Are your knees cracking and popping more than your wood-burning fireplace? Do they hurt when you run? You aren’t alone. Dr. Mark Suprock from OrthoCarolina Huntersville said it’s common for women to suffer from knee issues because of the unique angles of our bodies. In other words, we love our curves but sometimes they can cause pressure on our knee joints. Fear not — Dr. Suprock told us some common complaints from women of different ages, and how we can be proactive to prevent knee problems in the future.
- Kids and teenagers: Dr. Suprock said children, tweens and teens often complain about anterior knee pain (pain that occurs at the front and center of the knee), and the cause could be anything from growth plate problems to overuse injuries.
“It’s common for girls in this day and age to not be very active and then suddenly decide in their tweens that they want to be,” Dr. Suprock says. “Then they aren’t conditioned enough and can hurt their knees because they’re ramping up their level of activity too fast with too-tight hamstrings.” Also, as women get older and go through puberty, our pelvises and hips can move and create problems like being knock-kneed.
The fix: Dr. Suprock suggests encouraging kids and teenagers to work on a flexibility program to get their hamstrings in shape, and to slowly increase the level of activity they’re doing rather than suddenly jumping into the deep end of the athletic pool (literally and metaphorically).
- Women in their 20s and 30s: During this time period our bodies and our lifestyles are rapidly changing. For example, it’s usually around this time that women pick up fitness-related hobbies like long-distance running. It’s also often around this time that we start having kids.
“Some women will be active in their 20s, but then they have kids and their activities change. They’ll go from sitting to standing real quick to run after the little ones,” Dr. Suprock said. “When you’re not as active, your hamstrings will gradually tighten. Then there’s more force in front part of knee which can cause pain.”
The fix: If you’re one of those long-distance runners we talked about (good for you!), Dr. Suprock said to make sure you’re wearing appropriate shoes with good cushioning to absorb shock as you’re pounding the pavement. Some knee pain after running is common, but it’s not always cause for seeing a doctor (more on that below). He also said sticking to the activity you’re used to can help avoid injury — don’t suddenly attempt to run 10 miles if you’ve been biking every day. For the mommies, Dr. Suprock said staying consistently active and flexible is the key. Make sure to stretch after exercising, paying special attention to your hamstrings to avoid letting them get too tight.
- Women in their 40s and 50s: Women are staying active longer and longer these days, which is good news for our hearts but not always for our knees. Dr. Suprock said sports injuries used to only be for teenagers, but now it’s not uncommon to see 40- and 50-year-old women coming in because they tore their ACL playing soccer. He’s seen a higher incidence of ACL injuries in women than men, possibly because of our hormones and looser ligaments. Women also generally have a higher incidence of osteoarthritis, but Dr. Suprock said it could be because women are more likely than their stubborn male counterparts to seek treatment. During his 27-year career, Dr. Suprock has done about 10 percent more knee replacements in women than men.
“As they gain weight, women can get more pressure on arthritic areas because of the unique angles of their body,” Dr. Suprock said.
The fix: Keep your weight down, and make sure to stay flexible. Also don’t buy into claims made by dietary supplements that can target women d’un certain âge. Dr. Suprock said none of them have been shown to make a difference. Also make sure you know when your knee pain is normal and when to see a doctor.
Sounds and pain coming from your knee joints can be annoying, but they aren’t always cause for alarm. Here’s what Dr. Suprock had to say about several common knee complaints:
Knee pain during running: Dr. Suprock said it’s pretty common as long as it goes away after you’re done. Call the doctor when you have knee pain that’s escalating, or if it didn’t hurt to run before and now suddenly it does.
Popping and clicking noises: A fair amount of this is normal because we aren’t perfectly smooth inside, Dr. Suprock said. There are folds inside your knee that can get caught and make sound. “Generally things that don’t hurt, you don’t have to worry about,” Dr. Suprock said.
Pain on the stairs: If it doesn’t go away with a good flexibility program and strengthening, and if it is interfering with your ability to take the steps, it needs to be looked at, Dr. Suprock said.
Swelling: Dr. Suprock said It’s important to pay attention to swelling out of proportion to the activity you’re doing. If you’re just walking around your living room and your knee suddenly swells up, something’s not right. However, if you just ran a marathon and your knee’s a bit swollen, that’s normal.
One final piece of advice from Dr. Suprock: When trying to prevent future knee problems, it never hurts to be a little selfish. “It can be a challenge for women, especially when their lives are changing … maybe you aren’t running or doing yoga as much as you used to. There’s a decline in attention to themselves, which can get their hamstrings tighter and cause more pain and suffering when all you have to do is pay attention to yourself and stay active,” he said.
For more information, call OrthoCarolina Huntersville at (704) 323-2800 or visit the office at 10040 Gilead Road.