For people of all ages, shapes, and sizes, knee pain can be an issue. Most of us will experience the all-too-common aching or throbbing eventually, whether it’s due to aging or an injury sustained while exercising. Fortunately, there are many proven methods to alleviate knee pain, as long as there is no significant damage. Dr. Joseph Ruane, Medical Director of the McConnell Heart Health Center and Team Physician for the Columbus Blue Jackets, has the scoop on how to keep your knees in excellent shape.
Common Causes of Knee Pain
When dealing with knee pain, it’s important to have a solid grasp on what underlying issues exist in the knees, so that they can be properly treated. According to Dr. Ruane, common causes of knee pain that can usually be easily treated include patellofemoral syndrome, which is the leading cause of knee pain in women, especially under the age of 50, and tendonitis, which frequently occurs in runners or people participating in sports that require frequent jumping such as basketball or volleyball. For those over the age of 50, osteoarthritis is the most common cause of knee pain. Finding the cause quickly, then working to treat the pain is key to alleviating the pain.
Managing the Symptoms
Don’t Ignore Knee Pain
Toughing it out or trying to ignore knee pain can often delay the recovery process, or even lead to a potentially serious injury. If the goal is to get your knees back in tip-top shape, then addressing the pain quickly and getting a professional diagnosis should do wonders for you. “Generally, don’t let knee pain go for more than six to eight weeks without getting it checked,” says Dr. Ruane. “Any pain that impairs your ability to do what you want to do for more than two weeks or any pain lasting six or eight weeks, it’s reasonable to get that checked. Don’t feel like you’re just running to the doctor because it’s a lot easier to take care of these problems when they’ve only been bothering you a short while.”
Less Pain Equals Gain
In some cases, people are able to determine what activities cause knee pain without seeing a physician. If the pain does not hamper your ability to complete everyday tasks or ache during periods of inactivity, taking a break from painful movements should aid in the recovery process. “The most difficult thing for patients to do is to ease off the offending activity,“ says Dr. Ruane. While taking breaks, Dr. Ruane does encourage patients to stay active through less painful forms of activity. “We call it relative rest. You don’t have to shut down or stop doing everything. Try to figure out what bothers you the most and work around it.”
More Rest, Ice, Aleve!
Supplementing your break from painful activity with a regimen of ice and Aleve is an important step to take early in the process. For some people battling knee issues, a visit to the doctor may not be necessary if simple home treatment seems to alleviate knee pain. Icing knees for 20 minutes three times per day, combined with an over the counter dose of Aleve should also ease inflammation and pain and non-serious injuries. If taking Aleve is not an option, consult with a physician on alternative pain medications.
Shed Excess Weight
Research has shown that obesity is a risk factor for premature arthritis and accentuates knee pain. “Five pounds of weight is mechanically equivalent to 20 to 30 pounds of extra stress on your knees in normal walking. It’s 50 pounds going up and down the stairs,” says Dr. Ruane. In addition to pain caused by excess weight, fat tissue is considered inflammatory tissue, which can hamper the healing process. Shedding just a few pounds could significantly decrease knee pain and limit the chance of reoccurrence after the recovery process is complete.
Following these simple steps could get you back up and running in a short period of time. A healthy level of activity along with pain-free knees is what Dr. Ruane says he strives for when treating patients.
“We like to keep people moving as much as possible.”
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