manage knee pain and discomfort with Next Level Physiotherapu
Pain Management

Knee pain causes and treatment

Knee pain can be common at any stage of your life whether you are active and healthy or live a more sedentary lifestyle. If you experience knee pain, the best course of action is to first book an online assessment with a Chartered Physiotherapist. Physiotherapy advice, exercises and therapy can quickly resolve your knee pain and can decrease the chances of it returning. At Next Level Physiotherapy Cork, our aim is to educate people on their injury. We discuss why it happened, the expected recovery time and establish a manageable treatment plan. Our collaborative approach is proven to ensure a positive outcome.

How does the knee joint work and what’s in it?

Understanding the knee joint is critical in managing your pain and performing exercises efficiently. The knee is a hinge joint and has two movements. It brings the heel up towards the bum (flexion) and straightens the knee out (extension). The knee joint is made up of the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia). On front of these two bones, at the joint, is your knee cap (patella). In between these bones are lots of different structures such as ligaments, cartilage, meniscus and bursa’s. All help to keep the joint supple, strong and stable. When walking, approximately 1.5 times your body weight goes through the knee joint and, when running, it can be anywhere from 5-10 times. That’s why it is essential to maintain a healthy weight and have strong muscles when exercising. The HSE have useful guides on reaching a healthy weight on their website.

What kind of injuries can happen in the knee?

There are three main types of injuries that can occur in the knee. The first is a sudden/traumatic injury (referred to as acute), for example, falling down a few steps, twisting whilst playing sport or a fall. The second type of knee injury is (non-traumatic) a slow, gradual onset of pain that worsens over time. This, for example, could be from new activity, over-training, or not allowing for enough recovery time. The final type of pain that can be experienced in the knee would be a medical diagnosis, such as osteoarthritis (wear and tear). This is a degenerative medical condition where the space between the joints decreases, the movement in the knee reduces, swelling can appear and the joint becomes painful when weight-bearing. More information can be found on osteoarthritis and how it affects the joints from Arthritis Ireland.

How can I keep my knees healthy and avoid knee pain?

The best way to keep your knees in good health, and reduce the risk of injury, is to stay active. Keeping good flexibility in the muscles by stretching a couple of times a week, or taking up yoga or Pilates, is ideal. It’s also important to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee for support. This reduced the impact through the knees and therefore reduces the risk of injury. This can also reduce the risk of arthritis. When taking up a new activity that’s physically demanding, make sure you gradually increase the load over a period of approximately 12 weeks and are doing so alongside a strength programme.

If I injure my knee what can I do to help myself?

The first thing you need to do is POLICE:

  • Protection (take the weight off your knee)
  • Optimal loading (start to move your knee through it’s normal range of motion)
  • Ice (wrap in a damp towel place over the area for 10 minutes approximately)
  • Compression (tubigrip or something similar)
  • Elevation (raise leg above the level of your heart)

Carry this out 3-4 times a day intermittently for the first three days. Contact a Physiotherapist if the pain persists after this time, especially if pain occurs whilst weight-bearing. You may need an x-ray/scan if the injury has been traumatic, such as fall from a height or hard impact playing sport, and the joint is significantly swollen and painful. This will help to rule out any major structural injury, such as a fracture or ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injury. If the injury is minor and feels much better after three days of POLICE then you can start to move by bending your knee up and down to get full movement back. Following this, our recommendation would be to seek an assessment from a Physiotherapist to diagnose the injury and create a tailored treatment plan with a time-frame for recovery.

What type of exercise is good for my knees?

Any type exercise is good for your knees whether it be playing a field sport such as soccer, running, cycling, yoga, dancing, swimming, hill walking or body building. Whatever your desired activity is, consider the following points:

  • Slowly increase activity levels. Especially if taking up a new activity or sport
  • Remember to keep your muscles flexible and strong. This will greatly reduce the risk of injury to the knee joint
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight this will increase the load and pressure on the joint when you are moving around day-to-day and more so when you run
  • Incorporate rest days into your routine, especially if you are a competitive athlete. This is as important as training days because the body needs time to regenerate and recover
  • Variety is always best. Mix it up if possible and don’t be afraid to try new things. Bodies are strong and adaptable.
Physiotherapy stretch for knee pain
Knee pain can be easily managed and improved with Physiotherapy

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative (slowly deteriorating) condition that affects the joints in your body, most commonly knees, hips and fingers. I am sure you probably know someone who has had a ‘new hip’ or ‘knee’. This is where an Orthopaedic Surgeon puts an artificial knee or hip in to replace the degenerative joint. This happens when the space between the joint decreases, compressing the structures in the middle of the knee and around the knee, therefore causing irritation, inflammation, pain and stiffness. It is quite common for the joint to be stiff in the morning and ease with movement. However, too much movement in a weight-bearing position, such as standing for long periods, walking, or jogging, can irritate the joint and cause it to becoming painful and swollen in the evenings. Osteoarthritis is normally worse with cold, damp weather and better in warmer weather.

What exercise should I do if I have Osteoarthritis in my knees?

The best exercises to do if you have Osteoarthritis in your hips, knees or ankles is non-weight-bearing such as cycling, swimming, light weights in the gym, or aqua aerobics. It is perfectly safe to continue walking, playing golf or tennis but you need to listen to your body and know your limitations. Research has shown that stronger muscles absorb force and impact better, therefore putting less pressure on the joints. Consequentially, keeping the muscles strong is very important when preserving the joint. Pushing through the pain will not help! It is important to note that there are different stages of osteoarthritis and this will determine how much it impacts on your work, daily life and hobbies. A definitive diagnosis for osteoarthritis would be an x-ray of the joint. Your GP or Physiotherapist can arrange this for you if required. Visit the HSE website for more information on osteoarthritis.

Knee pain can be complex and can sometimes be caused by issues with a different joint or structure, such as the hip, groin or back. It’s therefore important to see a Chartered Physiotherapist if the pain does not subside within a week with rest and PRICE. An assessment will determine the route cause and an effective treatment plan can be put in place. If you have knee pain and would like to get an assessment, please contact us by email or book online.

Next Level Physiotherapy Cork is a private Physiotherapy clinic based in Blackpool, Cork city. John Shanahan, clinic owner, is a Chartered Physiotherapist. John is registered with the ISCP and CORU, therefore ensuring a high quality of patient treatment and care.  

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