Preventing and Treating Knee Pain

Knee pain is very common and can result from overuse, injury, or age-related wear and tear. Lifestyle plays a role as well: stress, smoking, being overweight, and overall poor health can put you at greater risk for knee pain.

These are simple and effective ways that you can treat your knee pain at home.

How to Prevent Knee Pain

1. Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Take care of your overall health. Make sure to stay active, eat healthy, get enough sleep, manage any chronic conditions, and stay up-to-date on preventive health screenings. Maintaining a healthy weight is important – losing one pound of weight removes 4 pounds of pressure off your knees.

2. Exercise

Staying active and moving within a pain-free range promotes circulation and helps with healing. Your hip and thigh muscles support your knee and control the joint load (the force that is put on or taken off the knee during activities). Keeping these muscles strong and flexible can help relieve pain and improve knee function.

Perform these exercises to help relieve pain:

  • Quad Sets: Sit upright on the floor or bed with one leg straight and your other leg bent. Straighten your leg, pushing your knee down towards the floor or bed while you pull your toe up towards you. Hold, then relax and repeat.
  • Bridges: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet hip width apart. Squeeze your stomach and buttock muscles and lift your bottom up into a bridge position. Return to the starting position and repeat. Make sure to keep your stomach and buttock muscles active and do not arch your back during the exercise.
  • Clamshells: Lie on your side with your knees bent and your hips and shoulders stacked. Engage your abdominals and raise your top knee up toward the ceiling, then slowly return to the starting position and repeat. Make sure to keep your core engaged and do not roll your hips forward or backward during the exercise. When you are doing clamshells correctly, you will feel the effect of the exercise in the outside of the hip.

Start by doing at least 5 repetitions of each strengthening exercise every day. Add a few repetitions every few days until you can do 10 repetitions of each exercise.
Perform these stretches to relieve knee pain:

  • Heel Slides: Lie on your back with your legs straight. Slowly slide one heel on the floor toward your buttocks, until you feel a stretch in your knee or upper leg, then slide it back out and repeat. Make sure not to arch your low back or twist your body as you move your leg.
  • Standing Thigh Stretch: Stand with one foot resting on a chair behind you, holding on to a stable surface. Bend your standing leg and gently press your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your opposite thigh. Hold this position. Make sure to keep your back straight and your hips level during the exercise.

For each stretch, do three repetitions once per day, holding each for 20 seconds.

3. Joint Protection Strategies

It’s also important to protect your knee joint. Choosing proper footwear or wearing a brace can help take pressure off your knee joint and make it easier to move around.

  • Footwear: Supportive and comfortable shoes promote proper leg alignment. Choose good walking shoes with firm or rigid arch support.
  • Bracing: Braces can provide support to reduce pain. While most people do not require a knee brace, you may find that a simple compression sleeve makes you feel more comfortable.

4. Ice and Heat

Using ice or heat can also help you find some relief from knee pain. For long-standing pain or discomfort, try either ice or heat and use whichever one works best for you. For a new onset of discomfort, ice is typically best. Use an ice pack wrapped in a towel to protect your skin, and for heat, use a heating pad on a low or medium setting. Use the ice pack or heating pad for 10-15 minutes every 2-3 hours. The most important thing is to use these strategies consistently and frequently.
Staying healthy, exercising, using joint protection strategies, and applying ice and heat can go a long way in helping you find relief.