Knee pain can happen to anyone. Whether it’s the result of a recent injury, hard physical work, or just creeping joint deterioration, knees are complicated joints that we use every day. Over-working them or just 50 plus years of continual walking can wear them down and cause one or more aspects of your knee to send pain signals. Your knee pain might be something you’re recovering from now or knee pain might just be a sign that it’s time to sit for a few hours but living with constant achy or sharply painful joints is no fun for anyone.
Unfortunately, there’s only so much your doctor and pain medication can do. Medical attention can make sure that any issues causing your knee pain are known and treated, but most people who suffer from short or long-term knee pain discover that the real challenge is dealing with the day-to-day. Especially if you don’t want the health risks of constantly taking pain medication. Whether you’re recovering from a temporary injury or treating a chronic condition, we have put together a dozen helpful ways to relieve the discomfort of knee pain at home in ways your doctor will approve of.
ALWAYS START WITH RICE
For injuries involving the knee, always start with the RICE method. This is a recovery procedure perfected by athletes to help reduce both swelling and pain. These methods can work together to manage an injury directly after the event and to reduce your healing time by managing the swelling and blood flow.
RICE Stands for:
“Rest” may seem like a no-brainer recovery instruction, but it’s surprisingly difficult for most people to comply with. If you’re recovering from an injury, find sitting activities to distract you while you kick back for a few days. “Ice” chills the wound and, as most people know, can help significantly reduce the swelling around your knee or any other soft-tissue damage. The ice slows blood flow and can also help reduce pain for several days after the injury. “Compression” holds your knee to the shape (and size) it’s supposed to be, making the blood rushing to help the injury incapable of over-swelling. This can be done with an elastic bandage or a knee brace. Finally, “Elevation” involves lifting your knee above the level of your heart, though simply putting your feet up can help. This forces the blood to flow uphill, once again slowing swelling and also promoting rest. To get your knee above your heart, you may need to lie down and prop the knee up above you.
Anti-inflammatory pain medication is often a big part of immediate knee injury treatment, but over a long period of time it can become harmful to select internal organs depending on what you take. Fortunately, there are other ways to reduce inflammation and the tender kind of pain that comes with it. For both long- and short-term knee pain, adjusting your diet to primarily feature anti-inflammatory foods has helped many people manage joint pain of all types.
Fortunately, anti-inflammatory foods are everywhere and can easily be combined into delicious meals. Just a few examples include broccoli, spinach, and tomato, green tea, olive oil, pineapple, salmon, and most kinds of berries. Whole grains, oily fish, walnuts, and even simple soup broth can reduce your swelling and pain. Essentially, eat fresh foods and increase your intake of fish and fruits.
Slow and careful exercise is often the answer to chronic pain and slow recovery from a knee injury. There are many ways to do this but one very enjoyable daily practice to reduce your pain is to practice Tai Chi. This slow-motion martial art focuses the mind and body through a wide range of very low-impact motions. Unlike other forms of exercise, Tai Chi can go as slowly as you need it to while at the same time offering a very beneficial range of motions to stretch and strengthen your knee with.
A study published in Arthritis and Rheumatism has found that Tai Chi practice is particularly beneficial for osteoarthritis. It can serve to increase your range of motion and the mental focus can help you to cope with days where the pain is more intense.
BRACES AND SUPPORTS
When you’re trying to live your day-to-day, never forget the benefit of a good brace or walking aid. If your knee pain is generally in response to weight and the stress of walking, this means taking weight off the knee can significantly increase your ability to get around. Whether you’re just puttering around the house or trying to get back into an exercise routine, don’t be shy about experimenting with braces and supports.
A good knee brace can make a world of difference, and there are many types to try. You may need something that simply provides a little extra compression or a larger brace that distributes the weight normally taken by your knee onto the rest of the leg. Some people who suffer from knee pain find benefit with a hinged knee brace to help their knee swing along the correct path every time.
Walking aids and supports are another way to go. Even if you consider yourself young, try a cane, crutches, or even a walker while your knee is giving you trouble. Just taking weight off the knee can really help and a walking aid may be the solution you’ve been looking for.
HEAT AND COLD THERAPY
While the RICE method suggests ice for a recent injury, almost all joint pain can benefit from the application of the right temperature treatment. Hot and cold are both useful to reduce pain and promote relaxation and healing but they should be used based on the symptoms you’re experiencing.
If your knee is swelling, as can happen post-injury or with chronic arthritis, apply ice or cold packs. This will slow the flow of blood while simultaneously offering some pain relief by partially numbing the area. Apply the ice for no more than 30 minutes at a time every two hours or fifteen minutes at a time every hour so as not to over-chill the area.
If your knee hurts but there is no swelling, go for heat instead. Heat relaxes the muscles and tendons around your knee. This is the primary way that heat eases pain. When the pain is coming from soft tissue, just getting that soft tissue to relax can allow knots to ease, tension to release, and allow your knee to truly relax. Heat also promotes blood flow that can help you to heal tissue damage faster.
No one experiencing joint pain likes to hear it, but your body weight can play a very big part in the intensity and regularity of knee pain. Simply put, the more weight you put on the knee, the more it is likely to hurt or take additional damage. If your knee pain is from an injury, most likely you will not have time to adjust your weight to make a difference. However, if you’re working with a chronic or long-term problem with knee pain, reducing your body mass can make a very noticeable difference.
The good news is that your diet of fresh, delicious anti-inflammatory foods will make it easier to adjust your diet and lifestyle for weight loss. Remember to always check with your doctor before undergoing a weight loss plan and watch out for anything that promises to take the weight off too fast. For easing long-term pain, losing a few pounds a year is a safe and beneficial plan.
WEAR THE RIGHT SHOES
Many people don’t realize just how important your shoes are to how your knees and hips feel. The shoes determine the entire way your legs stand and move when you’re upright from the arch supports to the heel height. Orthopedic or athletic shoes that provide good posture from the ground up can significantly change your experience of your own knees. If you regularly wear heels, no-support flats, or shoes that put your feet in a strange or unnatural position, this could be the cause or a contributing factor of your knee pain.
If you have trouble finding comfortable shoes, consider therapeutic insoles. Basic insoles that offer versatile support can be bought in stores or you can speak to a podiatrist to get a mold made of your feet for custom insoles. With the right shoes or insoles, your legs will stand more comfortably and take some pressure off of your knees.
KEEP A DAILY RECORD
Finally, everyone’s experience of their knee pain is different, along with how your lifestyle influences this pain. Many people who suffer from chronic pain have found that keeping a journal can help track down what causes more or less pain so that you can reduce your day-to-day pain. It doesn’t need to be an in-depth journal or a personal diary. Simply write down what you eat, what you have done with your knees, and rank your pain from one to ten. Days with more or less pain should be assessed to figure out what the influencing factors were and how to make your future days more enjoyable.
Dealing with knee pain is not anyone’s idea of fun, but for many, it’s a simple fact of life. We hope these tips have made your experience of knee pain and your everyday life a little easier. Whether you’re recovering from a recent injury or dealing with a long-term pain problem, Mueller Sports Medicine is here to help. With braces and medical supplies for a wide variety of orthopedic challenges, we’re ready guide you toward the right brace or treatment for your needs. For more information, advice, or joint pain tips, contact us today!