Treating Your Knee Joint Pain at Home
The human body was made to walk miles every day, but for many, the knees become a weak point in this equation. Knee pain is an incredibly common symptom with over a dozen possible causes. One thing is for sure- when your knees hurt, it really puts a damper on your physical activity. Pain is the body's way of telling us that something is wrong. Reactive pain, like a pinch or bump, tells us to be careful with our environment but internal pain means it's time to take better care of yourself. Knee pain in particular often means you have been asking too much of your knees, putting extra strain on them, or are struggling with arthritis and it's important that you tend to your knees before resuming your regular physical activity. Fortunately, knee pain is something you can treat at home with a few standard techniques and over the counter medications.
Types of Knee Joint Pain
Pain in one or both knees can have a number of causes. The most common cause is arthritis which often shows up in both knees at the same time, especially if weather and stress conditions come together and cause the knees to swell slightly. Then there's causal knee pain, which is pain caused by a particular event or activity like an injury or training strain. This is more likely to affect one knee at a time though if you have been training in a way that causes knee pain it might afflict both knees together. If you don't have arthritis and you haven't injured your knees recently, it could be the result of an older injury that never fully healed or possibly even a structural problem with the knee joint itself. It's important to understand why you're experiencing knee pain so that you can provide the correct method and amount of treatment to address your specific problems, otherwise you might be trying to heal the wrong condition. If you're not sure, see a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment advice.
Dealing with Swelling
Both arthritis and injuries can result in painful knee swelling which not only looks bad and feels incredibly tender, it can also limit your range of motion. No matter what the underlying cause is, swelling is often the biggest problem you'll have to deal with while treating your knee pain and many of the treatment methods suggested address swelling alone. The easiest place to start at home is with ice. Get yourself a large gallon-sized bag of ice filled loosely and wrapped in a towel.
Keep it Cool
The easiest place to start at home is with ice. Get yourself a large gallon-sized bag of ice filled loosely and wrapped in a towel. Ideally, you want to surround the entire swelling area with cold for about 20 minutes out of every two or three hours. If you have one, a gel cold pack also works for this as it is flexible and provides an even distribution of cold.
Choice of Compression
If ice alone isn't sufficient, try the rest of the RICE formula and add compression and elevation as well. Compression can be done with an elastic bandage but for longer-term pain treatment, especially for arthritis, you're better off finding a comfortable flexible knee brace that will provide a combination of mobility support and compression to keep the swelling down. Whether you use a bandage or a knee brace, make sure the compression isn't so tight that you start to see swelling below the knee. You should be able to run a finger or two in between the skin and the compression fabric or you might be cutting off blood flow.
As for elevation, how your home and office are arranged will determine how easy it is for you to elevate your knee. Even if you don't have a reclining chair or a footrest in your home, you can rig something up with an overturned laundry basket, a box, or another chair nearby. To get your knee above your heart, you will want to lie flat on your bed, couch, or the ground and rest the knee on a pile of pillows. This will encourage blood to flow away from the knee joint rather than swelling up at the pain point.
The other half of treating your knee joint pain is actual pain management. Swelling is often the most prominent symptom, but not the one that eventually causes you to stop moving and really treat the injury. Pain even without swelling can get in the way of your everyday life and may even start causing you to walk with a limp. If the pain is sharp, intense, or constant rather than causal, see a doctor immediately as this could be a sign of real knee damage like a fracture in one of the several bones near the joint. However, if you're dealing with predictable arthritis pain or the ache of a sprain or strain, you should be safe to administer home treatments
Start Without Meds
A lot of people reach straight for the pill bottle when it comes to pain but there are downsides to this method. Many of the common and 'safe' over the counter pain medications can cause eventual organ damage if taken too much or too frequently. Try to limit the amount of pain medications you take and focus on other home remedies. If the swelling has gone down, for instance, a hot bath or hot compress is a great way to relax the muscles and tendons around the knee and help to ease pain in a natural way.
Another great medication free home treatment is gentle massage and low-impact exercise. Depending on the advice from your doctor, you should be able to ease pain by slowly working your fingertips or palms around the tender area to encourage blood flow and relax any tension. However, if massage causes greater pain, stop and consult a medical professional.
Stick with NSAIDs
Finally, if you do decide to work with an over the counter pain medication, stick with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, Aleve, or Naprosyn. These will both help relieve pain and reduce any swelling that may be occurring around your knee joint.
Walking with the Pain
Chances are that even if your knee or knee joints hurt, you can't actually put your life on hold until the pain goes away so you'll need to have a solution for getting around. If the pain is a mild ache, you should be fine with just a knee brace and careful movement. However, if pain is making it difficult for your knee to hold your weight or has caused you to walk with a limp, it's perfectly reasonable to pick up a cane or crutches from your local pharmacy. A cane can help you take the weight of standing off of one knee while crutches will allow you to let the knee rest entirely while you move around. When you're not moving, try to rest and elevate the knee whenever possible.
Knee joint pain happens to thousands of people every year so you're never alone when seeking the right treatment method for yourself. For more helpful advice on dealing with joint pain whether from arthritis or injury, please contact us today.