Whether you're dashing up the stairs, saying your prayers or strutting your best Michael Jackson move, sudden knee pain can stop you cold in your tracks.

Here are five excellent ways to keep your knees as strong, flexible and happily active as they can be:

  • Firm up your thighs. It's like installing shock absorbers for your knees. Strengthening your front and back thigh muscles (quadriceps and hamstrings) helps protect the knee joints from injury. Increasing quad strength can also cut your risk of knee osteoarthritis by up to 30 percent.
  • Walk backward. It gives your quads a slightly different workout while going easy on a particularly vulnerable knee zone, the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), a joint connector that women and athletes frequently tear. Running backward is also a useful way to prevent knee injury!
  • Go low-impact. You should keep moving to improve your range of motion and build the muscles that surround and support your knees. Just don't pound them (nix pavement running and high-impact aerobics). Instead, go easy with walking, swimming, yoga, biking, elliptical machines or padded treadmills, and weight work.
  • Feed your knees. The inflammation-fighting nutrients in berries, ginger, avocado, flaxseeds, omega-3-rich fish (trout, salmon) or the DHA type of omega-3 supplements all help stifle joint damage. To be sure you get enough, take 900 milligrams of DHA omega-3s daily.
  • Lose a few pounds. Every extra pound you carry creates three pounds of pressure on your knee joints when you walk and 10 pounds when you run. Ouch. Obesity almost guarantees arthritis because it speeds cartilage breakdown. Every extra pound puts four pounds of pressure on your knees when you walk. Dropping even 10 pounds can cut your risk of osteoarthritis in half, so go for it!

If you are worried about a knee injury it’s best to air on the side of caution and see a physician to discuss treatment options and the best way to ease your symptoms. Go to westvalleyisbetter.com or call (208) 455-3981 to find a provider today.