Although it's not always possible to prevent knee pain, the following suggestions may help forestall injuries and joint deterioration:

Keep extra pounds off. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for your knees — every extra pound puts additional strain on your joints, increasing the risk of ligament and tendon injuries and even osteoarthritis.

Get strong, stay limber. Because weak muscles are a leading cause of knee injuries, you'll benefit from building up your quadriceps and hamstrings, which support your knees. Try knee extensions, hamstring curls and leg presses to strengthen these muscles. Balance and stability training helps the muscles around your knees work together more effectively. And because tight muscles also can lead to injury, stretching is important. Try to include flexibility exercises in your workouts.

Be smart about exercise. If you have osteoarthritis, chronic knee pain or recurring injuries, you may need to change the way you exercise. That doesn't mean you have to stop being active, but it does mean being smart about when and how you work out. If your knees ache after jogging or playing basketball or other sports that give your joints a real pounding, consider switching to swimming, water aerobics or other low-impact activities — at least for a few days a week.

Sometimes simply limiting high-impact activities will provide relief.
Make sure your shoes fit well. A well-fitting shoe helps you maintain stability.

Choose footwear that's appropriate for your sport. Running shoes aren't designed for pivots and turns, for instance, but tennis and racquetball shoes are.

Baby your knees. Wearing proper gear for knee-sensitive activities can help prevent injuries. Use kneepads when playing volleyball or laying carpet and buckle your seat belt every time you drive. Most shattered kneecaps occur in car accidents.

Listen to your body. If your knees hurt, or you feel fatigued, don't be a hero — take a break. You're much more likely to injure yourself when you're tired.

Optimize your technique. If you're involved in a sport or activity on a regular basis, it's important to have the best technique possible so that proper movement patterns are
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