It is finally spring and time for all the great Wisconsin spring activities. Hiking, golfing, biking, pickleball, tennis- 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 for your knee pain and nothing has helped? You are not alone.
Next to back pain, knee pain is the most common complaint among older adults. There is good news here, 80% of all knee pain can be corrected without surgery or medication. The key is finding the root cause of the pain and addressing it.
Common Symptoms of Knee Pain
Knee pain is usually described as pain, sensitivity or discomfort around the knee area. Are you experiencing any of these symptoms? That means we could probably help you feel better with Physical Therapy!
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
What is the Knee
The knee joint is the largest joint in the body. It is formed by the femur (thigh bone), the tibia (shin bone) and the patella (the knee cap) all held together by muscles and ligaments. This hinge joint relies on the muscles of the legs to maintain stability and strength all while withstanding pressure, weight and movement. Your knees play an important role in everyday movement and they work hard to provide your body with the stability needed to prevent falls and other injuries.
While the knee is a hinge joint, this means it actually gets most of its stability from above & below (the hip/pelvis/glutes/core and the foot/ankle). It’s super common that many providers will only treat the knee and not treat the body that’s attached to it. But fear not, we’ve got lots of tricks up our sleeves to help you get feeling better!
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 (Physical Therapy!)
- Compression, elevation – Sitting with a towel wrapped around the knee and elevated it 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. These are all great exercise options – but if these are too painful, then you likely need to see a Knee Pain Physical Therapist Specialist to help you get to the root of the problem!
- Stretches – Watch this video from Dr. Megan as she explains how stretching can help relieve knee pain.
- Topical pain relief – a topical cream can sometimes provide temporary relief.
- Physical Therapy – more on that below
How Physical Therapy can help Knee Pain
Our Expert Physical Therapists at Balance Within will look not only at your knee but your entire body to assess the root of the problem. Physical Therapy 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 and joint mobility assessment 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 the whole lower half of your body (core, glutes/hip muscles, quads, hamstrings, foot/ankle) and determine whether your knee joint is properly supported & stabilized. There are literally dozens upon dozens of things that we look at to sort out the root cause of your knee pain. Your Balance Within Physical Therapist 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 is working to assist the body.
- What is going on above and below your knee – Looking at your upper thigh muscles and your foot, ankle & 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 how your body is aligned in different positions can cause your hips, pelvis and lower body to put pressure on your knees.
- The fascial (connective tissue) system; are there areas of tissue being too tight/compression surrounding the knee that are causing pain?
- 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 knee pain. Temporary or fast pain relief works well in the short term but the goal with physical therapy is to work toward not only removing the immediate pain, but also to get you fully back to all your activities and 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 are designed to fit your unique feet to help support your 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 Physical Therapy offers some great resources to get you back to Spring in Wisconsin. The local hiking trails, pickleball court and gardens are waiting for you. Let’s get you back out there and enjoy all that Wisconsin has to offer.
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!
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