Does any of the following sound familiar?
We have heard them all!
Aches and pains are a part of life right? You are getting older and aches and pains come with the territory right?! There is nothing you can do about your pain – you just have to live with it!
Wrong, you do not need to live with aches and pains. We see so many patients who come to us with knee pain. After a visit to the doctor, they are told they have arthritis in the knee. Now what?
We have good news, we can help eliminate or reduce your knee pain all without the need for medication or surgery.
First let’s review what arthritis is, common symptoms and how our physical therapists can help.
What is Arthritis?
There are two major categories of arthritis. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The majority of arthritis cases are osteoarthritis with the hip, hand and knee joints being affected the most. Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage around the joint wears down over time. This can result in bone rubbing on bone and overtime the entire joint can change. These changes usually occur slowly yet arthritis can target all age groups.
Symptoms of knee arthritis could include one or more of the following:
- Pain – during of after movement of the joint
- Stiffness – especially with not movement or after waking
- Swelling around the knee
- Loss of flexibility
- Tenderness of knee upon touching
- Bone spurs – extra pieces of bone can form around said joint
- Loss of range of motion
Most Common Causes of Arthritis
Lack of movement is one of the biggest reasons that arthritis develops.
Yes, you read that right!!
When our body is stationary for long periods of time, the joints become stiff and weak due to lack of blood flow. This crucial blood flow brings needed nutrients to the joint. Without these nutrients, the joint becomes unhealthy and deterioration can occur over time. Movement also keeps the essential lubrication on the joint. This lubrication or fluid is needed to keep the joint flexible and mobile. Stiffness, tenderness and swelling can all occur from lack of movement. All movement, especially low impact, is critical for keeping your knee joint healthy and working correctly.
How to Ease Arthritis Pain Now
- Get active – Low impact activity – walking, biking, water exercises – You may not feel like moving with your knee pain but low impact activity can assist. Activities such as walking, swimming, biking, yoga or Tai Chi can keep your joints from stiffening up and causing more pain. Water exercises like water aerobics are also a great way to keep moving. The buoyancy of the water puts less pressure on the knee and can be quite refreshing as well.
- Apply ice/heat – Both can ease pain. Icing will help reduce the swelling and heat will ease stiffness.
- Stretches – Keeping the body loose will assist with mobility and keep the blood flowing throughout the day.
- Topical pain relief – a topical cream can sometimes provide temporary relief.
- Specialized Physical Therapy – more on that below
What can Physical Therapy do for Arthritis Pain
Watch Dr. Sarah explain why arthritis occurs and how physical therapy can help
Our Knee Specialist Physical Therapists at Balance Within will look not only at your knee but your entire body to access the root of the problem. Physical Therapy should begin with a full body review and look for all areas that can be affected. Your therapist will test the strength of the knee and all of the muscles that should be supporting this joint, and examine and feel for any abnormalities that could be causing excessive strain on this joint and thus pain.
Your Balance Within PT will also consider the following:
- Your core and lower body may be out of alignment – Your core and pelvic area provide your body with stability and balance. Even being slightly out of alignment can cause your body to over compensate in other areas. This is often the case with the knees taking the brunt of the shock and pressure.
- Core not firing correctly – If your core muscles are weak, this can create issues within your legs as they are working hard to assist your body with stability and balance. Overtime, this can cause knee pain as your knee joint as this ‘shock absorption system’ is not working as it should to assist the body.
- What is going on above and below your knee – Looking at your upper thigh muscles/hip/glute muscles and your lower calf muscles as well as ensuring proper motion at the hip and foot/ankle joints is key to assessing the root causes of knee pain. Often times, what is happening above or below your knee can make all the difference with the severity of your pain
- Body mechanics are so important – Your sitting, standing, and walking position should also be assessed
- Your physical therapist will also provide you with at home exercises and tips so your pain does not return.
Physical Therapy is an excellent resource to assist with knee pain. Your therapist should look at the overall body picture to find clues to the source or reason behind the arthritis and your knee pain. Temporary or fast pain works well in the short term but the goal with physical therapy is to work toward removing the immediate pain and also to prevent the pain from returning.
How to Ease Knee Pain Over time
Looking long term to maintain your healthy knees and a healthy body, you should
- Exercise – Movement and a regular exercise schedule provides so many benefits. Keeping your joints fluid and moving is key to prevent future problems as well. If exercise is hurting, physical therapy can help so this feels great again.
- Maintain an ideal weight – Your knees are joints that handle pressure and shock on a daily basis. Maintaining an ideal weight will help ease the stress on those joints. Being overweight adds to the stress on your joints and can lead to future problems. Please know however that you are not ‘doomed’ to have knee pain if you’re overweight. While weight loss helps, there’s much more to the picture!
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet – This helps with maintaining weight, helps to improve recovery rate and lowers the chances of developing arthritis or osteoporosis and reduces inflammation.
- Wear supportive shoes – orthotics – Your shoes may be the cause of your knee pain – those with pain should usually avoid flip-flops, sandals or high heels. Custom orthotics from Foot Levelers is a great option (which we offer in our clinic hooray!) These custom made inserts as well as orthotic sandals to help support your feet, legs and knees.
- PHYSICAL THERAPY – balancing out the body with making sure you have enough strength to support your joints, that the joints are moving OK and not too stuck and that the fascial system is not throwing things out of whack… addressing these issues and many others, this is how we truly get to the root cause and get you back to living your best life!
Pain from arthritis is not something you need to live with. We can help. I bet you have many summer activities or vacations planned and knee pain and arthritis does not need to slow you down. Winter is fast approaching, let’s get your knees winter ready now. We have two great resources to help you on your journey to a pain free life full of your favorite activities.
Click here to request our free Ease Your Knee Pain Guide – it offers helpful tips to provide relief for your pain.
We also offer a FREE Knee Pain Troubleshooting Session to look at your overall pain issues and look for the root problem. Click here to request a FREE session today!
Additional Resources to Help Ease Your Aches and Pains
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