Whether you have knee pain from arthritis, an old knee injury, or knee pain during and after exercise, help is at hand to get you moving again with the minimum of pain.
Start by following these 5 scientifically proven ways to beat knee pain.
First of all, there’s no shame in going for the easy win and taking some pain killers
to help you deal with the discomfort of a sore knee.
If you think the pain is due to arthritis then paracetamol (acetaminophen) is recommended. If the pain was brought on by exercise, then tissue damage and inflammation is likely involved in the pain. You should take an anti-inflammatory pain killer such as ibuprofen.
Both paracetamol and ibuprofen are cheap and widely available – you probably have both in your medicine cabinet right now – so check the recommended dose and take it.
If you need more pain relief, you can add in some codeine (a weak opioid) by taking a combination pain killer such as paracetamol + codeine (co-codamol). 9 out of 10 people should get at least 50% pain relief from taking the maximum recommended dose of co-codamol (1000mg paracetamol, 60mg codeine).
Don’t rely on medication alone to cure the pain.
Even though you may be getting some pain relief from the meds, the problem is never going to get better if you just take the pills and carry on as normal. I know this may be tempting. You have to get things done and you want to get on with them. But if you don’t address the cause of the problem, you will never get rid of it. The pain will only come back worse later on.
The good news is, you don’t have to be a surgeon to solve knee pain, following these simple steps will go a long way to helping you improve the state of your knees in the long term.
Keep moving. As they say: “Motion is Lotion”
Sitting or lying down for long periods of time stops fluid from moving around your knee joints. Muscles and ligaments get tight from being held in one position. This is why you are getting stiffness after you wake up. Don’t make it worse for yourself by sitting down all day as well!
Try to get up and walk around for a minute or two every 20 minutes, to relieve tension on your joints and ligaments. Even if it hurts to do so, you are aiding recovery by moving. So you are better off doing it and being in pain for a minute than not doing any activity at all.
You could set an alarm to remind you. Some people find that if they drink a lot of water, they have to get up and walk to the toilet regularly, which makes sure you keep moving!
Well, you actually stretch your leg muscles and tendons that attach to the knees. Stretching is great for reducing pain in your joints and muscles for two reasons.
First, you get an increase in blood flow to the area, bringing essential nutrients which replenish damaged cells, and removing harmful waste. This means you recover more quickly.
Second, stretching will increase the range of movement that a joint can perform before damage occurs. This means you are less likely to hurt the knee again in the future. Try these stretches once or twice a day:
- Quadriceps (front of leg) stretch: Lie down on one side with your shoulders, hips and knees in a straight line. Bend your top leg and hold the ankle/foot. Pull your heel towards the buttocks. You will feel a stretch on the front of your thigh. Hold for 30 secs. Then do the other leg (you don’t have to roll over onto your other side). If you can’t reach the ankle then loop a towel around your foot and pull up on that.
- Hamstring (back of leg) stretch: Sit on the edge of a chair with your left leg bent. Put the right leg out in front of you with the knee slightly bent. Lean forwards (keep your back straight and your head up) until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold for 30 secs then swap legs. Remember to keep the knee slightly bent.
- Iliotibial band (side of leg) stretch: Stand upright with your left hand on the back of a chair or the wall. Cross your right leg behind your left and put your right foot flat on the floor. Lean slightly forwards and to your left side until you feel a stretch on the outside of your right leg. Hold for 30 secs then swap sides.
the knees and thighs.
Your knee joints are under a heavy load when you are standing and walking. That load gets even greater when you climb up and down the stairs (up to 3.5 times your bodyweight!). To help your knees take the strain, build the muscles which surround the joint to provide strength and support.
- Seated march: Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly march your legs up and down while keeping your back straight and head erect. Keep marching for 30 secs.
- Seated leg raises: Sitting in a chair, straighten one leg in the air (without locking the knee). Hold for a few seconds then bend your knee to lower the foot halfway to the floor, hold a couple more seconds then place your foot gently down on the floor. Repeat for 30 secs, and then swap legs.
- Sit to stand: Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor and lean forward slightly. Stand up slowly by lifting your body straight up (make sure you do this without rocking back and forward). Sit down slowly by reversing the process. Repeat 10 times.
That’s it! Remember that recovery is a slow process, so take your time.
Bandolier’s Little Book of Pain. Andrew Moore, Jayne Edwards, Jodie Barden & Henry McQuay. (2003).
Explain Pain. David Butler & Lorimer Moseley. (2003).