3 Self Treatment Tips For Knee Pain Relief

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A recent 'twinge' in my left knee while jogging over some uneven turf in the park reminded me of these simple self treatment techniques and the vulnerability of our hard working knees.  

Did you know the knee is the largest joint in the body? It also has a pretty tough job and is prone to injury unfortunately. Our knees take the impact for pretty much everything we do on our feet. Being literally two bones, femur and tibia, joined together by ligaments with only a wedge of soft cartilage (meniscus) as a cushion between them - they do an amazing job on the whole.

It's not only athletes who risk injuring their knees but most of us in our day to day can suffer one of these common conditions. If we are aware of them and be more mindful during our daily movements we should be able to reduce the risk. Let's take a look... 

Common types of knee injuries

Torn cartilage

We mentioned the meniscus and how it acts as a cushion between the lower thigh bone and upper shinbone and it's important job as a shock absorber. Well, tears can occur in the meniscus resulting usually excessive strain from a knee twist, sudden impact or being tackled for instance.

Minor tears should heal with proper self treatment in time but larger tears can be problematic and sometimes require surgery.

Symptoms

  • Pain is often worse when you try to straighten, or fully bend the leg
  • Knee may swell for a day or two
  • Difficulty straightening your leg and in severe cases unable to walk on it

If the initial injury settles down but intermittent pain or other symptoms develop that you feel may be related then a Physiotherapist will be able to help you regain strength by developing a suitable rehabilitation programme for you.

For severe cases a MRI scan will determine the extent of the damage and suitable treatment measures

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury

Can be caused by

  • Sudden change of directional force on the knee
  • Sudden stopping force on knee - such as jumping
  • Women are apparently more susceptible to ACL injuries (this is an unsubstantiated claim)

Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury

  • Less common because it is a bigger and stronger ligament than the ACL
  • Injury usually results from a hard blow to the front of a bent knee
  • Symptoms can appear some time after event, such as pain when climbing stairs

Medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury

  • Injury to the MCL can occur in almost any sport and affect most people regardless of age
  • Usually results from a blow to the outer side of the knee

Lateral collateral ligament (LCL) injury

  • Less common than injury to the MCL
  • Usually results from a blow to the inner side of the knee
  • Inner side of knee is more likely to be protected by the other leg, hence less common injury type

Symptoms can include:

  • Pain in the knee - varying depending on severity
  • A complete tear of the ligament can give a snapping feeling or sound
  • Swelling of the knee - how much depends on of severe a strain or tear, an ACL injury may result in a more severe swelling known as a haemarthrosis
  • Restricted movement and poor stability on the injured knee

Strengthening exercises for the muscles which support your knee joint can be prescribed by a Chartered Physiotherapist. Manual therapy techniques can help restore movement and reduce swelling. Advice on bracing/ strapping can be given if indicated. Physiotherapy can also help prepare the knee for surgery if it is necessary.

For severe cases a MRI scan will determine the extent of the damage and suitable treatment measures

3 Simple self treatment tips

Rest!

Sounds obvious but the less pressure you put on your knee for a period of time following the injury the better. Use crutches (if required) or a knee brace around the house if you have them

PRICE

Protect, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation

Read more about Price

Painkillers and an anti-inflammatories

These can help settle pain and reduce swelling
However evidence suggests delaying use of anti-inflammatories until 2-3 days post injury
read more about this in our self-treatment section

Preventing knee pain and injury

As we mentioned above, a common knee injury can happen to anyone including the fittest of athletes.

That said, keeping fit and maintaining a regular strengthening routine focusing on your hamstrings and quadriceps and gluteal (buttock) muscles may help reduce your risk.

Always warm up prior to any sporting activity

There is mixed opinion on the validity of wearing a knee brace but for people suffering a previous knee injury a brace may help prevent further or repeat injury.

by Simon Coghlan

 
Chartered Physiotherapist - MSc, BSc Hons, DipMedAc, MISCP
Simon Coghlan holds a Master of Science Degree in Physiotherapy and is a member of the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists. A post graduate Diploma in Medical Acupuncture entitles him to accredited membership of the British Medical Acupuncture Society. Simon specialises in the integration of medical acupuncture techniques with manual therapy and therapeutic exercise for the treatment of musculo-skeletal pain and dysfunction.
Simon hosts a series of Acupuncture Seminars and blogs at

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