Most of us have suffered or are likely to suffer from knee pain during our lives. In fact, according to the American Osteopathic Association, knee pain is the second-leading cause of chronic pain. More than one-third of Americans report being affected by knee pain. You don’t have to suffer a life of discomfort though. Getting knee pain relief at home is possible through rest, proper medication or a number of other ways.
A Quick Look at Knee Pain
Minor knee problems are common. Although these issues are often caused by injury to one or more of the structures of the knee, sometimes there are other causes. Jobs, sports and recreational activities, growing older, and/or having diseases like arthritis or osteoporosis increase your odds of having knee trouble. Injuries to the knee frequently happen during sports or recreational activity, or as the result of work-related tasks or home projects. Besides injury, knee pain and problems can stem from simple everyday wear and tear or overuse.
Prevention is Power For Knee Pain Relief
In 2013, a study reported a whopping 162-percent increase in knee replacements over the last two decades for individuals age 65 and older. While avoiding or preventing knee pain may not be entirely possible, you can help delay injuries and joint deterioration by:
Shedding extra pounds
If you’re overweight, one of the best ways to decrease arthritis pain is by shedding a few pounds. For every pound lost, a person loses about three pounds of stress across the knees and approximately six pounds of stress on the hips.
Weak muscles are a leading cause of knee injury, so you’ll benefit from strengthening your quadriceps and hamstrings, which support your knees. Balance and stability training also help the muscles around your knees work in unison. And don’t neglect stretching. Flexibility exercises should be part of your workout routine.
Prepare your muscles for the demands of your sport by making time for conditioning. Work with a coach or trainer to ensure that your technique and movements are appropriate.
Evaluating how you exercise
If you have osteoarthritis, recurring injuries or chronic knee pain, changing the way you exercise may be important. Consider switching to swimming, water aerobics or other low-impact activities, at least once in a while. Simply limiting your high-impact activities (e.g., running) can often provide relief.
Achieving Knee Pain Relief at Home
If you have mild to moderate knee pain, you don’t simply have to grin and bear it, or wait for treatment from a healthcare professional. Keep in mind, you should seek medical attention for moderate or severe knee pain caused by an injury, as certain injuries or pain can require surgery or another type of intervention for effective treatment.
Here are six strategies for obtaining knee pain relief at home:
1. Think RICE
Not the San Francisco treat, but an acronym that stands for rest, ice, compression and elevate:
Rest the injured or sore area. That means taking a break from any activity that could be causing your knee pain. Place a small pillow beneath your knee when resting.
Ice will help alleviate pain and reduce swelling. Apply ice or a cold pack immediately following an injury to minimize any swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes at least three times each day. After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling has gone down, apply heat and begin gentle exercise to help rejuvenate and maintain flexibility. Some experts recommend alternating between heat and cold treatments.
Compression via wrapping the injured or sore area with an Ace wrap or elastic bandage will also help reduce swelling. Do not wrap your knee too tightly, as this can create additional swelling below the injured or sore area. Remember, bandages will not protect against or stabilize a knee injury. If you think you need to wrap your knee for longer than 48 to 72 hours, talk to your doctor, as you could have a more serious injury or condition.
Elevate the affected area on pillows while applying ice or any time you’re resting. Keep the area at or above heart level to help minimize swelling.
2. Keep your weight off of it
Until you can speak with a doctor, make use of a cane or crutch in the hand opposite your sore knee, or use two crutches to keep weight off the leg with your injured or painful knee. Most pharmacies carry canes or crutches.
3. Stay active
Staying active is important to preserving both knee and overall health. Joints, in particular, benefit from movement. Low-impact activities, such as swimming, walking or cycling, are ideal choices to maintain knee health and prevent injury. If you’re somebody who just can’t give up marathon running or higher-impact activities like skiing or tennis, there are exercises you can do to decrease knee pain, too. Examples of these include: wall calf stretch, calf smash with lacrosse ball, half-kneel hip and quad stretch, quad foam roller stretch, wall hamstring stretch and straight-leg raise.
