8 Ways to Protect Your Knees from Injury at Work
You might not think about them very often – but when they’re sore or injured, you can think only of them. Your knees. The knee is a powerhouse joint in your body, one of the largest and most complex we have. It enables us to walk, sit, bend, pivot, lift, squat and turn without really thinking too much about it.
But because of its wide range of motion and the delicate anatomy involved, the knee is one of the joints most prone to injury. Your knees join the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone). The knee also works in concert with the fibula, the smaller bone that runs alongside the shin bone. Your patella (kneecap) sits at the front of the knee, giving the joint its characteristic shape which we perceive as round, although the patella is triangularly shaped. Tendons attach your kneecap to the muscular quadriceps (thigh muscles), enabling you to straighten and lock your knee.
The knee joint’s stability is provided by tendons and ligaments that attach the various bones and structures that surround the knee. The two cruciate ligaments―anterior and posterior―are sometimes called the “crucial ligaments” because of their role in providing stability around the knee.
As Richmond workers’ compensation attorneys, we’ve seen that knee injury risk increases with both age and use. Even healthy knees are at risk of strain or injury due to repetitive motions. Since we use our knees every day and they bear the weight of our entire bodies, the joint is often one of the first to show wear and tear from aging and through conditions such as osteoarthritis.
Protect Your Knees
- Monitor Your Weight. The knee joint supports most of your weight while you’re standing or walking. Give knees a break: each extra pound puts extra weight on your knees, so maintaining a healthy weight can go a long way toward preserving the health and strength of your knees as you age.
- Wear Knee Protection. If you’re in construction, plumbing or electrical work, there’s a good chance you spend a lot of work-related time on your knees throughout the day. Here are some tips to minimize the impact on your knees:
- Change positions as frequently as possible
- Stretch leg muscles before beginning work and after getting out of a cramped position
- Stand up carefully after kneeling; your knees have been in a stressful position, and sudden movement can cause injury
- Wear knee pads or use a cushion or other padding between your knees and hard tile, wood or concrete floors.
- Increase Flexibility. Gently stretch your thigh and calf muscles before the workday starts and a few times throughout the day. This will minimize the tension on the tendons surrounding the knee, helping to relieve some knee joint pressure. Stretching helps maintain range of motion to promote a healthy knee joint.
- Listen to Your Body. It’s fairly simple but worth noting: if you’re experiencing pain or tension in your knee or any joint during a particular position or movement, stop doing that movement or change positions. Our bodies send us warning signals―it’s up to us to listen and obey.
- Consider Supplements. Ask your doctor about joint supplements including glucosamine and chondroitin, which provide substances similar to those found in healthy joint cartilage. Some studies suggest that glucosamine sulfate, both on its own or combined with chondroitin sulfate, can improve joint mobility, relieve pain and potentially slow the impact of osteoarthritis damage. Your doctor can recommend a specific supplement that’s ideal for you.
- Brace Yourself. If you’ve suffered an injury to a tendon, ligament or muscle around your knee or in your leg, a protective brace can help stabilize the joint and potentially reduce inflammation or further injury. Though a brace can’t reverse damage already done, it might be able to stop the injury from getting worse. A brace can help to lighten the load on the joint, providing valuable time for it to heal.
- Strengthen Knee-related Muscles. Your knee joint doesn’t work in isolation. Strengthening the muscles that surround and support the knee – including your thigh and calf muscles – can go a long way toward keeping healthy knees healthy. Low-impact exercises that target specific muscles are best. Ask your doctor to recommend some safe exercises to keep these muscles in strong working order.
- Monitor Vitamin D Levels. There is a connection between the amount of Vitamin D in your diet and your risk for osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is progressive damage of the joint cartilage, which acts as a cushion at the end of your bones. Vitamin D enables the body to absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are both important nutrients for building and repairing bones and cartilage. The Arthritis Foundation reports that people taking corticosteroids―sometimes prescribed for knee pain―are at risk of having low Vitamin D levels. Have your Vitamin D levels checked regularly if you take a corticosteroid. In addition, you can increase your Vitamin D levels through diet by taking supplements, eating salmon, mackerel, tuna or products fortified with Vitamin D including orange juice, milk, yogurt and cereal.
A severe knee injury can end your career; take precautions now to stay safe at work and keep your knees healthy!