There are some practical things you can do to reduce wear on your knee cartilage, here are some tips. Of the three SBR (swim, bike & run) sports, running and cycling can be detrimental to knee cartilage. There are however a number of things you can do to keep your cartilage healthy.
- Get to / stick to your goal weight.
The lighter you are, the less strain you put on your joints.
- Watch for insulin spikes that your diet might cause.
Insulin can break down cartilage. Limit your intake of sugar and simple carbs. The goal is to get onto a lower GI diet- I am not advocating a specific diet here, just giving the principle. Coffee also spikes blood sugar and so needs to be drunk in moderation.(This is easier said than done).
- Sports that require sudden changes in direction can cause accelerated wear.
We have seen unusual cartilage wear patterns especially in squash, soccer and rugby players.
- An unstable knee joint will allow cartilage to wear down more quickly.
A couple of scenarios here include generally loose ligaments, as well as instabilities, caused by sudden impact. It is important to have torn knee ligaments repaired surgically and as soon after the accident as your doctor deems correct. Whether it be a torn ACL, lateral or medial ligament, get it fixed. Orthopods are also able to repair cartilage lesions.
- Treat autoimmune illnesses with respect if you have one.
Autoimmune illnesses cause the body to fight against itself. This is way beyond the scope of this blog but suffice to say that you want to follow the advised medical protocol, while not allowing the illness to define you. Make sure you follow the guidelines in this blog to reduce wear.
- Glucosamine has been shown in MRI studies to protect cartilage.
Taking Glucosamine is a long term undertaking as very small amounts of the chemical actually get into the bursa surrounding a joint and hence coat the cartilage. Vitamin C also has a protective effect. Chat to your pharmacist with regard to the product.
- Anti Inflammatories can damage cartilage.
There have been studies that suggest that NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) damage cartilage, these include common over the counter medicines. They can be used to deal with acute inflammation, however athletes should not use them to cope with an injury. Rather find the source of your pain and treat that.
- Supplement with natural anti-inflammatories like fish oil.
Omega 3 has been proven to be a safe and natural anti-inflammatory supplement.
- Poor patellar alignment will accelerate wear.
You have four quadriceps. These all pull the kneecap up at slightly different angles. If one side gets stronger at the expense of the other, your knee cap will no longer track in a straight line over the femoral head. I look for signs of this during the runners leg assessment and am able to recommend exercises that help correct the imbalance. Soft tissue release is also suggested as an add on to strengthening the correct muscles. You can read more about our leg assessments here – http://sbrsport.me/2012/09/15/runners-leg-assessment/
- Make sure that you are in running shoes that suit your running style.
Excessive pronation will cause the tibia to rotate inwards and place strain on the knee surfaces. Our runners leg assessment details what I do in this regard. (See above point)
- Make sure that your bike is properly setup.
I do a number of setups every week and would estimate that 90% of people with cartilage damage are incorrectly setup. The three biggest errors occurring in seat height, seat fore and aft and cleat settings. Give me a call if I can help in this regard.
- Stretch tight Quadricep muscles.
Tight quads will pull the kneecap tight over the femoral head. This will accelerate wear. Your goal is to have strong and supple quads.
Please note, the above is a list of suggestions. Should you have concerns speak to your Doctor.