When you live an active lifestyle of professional or casual sports, it’s not uncommon to deal with the occasional minor knee injury. Sometimes it will be based on an event that occurred during training or on the field while other times knee pain can be a result of stress, tension, or imperfect form over time. For whatever reason you’re experiencing knee pain, it’s important to treat it correctly so you can heal quickly and get back to doing the things you love as soon as possible. Because not all knee pain shares the same cause, the cures will also vary somewhat. However, knowledge of the joint itself can give you a reliable set of guidelines on how to treat your knee to keep comfortable and strong as it heals. Here are ten great tips for treating knee injuries at home.
If your knee pain is the result of a recent injury, you’ll want to start with cold to reduce swelling and numb the immediate pain. A large bag of partially crushed ice is the best way to provide a steady wrap-around chill to the knee, but make sure to wrap it in a towel to prevent damaging your skin. During the first 48 to 72 hours after an injury, apply cold for 15 to 20 minutes every few hours.
After controlling the swelling, switch to treating your knee with gentle heat a few times a day to help relax the muscles and tendons. Heating pads and packs are useful here and should be applied for 15 to 20 minutes three or four times a day. You can substitute one or more of these heating times with a hot bath instead.
Avoid Additional Damage
It’s very important during the healing process that you not do any further damage to the knee. It needs time to recover and rebuild any damaged tissue. So no high-impact exercises. Landing on a healing knee is not just painful, it can also significantly extend the time it takes you to heal. While running and jumping are obviously off the table, you also want to avoid any high-stress knee workouts like lunges or deep knee squats.
The way your shoes support your foot through the insoles will control how you stand and therefore shape the form you use while walking on your injured knee. In order to treat your knee carefully, make sure you’re wearing shoes with nicely cushioned insoles that don’t set your legs at an unexpected angle from the ankles up. Check the insoles of your shoes to discover which ones are best. If none of your shoes have a cushioned insole, consider buying a new pair for recovery purposes.
Remember to R.I.C.E.
The single most common piece of advice any athlete facing a minor to medium injury is the R.I.C.E. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. The goal here is to keep your knee mostly still, reduce swelling, and promote healthy blood flow. You can alternate between temperature treating your knee and working with compression bandages to keep it comfortable. The compression not only fights swelling, it also acts as an impromptu brace for getting around without asking too much from your hurting knee.
Don’t Rest Too Much
It may be tempting to take a complete break from your physical routine and just completely chill. But resting too much and for too long can start to weaken your muscles, decreasing their ability to support the area around the damaged knee. This can actually worsen the pain instead of making it better. Therefore your best bet is to stay active and moving, just in ways that don’t overly stress out your knee.
Keep Exercising (Carefully)
Careful exercise is still good for you and helps promote the healing process. Look for ways to get in cardio workouts that won’t stress the damaged knee. This is a great time to work on your back, chest, and arms with weight training and core exercises that don’t involve the legs. You can also work on keeping up and strengthening your leg muscles with mindful walking, swimming, and water aerobics.
Use a Walking Aid
When treating your knee pain, you face two conflicting goals. On one hand, you need to stay mostly off the damaged knee while it recovers. On the other hand, you also need to stay active and moving the rest of the leg around to stay strong and in-shape during your recovery time. This is the perfect time to make use of a crutch, cane, or even a fancy walking stick as long as it takes some of the weight off your leg and keeps you stable while you move around.
Don’t keep your knee wrapped in a compression bandage or resting all the time. When it aches, try gently rubbing and massaging the area to help relieve pain and encourage blood flow through the damaged area. This can make the knee at least temporarily feel better and will promote even healing rather than pooling blood in the damaged area. If the massage causes additional pain instead of relieving it, do not continue massaging.
Remember to Stretch
The last thing you want as your knee heals is for it to complete in an un-stretched state. This will make re-entering your athletic activities much harder as you will need to spend time stretching everything back out instead of getting straight to re-acclimating to your favorite activities. To avoid this, make sure to stretch your knee out during recovery time instead. Two good exercises for this purpose are hamstring stretching and knee-to-chest, both of which are done lying on your back and stretching the injured leg carefully.
Seek Professional Advice
While most knee pain treatment can be easily handled at home, it’s important to get your knee checked out by a professional at least once to ensure that there is no serious or potentially permanent damage. The best time to do this is right after your knee pain occurs. If it is from an injury, try to see a medical professional within the first 24 hours. If the pain occurred in a less sudden manner, it’s time to see a doctor at the same time you decide your knee will require special treatment to recover.