Knee pain is something that happens to almost everyone over time. Athletes and people who do a great deal of physical labor at work are prone to knee injuries while others experience knee pain as a result of conditions like arthritis or simple wear-and-tear with age. Whether you’re dealing with a recent injury or a long-term ache in one or both knees, the pain can be incredibly distracting if not physically limiting. You may or may not be comfortable treating the symptoms with medication or have a bigger picture medical plan with your doctor, but it can help to know a few ways to ease lasting knee pain at home and at work that aren’t over-the-counter meds so that you can regain some of your ability to both focus and relax.
Here at Mueller Sports Medicine, we care about each and every customer, whether you’re a professional athlete, a casual workout enthusiast, or just someone trying to get through their day-to-day life. With a selection of support and healing products, we hope to make every ache more tolerable and every injury to heal more quickly. Hopefully, these techniques for dealing with your lasting knee joint pain will help you and your knees as well.
Where is the Pain Coming From?
The first and most crucial step of treating your knee pain is to know (at least approximately) where it comes from. If it’s from an injury, you’ll need to have the knee looked at by a medical professional to ensure that there’s no serious damage or special care requirements. If it’s the result of a condition you’re aware of, follow the treatment methods suggested for this condition. If you’re not sure why your knees hurt, pay attention to where they hurt, under what circumstances, and what you can do to change the sensation. If the hurt is associated with movement and relaxes with rest or the pain is intense without reprieve, see a doctor before relying on home remedies. If there is an open wound, adjust your treatment to keep it clean and safe. Remember to be clear with your doctor about what you discover about your knee joint pain source and work with them to remedy the cause, not just the symptoms if at all possible.
Probe and Massage Gently for Soreness
Once you know approximately what is going on with your knee, it’s time to do a little in-depth investigation. Many issues with knee joint pain can be related to the muscles and tendons around the knee rather than the joint itself. Gently probe your the area around your knee with the tips of your fingers including the top of your calf and the bottom of your thigh to see if you can identify an area that hurts or is exceptionally tender, as this can clue you in on a deeper problem than a simple sprain or scrape. If the tissue is sore when probed, try a little light massage on and around your knee to see if it relieves the pain or eases tension. If it makes the pain worse, stop and, you guessed it, see a doctor.
Take Careful Walks to Reduce Stiffness
Often, if you can’t discern a definite cause of knee pain and isn’t a medical concern yet, you may simply be dealing with stiffness from sitting too long or standing in the wrong way. There are several ways to accidentally make your knees quite uncomfortable including locking your knees, sitting on your legs, and holding still too long which can all cause knee pain when you finally get up or as your knees wear out over time. Before declaring yourself injured, try walking slowly for five minutes to see if the pain eases and the tension shakes out. This is one of the reasons why “walk it off” is a standard piece of sports training advice. Often, what feels like a problem really just needs to be loosened up. Try swinging your leg freely from the knee as well if you feel unbalanced or don’t yet want to put weight on the knee.
Take a Long Hot Bath
If your knee is not swelling (this is important), then a long hot bath could be precisely what the doctor ordered. Taking a bath, especially in a tub where you can stretch out, provides a number of knee-soothing factors that promote healing and quick recovery. First, heat tends to relax muscles and tendons and relieve pain caused by stress or non-ideal movement inside your knee. Second, heat promotes blood flow which will speed up any healing process by continually delivering fresh nutrients and resources to the healing injury. Finally, laying down in the bath not only gets you off your feet, but it also gets the entire weight of your legs and feet off your feet as well if you allow your legs to float a little. If you can lay back such that your knee is in the hot water and above your heart, this achieves our next point as well, elevation.
Rest and Elevate the Knee
Outside the bath, while movement and strength are important, don’t overstress your knee and give it plenty of time to rest and recover from the day’s activities. Elevation, as in putting your feet up on something comfy, increases blood flow which is good for healing and relaxation while resting allows you to focus your body’s resources on healing and prevents further damage. These two factors combine to reduce the stress on your knees and, ideally, to reduce the pain you experience as well. Do your best to get the injured joint at a higher elevation than your heart. This can be tricky with knees and your best bet is to lie on our back with your knee propped on a padded stool or a stack of pillows.
Cold Therapy Can Reduce Joint Swelling
If your knees are swelling, as can occur after an injury or in the case of an arthritis episode, do not use heat. Swelling is over-active blood flow that results in pooling and heat will only encourage more swelling. Instead, apply cold packs or a plastic bag of ice wrapped in a towel on one or both sore knees. The cold will reduce both swelling and pain at the same time. Once the swelling goes down, so should your discomfort and you will be able to move around more freely again. Use ice for no more than 30 minutes at a time every one to three hours for best results. If you’re having trouble keeping the ice on your knees, consider soft braces with pockets combined with cold packs or soaking your knee in cool water.
Heat Therapy Can Ease Tissue Pain
If your knees are not swelling, we encourage almost any kind of safe heat treatment you can come up with at home or in the office. You can use heat packs wrapped in cloth, hot damp towels which is an at-home favorite, or even a heat therapy unit which pumps warm water through a soft brace for constant temperature-controlled treatment. When using heat therapy, you should also stick to about 30-minute sessions every few hours so as not to overdo it. Also, never fall asleep with a heating or cooling treatment on. The hot bath approach is technically another approach to distributed heat treatment and can allow longer treatments safely if you keep the bath hot. You may also consider soaking just the knee or leg.
Wear a Supportive Brace
Whether your knees are arthritic, recovering from an injury, or have become weak due to age or a medical condition, sometimes the best thing you can do for an achy knee is to wrap it in a nice supportive knee brace. If your problem is uncomfortable movement, a brace can keep your knee swinging along a safe track. If your problem is supporting weight, a brace can distribute weight over more of your leg instead of concentrating it on the knee joint.
Reduce Impacts and Weight on the Knee
Speaking of supporting weight, often a problem with knee pain has to do with impact on an already damaged or deteriorating joint. One of the first pieces of advice you usually come across for knee pain is to maintain a healthy weight to reduce the amount of work your knees do but we should also mention that impact matters a great deal. Walking lightly instead of with heavy thuds and walking toe-heel can reduce the impact on your knees with each step.
Find a Diet that Reduces Joint Pain
There are many natural remedies suggested for knee pain from ginger to “holy basil,” and most of these do actually have some power to change how your body responds to pain or treats the damaged area. Some natural foods are anti-inflammatory to deal with swelling, some are anti-spasmodic to deal with errant muscle activity, and some are natural painkillers. While working on a healthier diet, don’t forget to look up a few pain reducing ingredients based on your specific symptoms. Many people find that spicy foods that contain a lot of capsaicin can help manage long-term pain and in your dietary exploration, it’s even possible your pain is at least related to a vitamin or mineral deficiency in your usual diet. Try to make sure you’re eating every color of vegetable and increase the percentage of fish as your protein sources for the Omega 3.
Keep Your Knees Moving
Finally, rest is often recommended for injury recovery, but if you are dealing with a long-term knee joint pain problem, the last thing you want to do is weaken the knee(s) in question by resting too much and letting the muscles deteriorate. If you can and your doctor hasn’t said ‘no’, make sure to keep moving. Sometimes very careful walking with the right leg and foot alignment can help with knee joint pain. If it makes no difference, walk anyway and do gentle strength-building exercises to help your knee support itself around the pain.
For more tips and techniques for dealing with knee joint pain or any other sports, joint, or muscle-related discomfort, contact us today!