Knee pain is a common problem that plagues many people as they age, but few understand that their smoking habit may be affecting it and making it worse. Multiple studies have shown the ways that smoking can cause an increase in knee pain, but it's also been shown that it is possible to treat this problem with careful physical therapy.
Smoking Negatively Affects Cartilage
Beyond the myriad of dangerous effects that smoking causes in a person's body is one that few recognize: its affect on cartilage. A group of studies have found that smokers tend to have thinner cartilage around their joints (including the knee) and suffer from cartilage-related problems at a higher rate.
For example, one study found that the relationship between the number of cigarettes smoked and the number of years a person had smoked was negatively proportional to cartilage strength. That is to say, that the more one smoked and the longer they smoked, the more damaged their cartilage. This damage can quickly get out of control and lead to serious problems.
Cartilage Loss Can Lead To Severe Knee Pain
The cartilage in your knee is designed to keep your knee stable and to keep it from suffering from severe levels of pain. It essentially serves as a shock absorbent, and when it gets too injured, it can't handle those jolts and ends up pinching nerves and causing severe pain.
Even worse, weak cartilage can lead to actual cartilage injuries, which may lead to a locked or swelled knee. In those people who already have weakened cartilage, smoking can potentially tip them over into the kind of physical shape where knee pain becomes a recurrent issue.
How Physical Therapy Can Help
Exercise is one of the greatest ways to manage knee pain, but only if you perform it properly. High-impact physical therapy exercises, such as running, can damage your already impacted cartilage and cause even worse pain. However, low-impact exercise, including swimming in a pool, can help.
However, if your knee pain and cartilage damage is too severe, it's probably a better idea to take it easy by walking or performing simple stretching exercises. A skilled physical therapist will move you through these exercises in a controlled and safe way.
Although exercise can help increase your cartilage strength, you also need to quit smoking as soon as possible. A carefully-guided smoking cessation and physical therapy routine can help decrease your knee pain and give you a happier and healthier life.