Aspiring to be fit and healthy, Ranjitha, 35, decided to hit the gym every morning. Soon, running on treadmill became her passion. Little did she realise that her weak ligaments and cartilage were not in a position to take the burden of intense running. The result: knee arthritis.
Madhumita, barely 32, suffering from persistent pain in her knees, was shocked after the diagnosis came in recently -- arthritis. Like most of us, she believed that arthritis has something to do with old age.
According to orthopaedic surgeons, although poor lifestyle, lack of exercise and a desk job do harm to knees, being a fitness freak and trying to gain maximum output over weekends in the gym can hurt the knees more, especially if you are young.
"We are witnessing a steep rise in the number of younger patients grappling with osteoarthritis or other joints and ligaments problems," says Dr Rajeev K Sharma, senior consultant (orthopaedics) and joint replacement surgeon from Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi.
"It is part of a lifestyle disorder syndrome that is responsible for a spurt in a number of lifestyle diseases among young people," said Dr Sharma. Loss of cartilage, depleting calcium, wear and tear of the ligaments or excessive weight - all these factors contribute to the onset of osteoarthritis that affects over 15 million Indians each year.
According to Dr Rajeev Thukral, senior consultant (orthopaedics) at the Max Super Speciality Hospital in New Delhi, walking on the treadmill is fine if you are not obese. Make sure that you have done a warm-up before stepping on the treadmill. Right shoes and proper guidance from a fitness expert is also necessary. He, however, cautions against excessive running on the treadmill as it leads to massive wear and tear of the knees.
"Raising the incline on your treadmill is not good for knees. However, any physical activity should be done under the supervision of a certified trainer," stresses Dr Sanjeev Jain, consultant (joint replacement surgeon) at Dr. L.H. Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai.
According to Dr Jayant Arora, senior consultant (orthopaedics and joint replacement surgery) at Columbia Asia Hospital-Gurgaon, if you are a running freak, change shoes every six months. "Go for good-quality running shoes. Run easy. Two-day resting time in a week is important to prevent knee injury," he says. "Flat-footed people should wear shoes with arches inside and warm up before stepping on the treadmill," Dr Thukral adds. If you are obese, hire a proper fitness instructor and consult your doctor for precautions.
Knee and neck pain has become common among youngsters primarily because of long sitting hours in front of computers without adequate exercise or movement. "Walking to work, cycling to school or college, taking stairs rather than elevators - all these activities that were a regular part of the last generation have ceased to exist in the youth today," Dr Sharma points out. Unfortunately, these have not been replaced by adequate consciousness about the need for regular exercise, he laments.
Once diagnosed with knee pain, first thing you must do is not to miss on sleep. "Sleep is when your repair process occurs. A good night's sleep means proper repairing of the knees. This is most important as you age," emphasises Dr Thukral.
Bring some lifestyle changes to avoid activities that give stress to knees. "Avoid unnecessary yoga or exercise, shun smoking as it can weaken your bones; reduce weight and go for regular physiotherapy," advises Dr Jain.
If you are an adventure lover, go ahead and indulge in hiking, trekking and mountaineering. This will not only fulfill your penchant for fun but also help build your bones. "Dancing is a better activity; it is extremely good for your bones and muscles. You may also take to aerobics," Dr Arora points out. For those who are not fit enough to perform such activities, do brisk walk for 30 minutes daily.
Postures and movements that result in excess wear and tear should be avoided. Avoid sitting cross-legged on your knees on the floor. Get enough sunlight," sums up Dr Thukral. Meanwhile, get off the "dreadmill" and try that great heart-pumping run on the dirt track in your neighbourhood park instead.