted by sully75 at 12:36 PM on May 1, 2008

Welcome to your 30's. De jure, you turned 30 a couple of years ago, but you're really just starting them.

Random aches and pains that you can't quite source are par for the course from now on. It probably is your tendency to cross your legs that gives the twinge-- I do it too, and also feel occasional weakness on the back of my knee. But that never bothered me for the first ten years of my working life.

It's normal. Try not to cross your legs. Obviously, under optimal conditions you'd go get it examined by a doctor, but since you're not in a position to do that you probably won't and will be fine.

If you want advice beyond reassurance that it's normal-- again, don't cross your legs and use the knee as a warning to lose those 10 pounds-- your knees will feel better and so will everything else and feeling better will make not having insurance less stressful.

Don't lose any sleep over this if it doesn't get any worse.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:50 PM on May 1, 2008

Regular, low-impact exercise is probably the best thing you can do for your knees. So maybe more regular walks, swimming, etc to get yourself in shape for the upcoming hike.
posted by electroboy at 12:51 PM on May 1, 2008

Though working on the root cause, as mentioned above, may be useful, you might look at supplements like these. I used to date a dancer who swore by them when her knees felt "a little wobbly."
posted by asuprenant at 12:54 PM on May 1, 2008

Biking is good for low impact exercise. I don't know what your weight is like but, as the Mayor pointed out, my knees feel better at 47 (175 lbs.) than they did at 33 (210 lbs.).
posted by Carbolic at 12:55 PM on May 1, 2008

I just went to the doctor about my knees because they feel much like yours do. Unfortunately, I think my knees feel the way that they do for different reasons than yours, but I can say that if you do start building up your legs, make sure you hit all of your leg muscles evenly.

My knee weirdness comes from the outside muscles in my legs being more developed than my vastus medialis oblique, which pushes my kneecap off-center. So, my doctor assigned me to do certain exercises that work that muscle out. The exercises seem not very substantial, but I'm going to do them anyway.

Hmm. According to this, split squats can strengthen the knee.

Also, there's a ton of exercises that come up if you just search for general "knee strengthening".

If it's a matter of your joint cartilage wearing out, taking glucosamine might help. I've taken it after hard runs or judo workouts in which my joints took a lot of stress or impact. I can't attest to dramatic effects, though, possibly because the cause of my knee weirdness was not actually cartilage wear.
posted by ignignokt at 12:56 PM on May 1, 2008

Great knee exercises here (I'm a figure skater, so you better believe I have knee issues).
posted by nax at 12:57 PM on May 1, 2008

I have PFPS in both knees.

I suggest doing knee prehab exercises to keep things flexible and fluid. Light squatting, flexing the quadriceps and holding, etc. If light stuff really doesn't hurt, don't be afraid to get into really strengthening your legs. A stronger body is more resistant to injury. Above all else, I would say squats and glute-ham raises are the best to build up everything around your knee, front and back, to protect it.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 1:08 PM on May 1, 2008

Buy the book Starting Strength and learn the proper way to do weighted squats. Strong legs equals strong and healthy knees.
posted by Durin's Bane at 1:22 PM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Strong legs equals strong and healthy knees.

Absolutely. I used to have problems with my knees until I started weight/resistance training.
posted by ob at 1:24 PM on May 1, 2008

If it is bad enough, it might be worth a visit to a physical therapist. They'll likely be able to identify what is causing your particular "winges" (though I find it hard to imagine what a winge feels like) and then prescribe some stretches and/or a weight-lifting regime to strength things up.

Of course less weight is always good for the knees too.
posted by mbatch at 1:28 PM on May 1, 2008

n'th ing leg exercises, and nax's link in particular. The same dynamic holds true for lower back pain as well, if you end up experiencing that at some point.
posted by MillMan at 1:53 PM on May 1, 2008

Biking is good for low impact exercise.

Just don't go up hills of such grade and in such a gear that you're going slowly, bearing down with all your might on the pedals, which tears up the knees.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:51 PM on May 1, 2008

Walking downstairs is actually no good for your knees, so if you were doing it under a load, no wonder they felt bad.

Like CoolTim said, if you're gonna ride a bike, don't grind up the hills in a hard gear. In fact, always try to keep your cadence between 80 and 90 RPMs--not slo-mo and not so quick that you feel as if you're going to bounce off the seat.

But cycling won't do the job of strengthening your legs all by itself. You need to supplement riding with strength training to keep all the muscles around, above and below the knee strong and balanced. (Bicycling is such a great non-impact exercise that one needs to add weight-bearing, aka bone-building, activity to the workout regimen.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:27 PM on May 1, 2008

Seconding Starting Strength.
posted by chudder at 6:36 PM on May 1, 2008

Response by poster: Awesome, all. Thanks for the help!
posted by sully75 at 6:07 AM on May 2, 2008

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