Knee pain is a widespread issue affecting people of all ages and at different stages of life. The pain ranges from mild to acute, and it is the second most frequent area of pain reported by individuals in the UK after back pain. Knees are fundamental weight-bearing joints, so debilitating pain limits how physically active you can be. Identifying the basis of the underlying issue is the key to receiving effective treatment.
Dr Matthew Stride, sports medicine consultant
To reduce the risk of a knee injury it is important to gradually build up the intensity of activities. Further exertions that involve rotational movement and sudden changes of direction are higher risk, and warming up with additional muscle activation exercises, especially of the gluteus muscles, is advised. The knee can be considered to have four areas: the front (anterior) aspect is chiefly related to the kneecap (patella), and the medial, lateral and posterior aspects.
The basis of pain will depend on the location of discomfort and how long you’ve been experiencing it. Take time to reflect on any recent injuries or trauma to the knee. Acute pain often results from injuries, while chronic pain can be due to underlying health conditions such as osteoarthritis. Even minor injuries can lead to pain and should not be ignored, especially if they are persisting.
Furthermore, an injury elsewhere of the skeletal system can affect your bodily alignment and the knee. Check if there is swelling around the joint because this is often a sign of inflammation, which can occur without pain. Next, you must observe your knee’s range of motion, because difficulty bending or straightening may indicate specific problems. If it gives way, it may imply a ligament or cartilage injury.
Pay attention to any unusual sounds. Clicking, popping or grinding noises may be indicative of certain conditions. Rice is a technique that can be used to initially deal with mild discomfort. The abbreviation stands for rest, ice, compression, elevation. Rest: allow your knee to rest to avoid further irritation. Reducing the load by lessening the number of steps you take can help. Ice: apply ice to the affected area for 15-20 minutes every few hours to reduce swelling and inflammation. Compression: use a brace or bandage for support and to minimise swelling. Elevation: elevate your leg to reduce swelling, especially when resting, keeping the knee as straight as possible.
If you are diagnosed with osteoarthritis, consider gentle exercises such as swimming or cycling, and resistance-based exercises that have been clinically proven to strengthen the muscles around the joint. It is important to avoid activities that put pressure on the knee such as kneeling, and consider using heat therapy, including warm compresses, to provide relief.
For tendinopathy, rest and ice can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Gentle stretching and strengthening exercises, recommended by a physiotherapist, may be beneficial. Similar to tendonitis, rest and ice, and anti-inflammatory medication can also be helpful for bursitis.
For injuries derived from overuse, try to modify your activities to avoid strain and be careful with not ramping up the intensity and duration of exercise too quickly. Furthermore, some individuals find relief from homeopathic remedies, including supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin. Others turn to a balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, such as fish, leafy greens and berries, to help to manage pain and focus on maintaining a healthy weight to reduce potential stress on the knee joint. Consult a healthcare provider before starting any supplements. If pain persists or worsens, speak to a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and personalised treatment plan. In some cases medical interventions such as physical therapy, medications, injections or surgery may be necessary to address the underlying cause of pain.
Article by Salomè Tucker
(September 14 2023)
Dr Matthew Stride
Sports Medicine Consultant
Isokinetic Medical Group – Isokinetic London