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5 Tips for Managing Knee Pain

October 14 | 2021
Posted by Erin Mills Physiotherapy

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Managing knee painWhat causes knee pain?

Managing knee pain is a common concern for many people.   It can feel too difficult and there is always a fear of making the pain worse. Especially, when knee pain can be caused by several different reasons.  For example:

  • Muscle and tendon strains
  • Ligament sprains
  • Bursitis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Meniscus tears
  • Patellar-femoral pain
  • Dislocations
  • Post-Surgery

What can I do to help manage my knee pain?

There are several things that you can try to help reduce or solve your knee pain on your own.

  1.  Apply heat or ice

An easy home remedy for managing knee pain at home is applying either heat or ice to the area.  However, there is always some confusion about whether heat or ice is the better option.  As a general rule of thumb we say:  If there was a sudden trauma and the area is showing signs of inflammation, such as swelling and heat coming off the area, then use ice for the first 1-3 days.  In contrast, if it’s a chronic pain that comes and goes, then heat is often the better option.

When using an ice pack, wrap it in a thin moistened towel and apply to the painful area for about 10-15 minutes.  This can be done 2-3 times a day to help manage the effects of inflammation.

If you are trying a heating pad, then apply it to the knee for about 15 minutes.   Heating pads can also be used 2-3 times a day for pain management.

2.  Try some gentle movements for managing knee pain. 

If you are having pain and or stiffness with you knee, it is a good idea to try and keep it moving.  Movement helps to encourage and preserve the range of motion that is available at the knee joint.  It also helps increase the circulation in the tissues and helps reduce swelling in the knee.

An easy range of motion exercise that you can complete at home for knee pain is a heel slide.  For this exercise, lie on your back on your bed or on the floor.  Start to bend your knee while keeping your heel down on the floor or bed.  You can slide your heel towards your bottom while continuing to bend the knee.   Once you reach a point where your knee is painful, stop bending your knee and instead straighten your knee by sliding your heel back to the starting position.  Repeat this movement 10 times and perform this exercise 3 times a day.  You can place a plastic bag under your heel to make the sliding easier.

3.  Perform some gentle strengthening exercises

Although it is difficult to think of doing any type of exercise when you are having knee pain, it can actually be very helpful.  Quite often, you can help with managing knee pain by doing some simple exercises. There are some exercises that activate the muscles while being very gentle at the same time so that it does not further irritate the knee.   Similar to the range of motion exercise described above, gentle strengthening exercises can help to increase circulation and reduce pain and stiffness.  These benefits can significantly increase the recovery time of knee pain.

An example of gentle strengthening exercises include isometric quads and isometric hamstrings.  These two exercises activate the quads and hamstring muscles, respectively.  However they do so in a low impact way that usually does not create more pain for the knee.

For the isometric quads exercise, you want to lie down on your back and have a pillow underneath your painful knee.  You then want to gentle press the back of your knee into the pillow as if you are trying to straighten the knee.  Hold this position for 3 seconds and then relax the knee.  Repeat this exercise 10 times and try to do it 3 times a day.

For the isometric hamstring exercise, you also start with lying on your back.  You then want to bend your painful knee to about 90 degrees and plant your heel into the bed or floor.  Pull your heel down into the floor and hold this for 3 seconds.  You should feel the back of your thigh tightening.  Repeat this exercise 10 times and repeat it 3 times a day.

4.  Wear a knee brace or sleeve for managing knee pain.

Knee pain can be very limiting, especially with activities that require you to be on your feet for extended periods of time.  For example going for a walk or doing yardwork.  For many people, wearing a simple knee brace or sleeve will help provide some compression and support through the knee joint.  It is another tool that helps with managing knee pain.

An effective knee brace should be snug and provide comfortable support without being too tight and digging into the skin.  It should also not be too loose so that it starts to slide down when you are on your feet.  You should be able to put your finger comfortably into the sleeve to judge the correct fit.

You can wear the knee brace when you have to be more active or be on your feet for longer periods of time.  Try not to wear it all day so that your knee does not get too reliant on the brace.

5.  Continue to be active in ways that don’t bother the painful knee.

Most often, knee pain is worse with higher impact or prolonged weight bearing activities.  You may feel that this limits your ability to be active and continue with your regular physical activities.   However, there are many forms of exercise that are less aggressive on your knee joint.  Examples include biking and swimming.  Finding exercises that allow you to continue your physical activity is important in maintaining your physical health and overall well-being.

These 5 tips are some of the ways of managing knee pain on your own.  Of course, these alone may not solve your specific knee pain because there are so many factors that contribute to a person’s experience of pain.

If these tips do not work for you, then it is important to seek out the help of a Registered Physiotherapist so that they can formally assess your knee and determine what is the best course of action for you.  At PhysioNow, all of our physiotherapists are very experienced at successfully assessing and treating knee pain.

Do not let you knee pain stop you from doing what you love.  Call PhysioNow today to book your appointment!

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