KEYS TO FITNESS: Caring for Your Knees


By Sheila Yonemoto, PT
(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on Oct. 4, 2011.)


Did you know that the knee is one of the largest and most complex joints of the human body? Knees are designed for both mobility and stability.

Due to the great functional demands imposed on the knee by weight-bearing stress such as walking, running and jumping, it suffers derangement of its function and stability more frequently than any other joint.

Since joints should be noiseless, hearing noise coming from a joint usually means there is some wear and tear in the surfaces of the bones. If you hear a noise when you bend or straighten the knee, this usually indicates that the surface of the kneecap is rubbing along the thighbone.

In physical therapy, we have found the muscles on the front of the thigh do not contract in the normal coordinated fashion, causing the kneecap to move out of its normal “groove.” This causes a wearing away of the undersurface of the kneecap and eventually sounds like sandpaper scraping when you move the joint. Oftentimes, this noise can be decreased or eliminated by reeducating the muscles so the movement occurring at the kneecap is back in the groove.

If your knee occasionally buckles or locks, you should see your physician as this could be due to a variety of causes. Oftentimes, this is associated with a mechanical problem or a “loose body” in the knee,  something in the joint interfering with normal function.

Swelling usually follows an injury and means an inflammatory process has started, as this is the body’s way to heal. Sometimes swelling indicates bleeding inside the joint.

Conditioning in the body tends to be very specific, which means if you are a runner, your muscles and joints are conditioned to running, not necessarily mountain climbing or swimming. So, if you want to get your knees in shape to do lifting activities, do an exercise program involving incrementally more challenging lifting activities. Likewise, if you want to get your knees in shape for skiing, do exercises and activities most like movements used in skiing.

Use common sense and listen to your body. Aim for prevention whenever possible and seek out help when appropriate. Your body does communicate to you. You just need to listen.

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Sheila Yonemoto, P.T., has been a physical therapist for over 30 years, specializing in Integrative Manual Therapy utilizing a holistic approach. She can be reached at Yonemoto Physical Therapy, 55 S. Raymond Ave., Suite 100, Alhambra, CA  91801. Call (626) 576-0591 for a free consultation and free insurance verification, or visit for more information.



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