Did you know that the knee is the biggest joint in the body? It also has a big role. After all, it’s what helps your legs bend, twist, and keep moving and grooving. That’s no small feat (not even for people with small feet). Considering all that the knee joint does, it’s no surprise that after years of use and general wear and tear, people often experience knee issues. Here are some tips for preventing and reducing common sources of knee pain.
1. Overuse and Tendonitis
After many years of use, the ligaments around the knee may be stretched to their limits and can become inflamed. As a result, the joint area may swell and this can feel quite painful. If it’s tendonitis, you’ll likely find that the pain intensifies when you bend or flex your knee.
How to reduce tendonitis pain: For immediate relief, rest your knee and apply ice. There are some stretches that can help, such as hamstring drops. You can do this with a partner or by yourself. If you have an exercise buddy, have them hold down your feet for this stretch. If you’re by yourself, kneel on the floor and tuck your feet underneath a chair or couch to hold them in place. Bend your body forward (away from the seat, couch, or exercise partner), gradually leaning toward the ground. Repeat the stretch as needed.
2. Exercise-Related Pain
During exercise, you may injure your knee by accidentally twisting or bending it in the wrong direction, especially if you are not following the correct exercise methods or proper form. If you begin experiencing knee pain during exercise, check your stance. For example, when doing squats your knee shouldn’t go past your toes.
How to reduce exercise-related pain: Stretching your leg muscles by doing non-weight-bearing exercises can help. You can stretch by sitting on a chair, raising one knee up to your chest and holding it, then putting it down and repeating this with the other leg. If the pain persists, rest your leg and apply ice to the afflicted knee.
3. Overstretched Ligament
After a ligament is overstretched, it doesn’t automatically return to its original form, as ligaments do not have much elasticity. Proceed with caution. After being overstretched, the ligament will be fragile and prone to tearing. Much like a torn ACL, exercise or stretches can worsen an overstretched or torn ligament.
How to reduce overstretched ligament pain: Use R.I.C.E. to minimize swelling. You will need to rest your knee, then apply ice, use compression (wrap your knee or wear a brace), and elevate it. You may want to seek medical attention for a torn ligament if the pain is severe.
4. Torn Meniscus
Sometimes what people think is an overstretched ligament is actually a torn meniscus. Meniscal tears are among the most common sources of knee pain among physically active individuals. They can happen if you jolt your knee in the wrong direction, or if you start, stop, or change positions quickly. The meniscus may also tear during squats if you go lower than advised. A torn meniscus is often characterized by clicking, popping, or snapping inside the knee.
How to reduce torn meniscus pain: If you believe you’ve torn your meniscus, you’ll want to ice it right away. You may need to see your PCP (personal care provider) in order to get an MRI, which can help determine the extent of the damage. If your doctor gives you the green light for exercise, start out slow with leg raises, hamstring twists, and heel raises. In order to avoid undue risks to your healing knee, be sure to stay away from intense or heavy weight-bearing exercises after a torn meniscus injury.
5. Muscle Pain
Stressing or tearing a muscle around the knee joint can also be a source of pain. Such an injury may occur in the connective tissue between muscle and tendon. Even pulled muscles or strains in the hamstrings, crotch, or quads can have painful effects on the knees.
How to reduce muscle pain: The best treatment for intense muscle pain is rest and ice. Apply ice to the affected area for about 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours. You can also alternate ice and heat treatment as needed.
Knee pain can make life difficult, but with these tips and tricks, you can work towards alleviating it. When it comes to intense pain, though, be sure to talk to your doctor for the most appropriate steps toward treatment.