Knee pain affects millions of people in the United States and is caused by a wide range of factors. From repetitive motion injuries to trauma to simply getting older, our knees may be built to take a lot of stress, but they are prone to injury and degeneration as well. If you’re dealing with knee pain, particularly chronic pain that goes for months or longer, you know how much of a negative impact it can have on a healthy active lifestyle.
Fortunately, for all types of knee pain there are effective treatments and therapies. Learning how to relieve knee pain can help put you in the driver’s seat of your treatment. By being a more informed patient, you can interface more directly with treatment professionals as you seek the relief you deserve.
Outpatient Joint Replacement Center of America (OJRCA) is committed to patient-centered care that includes helping patients understand their condition and the full range of options for relief. We’re happy to help and encourage you to contact one of our representatives with any questions or if you’re ready to take the next step on your journey toward relief.
Step One: Recognizing the Symptoms of Serious Knee Pain
It’s safe to say that nearly everyone has or is likely to suffer from some form of knee pain. The most minor problems, such as a scrape on the knee or a little muscle soreness after exercising, usually go away in a short period of time with rest and minor treatment.
However, more serious injuries or conditions have the potential to become chronic and require more involved care to ensure a positive outcome. In order to know how to relieve knee pain in these cases, you should know the signs and symptoms. Common knee pain symptoms that require medical attention include:
- Inflammation, redness and visible swelling
- Sensation of warmth
- Stiffness, tightness, and immobility
- Instability and weakness
- Popping, grinding or crunching sensations that cause pain
- Loss of range of motion, including an inability to fully straighten the knee
Certain serious knee injuries, such as an ACL tear, meniscus tear or fracture can be felt right away and are usually the result of a major impact or sudden unnatural movement. Other knee injuries, such as repetitive motion injuries, can be more difficult to identify and potentially easier to ignore. This is also true for degenerative, or “wear and tear,” conditions such as arthritis.
This is why anyone experiencing any of the above symptoms should seek a diagnosis from a qualified medical professional to ensure proper treatment.
Step Two: Receiving a Thorough Diagnostic Evaluation
Working with a doctor to identify the source of your symptoms is a critical step in finding out how to relieve knee pain. To prepare for your appointment, a common recommendation is to keep a journal of your activities and symptoms. This can help pinpoint the time of day your knee pain is the worst and what kinds of activities seem to trigger certain symptoms. Having this information can help you work more closely with your doctor and can be enormously valuable in the diagnostic process.
When you meet with a doctor to diagnose the source of your knee pain, you can expect to undergo the following steps:
- A review of your medical and treatment history
- A discussion of your symptoms and how they affect daily activities
- Questions about your treatment and lifestyle goals
- A hands-on examination and movement tests to determine painful areas, range of motion and knee stability
- Diagnostic testing, such as an X-ray or MRI, particularly if an injury such as a fracture or tear is suspected to be the source of symptoms
Once you and your doctor reach a diagnosis, the next step is to develop a treatment plan. As you work together to determine how to relieve knee pain on a long-term basis, it’s important to focus on individualized treatment that is right for your specific diagnosis and your treatment goals.
Step Three: Exploring Initial Knee Pain Therapies
Many people dealing with a knee injury or knee condition will first attempt conservative treatment options. Surgery is usually only indicated right away for a serious injury in certain cases, such as a fracture, ligament tear, or muscle or tendon tear that doesn’t have a likelihood of healing on its own.
Specific nonsurgical treatments will vary on a case-by-case basis, but the goal of initial treatment should be to improve function and relieve pain. For a knee injury, conservative care should be designed to promote the healing process and include rest and activity modification that reduces stress on the knee joint. In the case of knee arthritis, a nonreversible condition caused by aging, conservative treatment can still help to relieve pain and improve range-of-motion in the knee while offering the potential to slow down the rate of degeneration.
Recommended treatments to help relieve knee pain include:
- Getting plenty of rest and elevating the knee
- Using an ice pack or cold compress to relieve inflammation and temporarily numb the area
- Using a heating pad or other moderate heat source to relax stiff muscles and soft tissue and improve blood flow
- Physical therapy to help increase flexibility and mobilize the knee while also building strength and stability
- Over-the-counter medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or pain relievers such as acetaminophen
- Pain-relieving injections, usually involving a corticosteroid, to relieve pain and inflammation for an intermediate period of time
- Restorative injections, including platelet-rich plasma injections, viscosupplementation and amniotic injections, which have the potential to help the body’s natural healing process and improve knee joint function
For any type of knee pain, committing to conservative treatment can offer increased chances of a positive outcome. It is also important to make choices associated with a healthy lifestyle that promote knee health.
Step Four: Committing to a Healthy Lifestyle
One of the best things that anyone can do to relieve knee pain is lose weight, if necessary. Extra weight increases the force on the knees with every step by a substantial margin. In fact, there is increasing evidence that in addition to aging, being overweight is a major contributor to the prevalence of knee pain. Patients should consult with a qualified physician about entering into a weight management program built on good nutrition and regular activity to help lose weight.
Another contributor to knee pain and an increased risk of knee injury are your body mechanics. A mechanical problem that starts in the foot, such as overpronation, can cause compensatory problems that travel all the way up to the knee. By addressing mechanical problems through a combination of physical therapy or orthotics, many patients report finding relief for knee pain.
Step Five: Considering a Surgical Procedure Such as Knee Replacement
There are a number of approaches to knee surgery that are dependent on the diagnosis and extent of knee injury. For many tears and fractures, an orthopedic surgery to repair damaged tissue or reset bone, may be recommended early in the treatment process.
For chronic knee pain that causes significant joint damage to the knee, a knee replacement may be the best option. Joint damage causes significant knee pain and immobility, and tends to worsen over time. If conservative treatment has been fully attempted and exhausted, knee replacement can offer the best chance of returning to a more active lifestyle achieving knee pain relief.
At OJRCA our talented surgical team, including board-certified surgeon Dr. Phillip Clifford, performs partial and total knee replacement surgery on an outpatient basis at our state-of-the-art facility. Patients will undergo a thorough evaluation to determine if they are a surgical candidate and what type of procedure would be the best approach. Our unique pain management protocols and advanced techniques help patients enjoy a faster recovery and less risk of complication compared to traditional approaches to knee replacement.
To learn more about how to relieve knee pain, contact us today.