8 ways to ease knee pain
Knee pain can start from an injury to even the smallest part of your knee and can arise from overuse in childhood or adulthood. At first, knee pain is usually intermittent and mild but can become persistent and severe. No matter what exercise you do – from hitting the treadmill to taking a yoga class – it can spoil your enjoyment of the activity and eventually cause huge disruption to your life.
Knee pain is also very difficult to alleviate so prevention is key. John Hardy, Consultant Orthopaedic & Trauma Surgeon at Spire The Glen Hospital Bristol, has shared the following advice to help you keep your knees in tip-top condition and to ease pain when it first occurs.
1. Get support. When exercising – and including walking – wear sports shoes that offer the correct support. Invest in a good pair of trainers or sport-specific shoes and boots that fit properly. Consider changing these every six months. If you are serious about your sport you should have the footwear professionally assessed to match your running style before purchase. If you decide to wear a knee brace discuss the correct one for you with a sports specialist as there are 90 different supports and braces for 90 different conditions.
2. Lose weight. It’s not surprising that carrying extra weight means you are putting undue stress on your joints, particularly your knees. Medical professionals claim one pound of body weight is equal to three to seven pounds of extra weight on your knees, so even losing a few pounds can make a big difference to easing knee pain and preventing it occurring in the first place. Many of the problems in the knee that lead to later problems come from pinching of a fold of fat in the joint. Shrink the fat and you might not get the pinch.
3. Ice it. If you do suffer with knee pain, particularly after working out, ease discomfort by putting an ice pack on your knees. This is part of the age-old advice – RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Ice is thought to act by reducing blood flow and thereby reduces inflammation around the joint. Keep several ice packs in the freezer so they ready when you need them. For a more professional approach there are cold therapy systems that deliver continuous cold to the joint like the CryoCuff from Aircast.
4. Try manipulation. Many people notice a sudden knee pain without any particular injury. In this instance you can use the ‘Hardy shuffle test’, which may cure the pain of impingement. To perform this test at home, kick flick your knee to see if you can shift the pain. If the pain is coming from under the kneecap while going up the stairs, sit on the edge of the stair. Relax your thigh muscle and flick your kneecap side to side to flick out the small fold of fat that is being pinched. If the pain persists visit your GP.
5. Don’t ignore pain. Many people brush off knee pain when they first start to experience it and believe that it will eventually go away. Early diagnosis is key to preventing more severe and irreversible damage. If you have a sharp, intermittent, localised pain you should get checked out earlier rather than later in order to stop some conditions getting worse. If you have a pain you can point to on you knee and it is tender to touch get off to the GP to check you have not got an unstable meniscus tear. This is the most common cause of osteoarthritis if untreated. Most GPs will take a history, examine your knee for point tenderness and arrange an MRI scan.
6. Make healthy lifestyle changes. Vitamins and nutrients such as vitamin C, calcium and vitamin D support healthy bones and greens, such as spinach, kale and cabbage, contain vitamin K. If you’re a smoker, bear in mind that the carbon monoxide from smoking displaces 20% of the oxygen from you haemoglobin. Tissues need this oxygen when trying to heal up an injury.
7. Keep moving but get a good night’s sleep. Cycling is a proven way to encourage cartilage to grow and heal. Look for ways to incorporate gentle activity into your daily routine such as cycling to work or to the shops. You can even get a cycling machine that sits under your desk. And sleep can do wonders for joint discomfort. So get some early nights in to ensure you get your full eight hours. You will feel better for it.
8. Change the way you exercise. High-impact sports such as running and racquet sports don’t do your knees any favours. If you suffer with knee pain, take up a gentler exercise such as swimming or yoga – at least for a while to let the inflammation go down. Continuing to do high-impact exercise could just make things worse. Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, or you are sensitive to them, try a non- steroidal anti-inflammatory tablet after food the night before exercise.
For more information on Mr Hardy and his services, click here.
You can also check out Mr Hardy’s Knee App for insight into the most common causes of knee pain and how to treat it: http://apps.nhs.uk/app/knee-athroscopy-esupport/