If you have problems with your knees, you have a lot of good company. Millions of people suffer from knee pain on an occasional or chronic basis. Knee pain can be due to multiple causes, but each one has a different course of treatment that may work best to provide knee pain relief.
Whether you’re an active athlete or a weekend warrior, knee injuries are common in sports. In fact, knee injuries make up 55 percent of all sports injuries, making this a very frequent problem. Knee injury can affect any of the parts of the knee joint, such as the ligaments, tendons or bursae. Other parts of the knee that can be affected include the meniscus, cartilage or bones. Contrary to what you might believe, you don’t have to play a high-impact sport like football or hockey to injure your knees. Dancing can cause knee injuries, as can running. Knee injuries associated with running are so common that there is even a specific type of injury called “runner’s knee,” also called patellofemoral pain syndrome, which causes weakness or softening of the cartilage underneath the knee cap.
In the immediate period after a knee injury caused by sports, it’s important to treat the injury. Rest, ice, compression and elevation – the four components more commonly known by the RICE acronym – are key to relieving swelling and pain from minor knee pain caused by sprains and muscle soreness. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can also reduce swelling and alleviate discomfort. Follow up with a doctor if you think x-rays or stabilizing the knee will be needed. Knee injuries that include tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial cruciate ligament (MCL) or the meniscus often require surgical repair. If you hear a popping sound or feel a sudden sharp pain, seek further medical attention to get knee pain relief.
Any repetitive motion is hard on the joints. When knee pain is caused by overuse, it causes soreness, pain and swelling. You may be more prone to knee injuries caused by overuse if your job requires you to make the same knee motions on a frequent basis. Exercises that require kicking the knees can also cause this type of pain. Fortunately, unlike knee pain due to acute injury or chronic conditions like arthritis, overuse injuries are likely to get better with supportive, low-technology home treatments such as ice and rest.
Arthritis is a common cause of joint pain and swelling that is most often thought to affect only older people. One of the most frequent causes of arthritis is simply wear and tear on the joints over a long period of time. However, arthritis can have causes unrelated to age or use, such as certain types of disease. Once the inflammation of arthritis sets in, it usually becomes a chronic condition that will remain an issue. Finding appropriate knee pain relief for arthritis can be challenging because it is ongoing and tends to get worse over time.
Arthritis suffers are most likely to find knee pain relief by using multiple forms of treatment. Exercise, specifically exercises prescribed as part of physical or occupational therapy, are designed to strengthen the knee by improving muscle weakness while also reducing further injury. Although people with arthritis may be dealing with knee pain or former injuries and may fear that exercise will cause further pain, carefully chosen exercises can actually prevent pain.
Medications are another form of knee pain relief for people with arthritis. For osteoarthritis, the most common type that is caused by normal wear and tear on weight-bearing joints, acetaminophen is prescribed as a first line of medication. For the arthritis types associated with diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, non-steroidal inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen may be prescribed first; if these are not effective enough in providing adequate knee pain relief, doctors may prescribe other drugs to reduce inflammation and to modify the immune system response that leads to the pain.
Knee pain can be frustrating and demoralizing. In the most severe cases, it can even be completely debilitating. However, you do not have to live with the same level of pain forever. Contact a supportive physician and consider seeing a physical therapist to help you to strengthen your knees and reduce the amount of pain you feel.