Knee pain and joint pain afflict individuals of all age and gender groups. While in most cases, knee pain does not point to a major health issue, it can be bothersome.
If you experience minor knee pain that causes discomfort or inconvenience throughout your daily life, some methods can help temporarily relieve your symptoms.
For long-term pain relief, focusing on the strength of your knees can have the best results. With a consistent routine, you can make long-lasting improvements to your knee health over time.
How Do Our Knees Work?
Our knees help us perform all different types of movements, including walking, running, sitting, and standing. An understanding of how knees function can help us better take care of them.
Our knees are made up of three major bones:
- The femur or thigh bone (upper leg)
- The tibia or shin bone (lower leg)
- The patella or kneecap (mid-leg)
Although these bones are of the strongest in the body, they cannot function without the help of accompanying tissue:
- Joints hold knee bones together to allow movement. They are made of cartilage, which is a softer bone.
- The menisci, like joints, help bones move. Located at the center of the knee, they also provide padding that protects them from impact. They are made of cartilage.
- Ligaments are connective tissue that connects knee joints as well as covers and protects knee bones. They are made of collagen.
- Muscles give bones strength and mobility. Unlike bones, muscles are flexible and agile, which allows bones a greater extent of movement.
- Tendons are connective tissue that attaches muscles to bones, allowing the two of them to work together. Tendons are made of collagen and small amounts of elastin.
What Causes Knee Pain?
Our knees are complex mechanisms with many different components. Because of this, knee pain can be a result of many different causes.
Here are some of the most common ones:
>Increased Body Weight
Because our knees carry most of our body weight, increased weight can stress them and cause pain and strains.
Muscles, like your quadriceps, hamstrings, and thigh muscles, that lack strength and flexibility cannot efficiently support our knees or knee mobility. Muscles stabilize our joints and help them manage stress.
Occupations and Sports
Activities that stress the knees, like squatting and do not allow for rest, can cause sprain and knee pain. For example, a job that requires you to stand and lift heavy boxes can cause knee pain. Sports that involve jumping or bending your knees can also contribute to knee pain.
If knee pain significantly impacts your mobility and quality of life, it may sometimes be caused by a more serious health issue. In this case, it is best to consult with a doctor for treatment. Alternatively, a severe injury like a torn meniscus can cause intense pain and require surgery and physical therapy.
While there are no quick fixes for long-term knee pain, there are ways to temporarily relieve symptoms when they arise. Here are a few things you can do to help find temporary relief:
Take Over the Counter Pain Medication
Pain reliever medicines and NSAIDs such as aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen can help keep knee pain and swelling at bay for a few hours. It is best to discuss with a doctor before using any over-the-counter medication.
Try Ice or Heat
Using an ice pack or a heating pad on your knees can help alleviate pain. This method requires experimentation on your part, as some people find ice helpful while others are more comforted by heat. Wrap the pack in a towel to prevent damage to your skin from extreme temperatures.
Stretch and Elevate
Slowly stretching your knees and elevating your legs on a pillow or chair can help ease tension. Try a few stretches, see what works best for you, and consult a physical therapist for a more thorough treatment plan. Elevation may help ease swelling.
Wrapping a compression band or knee braces around your knees can help keep them supported and ease discomfort. Make sure the band is not uncomfortable or too tightly wound.
Long Term Care
Whether or not you experience knee pain, it is worth investing in your knees for the long term. Just like the rest of the body, knees need consistent and daily attention to stay healthy and strong.
The first step to taking care of your knees and your body is maintaining a healthy diet.
The proper nutrients ensure that your knees can repair themselves and provide the support they are designed to provide.
- For healthy bone tissue and strong joints, focus on calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamin A, all of which can be found in vegetables like peas.
While both bones and joints are made of the same tissue and benefit from the same nutrients, some supplements specifically target joint health.
- For healthy ligaments and tendons, make sure you are getting enough protein, vitamin C, and healthy fats. Bone broth and gelatin powder can also help increase collagen, which makes up our ligaments and tendons.
- For muscle health, make protein, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin D, and calcium a regular part of your diet for healthy muscles.
Here are a few other areas to focus on for healthier knees:
While overuse of your knees can cause pain, exercise is essential in keeping your bones and muscles strong. Lack of exercise can result in stiff knees, which can lead to pain.
For a minimum risk to your knees, it is best to engage in a low-impact activity such as yoga, walking, or weight-bearing exercises, which can be tailored to your needs.
Because our knees carry most of our body weight, keeping our weight at a healthy level can decrease stress on our joints and bones. You can achieve a healthy weight through diet and consistent physical activity.
Whether your knee pain is caused by inflammation or physical activity at your job, rest helps your knees recover. Making sure your legs are stretched out or elevated while asleep or simply sitting on your couch helps relieve tension in your knees.
While knee pain can cause discomfort, this discomfort does not have to last forever. Taking the initiative to improve your health can help reduce knee pain day by day.
How does the knee work? | Informed Health
Knee pain - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic
What is inflammation? | Harvard Health Publishing