The knee is one of the most important—and biggest—joints in the body. It’s made up of several large ligaments, multiple bones, and connecting tissues and muscles. There’s also cartilage at the end of each leg bone to help absorb shock and cushion the knee joint during physical activities.
According to a recent report, knee injuries are on the rise, with close to a quarter-million ACL injuries reported across Canada and the United States each year. In Canada alone, over 60,000 knee-joint-replacement surgeries are performed annually.
A torn ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) is the most common type of knee injury, and is usually seen among athletes. One of the main causes of this injury is a lack of stretching before performing athletic activities.
Here are some joint-friendly activities for healthy knees that can be performed by athletes as well as people with active lifestyles:
Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch
The lunging hip flexor stretch loosens the muscles around the hips and keeps the knees and quads from getting overworked.
- You can begin by standing straight on an exercise mat.
- Slowly kneel by bending one knee and stretching the other leg behind.
- Keep your toe on the ground with the thigh of the bent leg parallel to the floor.
- Lean forward while stretching your arms above you until you feel your hips tightening.
- Maintain the position for a few seconds and then switch the legs and repeat the steps.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
One of the most common causes of knee injuries are strained hamstrings. A hamstring strain adds extra pressure on the knees, increasing the chances of torn ACLs. A standing hamstring stretch keeps the hamstrings loose and flexible, allowing them to reduce the pressure on the knee.
It’s a relatively simple stretching exercise.
Extend your left leg forward and then bend at the waist to touch the toes with both hands. You should feel a stretching sensation on the back of your calves. Switch legs and repeat the stretch to loosen the other leg.
Bend and Stretch
The ‘bend and stretch’ exercise loosens the glutes, allowing them to absorb impact and reduce pressure on your quads and knees.
Lie on your back, bend one leg and grab it just below the knee. Slowly pull it closer until it touches your abdomen. Hold for a few seconds and then repeat with the other leg.
You can do these stretches multiple times a day to keep your knees loose and healthy. Regular sports massage and physiotherapy sessions can also help improve joint health and strengthen your muscles.
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