Whether you’re an athlete or just someone who leads an active life, a knee injury can be a real setback. It never becomes more evident how much we use our knees as when you’re supposed to be staying off the knee to allow it time for recovery. Nor do we discover our own creativity in getting around until it becomes necessary to avoid putting weight on an essential joint. We hop, we develop grabbers, we figure out how to work out without stressing out the knee.
But the biggest challenge of all is when the knee continues to hurt through recovery even when you’re doing everything right. Knee pain can be intense, even for seemingly minor injuries. If you have wrenched or damaged your knee, it may throb, ache, or send you sharp pain signals for days or weeks after the incident while healing. So today, we’re here to help you not just with recovery tips, but a helpful guide on how to reduce knee pain while you recover.
After You RICE Away the Initial Swelling
The first step for pain reduction in any injury recovery is to RICE first and foremost. Rice stands for Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate. So for your knee, this means wrapping the knee tightly, icing intermittently, and staying off the knee while propping it up on a pillow. These actions are particularly important during the very beginning of your recovery, especially if you want to reduce the pain you experience through the rest of your recovery period. Why? It’s all about inflammation, also known as swelling.
RICE is designed to both protect an injured joint and to reduce swelling in every way possible. Swelling pumps blood to the area to protect the joint and promote healing in the best way the body can. But swelling also creates extreme tenderness and eventual stiff recovery.
So rest keeps extra blood from pumping to the knee. Ice cools and therefore slows the blood flow, plus it has a pain-reducing quality of its own. Compression keeps swelling from expanding too far. And elevation makes it more difficult for blood to gather with the help of gravity. Any time you experience swelling, apply Rice. Especially right at the beginning.
Keep the Knee Tightly Wrapped
Even after the initial RICE process is no longer necessary, when the swelling goes down, compression can still be helpful for pain management. You may have already discovered that a tight elastic bandage or a compression knee brace can help to reduce painful throbbing and gives you a sense of control over the pain. Compression can help you control blood flow to the knee and dull some forms of knee pain in recovery. Just be certain that your foot doesn’t become warm and tingly as a result which is a sign that your compression is too tight and cutting off circulation.
Take Long Hot Baths
Without swelling, one of the best things you can do is to apply heat instead of ice to the knee. Heat promotes blood flow and helps any adjoining muscle or tendon tissue to relax instead of growing stiff or knotting up. Hot water bottles and heat packs are a good place to start. But the best long-term pain-relieving benefit of heat can be achieved with a long, relaxingly hot bath. Make it as steamy as you can stand and then sit in the bath with your knee comfortably floating or gently weighted to fully submerse.
Let the hot water relax your knee and ease the pain. Take this time to carefully stretch your let go its full extension if this is possible. A hot bath will relax not just the tissue directly around the knee, as a heating pad can, it will also relax all adjoining muscles and tendons as well. So if your knee pain was worse due to tightness in your calf, thigh, or hip muscles, then the whole muscle system will relax and your pain can be relieved.
Wear Your Knee Brace
If your doctor has recommended a knee brace or you have found one designed to assist with your injury recovery, wear it. It can feel strange to wear a brace all the time, but it can also help immensely to prevent the types of movement or weight that causes the knee pain. A structured brace or hinged brace might prevent your knee from torquing as it heals. While a compression brace will provide exactly the right amount of pressure to your knee to keep swelling at bay and ease throbbing pains.
Wearing the right knee brace can even make it more possible to move around safely by redistributing your step-weight away from the knee. This can mean less precarious hopping and more gracefully careful walking as you live your life through the recovery period.
Take NSAID Painkillers Carefully
If the pain has gotten bad enough that you need direct relief, your best bet is a category of painkillers known as NSAIDs. The acronym stands for Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs. In other words, they reduce swelling as well as reducing pain. Aspirin is a well-known NSIAD but you don’t need a specific brand as long as it falls into this category.
Take NSAID painkillers carefully. Do not become dependent on one brand, as each can have negative effects on internal organs if used in excess. So try to use as few as necessary and as infrequently as possible.
Consume Anti-Inflammatory Foods and Supplements
Another way to achieve long-term pain reduction is to focus your diet on anti-inflammatory foods. Fortunately, these foods are fairly common and delicious. They include tomatoes and dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale. They include almonds and walnuts, olive oil, fatty fish, along with berries and citrus fruits. So a pretty good diet, and one you may already be enjoying.
You can also try anti-inflammatory supplements that are known to boost healing and ease knee pain during a knee injury recovery. These supplements are very common and easy to get because inflammation is a common symptom of many conditions. They include fish oil, ginger, turmeric, CBD, and Flax.
Balance Your Vitamins and Nutrients
Beyond the focus on anti-inflammatory, you can also reduce your pain and promote healing by making sure your diet is properly balanced in all your vitamins and nutrients. If you are an athlete, then you already know the importance of getting enough niacin and magnesium for muscle health as a good example. Make sure you’re getting a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables.
This is worth mentioning even for people who usually eat a diverse and healthy diet because injury recovery has a way of putting us in a rut. You might be surprised how much of your knee pain may have been coming from a diet of freezer foods because you’re not up to full-scale cooking at present. Now is the time to invest in A) Grocery deliveries and B) pre-mixed salads and produce platters. It’s okay to buy a little more pre-prepared fresh foods while you’re recovering so that your diet stays balanced while you’re stuck hopping and standing on one leg in the kitchen.
Stay Off the Knee
It may be tempting to walk around like normal as your knee starts to be able to take the weight. But don’t. Or at least, not without your doctor’s supervision. If you are able to move around but your knee hurts intensely during or after putting weight on it, stop. Pain should always be an indication to change what you’re doing.
Remember to give your knee plenty of rest and don’t tax it too hard while it is in recovery. Don’t let your desire to move around make your recovery any more painful or longer than necessary. Follow your doctor’s instructions and your body’s own signals when it comes to weight and rest.
Do Your Knee Recovery Exercises
That said, you should also do very careful knee recovery exercises as your knee begins to heal. Part of the knee pain you may be experiencing could be stiffening up or your muscles and tendons re-growing short because you have been resting so much. It is actually important to stretch out your knee as it heals and then begin doing strengthening exercises to ensure your knee will be back up to snuff soon. Strengthening and stretching out your knee can also reduce pain because you are preventing it from healing short or hurting from weakness.
Consult with a doctor, trainer, and/or physical therapist for the correct knee recovery exercises at the correct pace for your injury. The right exercises can shorten your recovery time and ensure that your knee comes back stronger and more limber than it would have otherwise.
RICE If/When Swelling Returns
Finally, if swelling returns during specific points in your recovery, don’t forget to RICE. Rest, ice, compression, elevation is the ideal way to handle the swelling of an injured joint because it was specifically designed to reduce swelling and pain at the same time. If the knee swells as a result of activity or just as part of the healing process, don’t worry. Just rest, compress, and ice. The ice will cool and numb the pain while the whole package helps to reduce swelling and, therefore, make your knee less tenderly painful.
If you are recovering from a knee injury and experiencing knee pain, contact us today. Mueller Sports Medicine can help you find the right knee brace to aid in your recovery and ideally reduce the knee pain you are feeling. We are passionate about high-quality recovery braces and would be proud to assist in your knee injury recovery.