It is fall and time for all the great Wisconsin fall activities. Hiking, golfing, apple picking, corn mazes, pumpkin farms- so many fun things to do! But is knee pain keeping you from these activities? Are you frustrated with not being able to keep up with your friends and family? Have you tried just about everything and nothing has helped? You are not alone.
Next to back pain, knee pain is the most common complaint among older adults. Knee pain can be caused by a knee injury but it may also be caused by arthritis, repetitive movement, overuse or even osteoporosis. There is good news here, 80% of all knee pain can be corrected with surgery or medication. The key is finding the root cause of the pain and addressing it.
Common Causes of Knee Pain
Knee pain is usually described as pain, sensitivity or discomfort around the knee area. It can include:
- Swelling and/or redness around the knee
- Weakness in the leg
- Feeling like your leg is “giving out” on itself
- Reduce range of motion
- Stiffness when standing
- Inability to bear weight on that leg
- Popping sound when bending or swatting
How to Ease Knee Pain Now
- Rest – Taking time off from activities to give your body time to recover is important. But after about 2 weeks, resting is no longer a good idea! Have you heard the phrase that motion is lotion? This is so true!!! If your pain is not getting better after resting a bit, you need some more help (PT!)
- Compression, elevation – Sitting with a towel wrapped around the knee and it elevated while resting – provides the body with a natural treatment to ease the pain
- Apply ice/heat – Both can ease pain. Icing will help reduce the swelling and heat will ease stiffness.
- 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, biking, yoga or Tai Chi can keep your joints from stiffening up and causing more pain. Water exercises 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.
- Knee brace – A knee brace can provide additional support to make walking easier.
- Stretches – Watch this video from Dr. Sarah as she explains how stretching can relieve knee pain.
- Topical pain relief – a topical cream can sometimes provide temporary relief.
- Physical Therapy – more on that below
What can PT do for Knee Pain
The physical therapists at Balance Within will look not only at your knee but your entire body to access the root of the problem. PT should begin with a full body review and look for all areas that can be affected. They may do a gait evaluation where they watch you walk to see how your legs and feet align. They may also do a range of motion test to see how well your knee moves and where the pain is coming from. Your therapist may also test the strength of the knee and feel for any abnormalities that could be causing 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 a slight 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 is working to assist the body.
- What is going on above and below your knee – Looking at your upper thigh muscles and your lower calf muscles is key to assess 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 as
- Your physical therapist will also provide you with at home exercises and tips so your pain does not return.
PT 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 knee pain. Temporary or fast pain works well in the short term but the goal with PT 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, PT 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!
Knee pain is not something you need to live with. Just because you are getting older, have arthritis or osteoporosis does not mean you have to live with knee pain. We can help. Click the button below to request a free knee pain troubleshooting consultation. Balance Within PT will meet with you to discover the root cause of your pain and develop a customized treatment plan to get you back to your fall activities and living your best life.
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!