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During a long struggle with chronic knee pain, I noticed one practically ubiquitous bit of advice. It was so widespread, I quipped in a book I later wrote about my recovery, that a gumball-type machine dispensing tips for knee pain sufferers would spit out plastic balls containing a single strip of paper. On it would be printed three words:
"Strengthen your quads!"
"Quads," of course, stands for the quadriceps. These four large muscles in the thigh control leg extensions at the knee. The poor knee joint absorbs a lot of force during ordinary daily activities (walking, squatting, climbing stairs) and not-so-ordinary activities (running, playing tennis). Strong quads help stabilize the joint and cushion it against those many impacts.
So you may be thinking: For a knee pain sufferer, what's not to like about "strengthen your quads"?
Exactly what I thought too, before following that advice almost destroyed my bad knees.