4. Manage with medication
Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen (Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) can be helpful for knee pain relief. You could also try acetaminophen (Tylenol) or aspirin (Bayer) to help manage your pain. If you have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis and these OTC medications aren’t giving you sufficient relief, speak with your doctor, as prescription medications are also available.
5. Consider the alternatives
In a study published in 2007, researchers discovered that practicing tai chi, an ancient form of mind-body exercise that improves balance and flexibility, may be particularly advantageous for people who have osteoarthritis, as it reduces pain and boosts range of motion. Research has also suggested that acupuncture (the placement of hair-thin needles into the skin at specific points on the body) could aid in lowering osteoarthritic knee pain.
6. Supplement with supplements
While study results have been somewhat mixed regarding glucosamine and chondroitin, those who have moderate to several arthritis pain may benefit the most from these two popular joint-health supplements. A study published in 2001 revealed some individuals with arthritis had pain relief using willow bark, an extract commonly used by herbalists to treat fever, pain and inflammation. Ginger has also reportedly helped to reduce arthritis pain when used in conjunction with a prescription treatment for arthritis. Ginger, which is readily available in many forms, can help alleviate stomach upset and nausea, as well as provide pain relief for various conditions. Whenever considering using any supplement or herbal remedy, be sure to talk to your doctor first.
Arthritis and Knee Pain Relief at Home
There are more than 100 different types of arthritis. Two of the most common forms of this chronic condition that affect the knee include:
Osteoarthritis: As the most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis is the wear-and-tear condition that happens when the cartilage in your knee (or elsewhere) degenerates with use and age.
Rheumatoid arthritis: This type of arthritis is an autoimmune condition that can strike almost any joint in the body, including the knee. It is considered the most debilitating form of arthritis.
If you’re suffering from arthritis in your knees, here are some tips for getting knee pain relief at home:
7. Keep moving
When your arthritis hurts, exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing. That being said, research continues to show physical activity is one of the best ways to improve your quality of life. People who exercise and are more flexible experience less pain. Regular physical activity has also been shown to lower symptoms of depression, fight fatigue, increase function and independence, prevent or delay disability, and decrease the risk of several other chronic diseases.
8. Lose weight
Those who are overweight place added stress on their joints, including the knees. When it comes to losing weight, think baby steps. Try to make small changes every day to help you eat smaller portions and burn more calories.
9. Eat well
Eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of nutrients may help ease your arthritis pain. Foods rich in vitamin C, like fruits and vegetables, as well as omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oil may be especially helpful in decreasing pain.
10. Take an OTC pain reliever
Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen) to reduce the pain. Don’t use pain relievers simply as a means for continuing everyday activities that hurt without talking to your doctor first.
11. Use heat and cold therapy
Hot compresses can ease pain and stiffness by boosting blood flow. Cold compresses reduce swelling. Go ahead and experiment with heat and cold packs, and find what works best for you.
12. Get your beauty rest
A good night’s sleep can help you cope with living with arthritis. If you’re uncomfortable in bed due to arthritis, try rearranging and using pillows to take pressure off of your aching joints.
13. Massage and relaxation
Book a massage or practice relaxation techniques.
14. Talk to your healthcare provider
Ask your doctor about taking supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin, or trying alternative approaches such as acupuncture. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce knee pain and improve function.
15. Try a little added support
Devices that support painful joints, including splints, braces and canes, can help ease your discomfort and prevent injury.
When to See a Doctor for Knee Pain Relief
There are many reasons for knee pain. Signs you should seek attention from a healthcare provider include:
- Inability to bear weight on your knee
- Knee swelling that lingers for more than a few days
- Inability to fully extend or flex your knee
- Visual deformity in your leg or knee
- Fever combined with knee redness, pain and swelling
- Knee, lower leg or foot turning pale, cool, or looking blue
- Feeling as if your knee will “give out” or is unstable
- Symptoms become severe and/or do not improve with home treatment