Runner’s knee, jumper’s knee, housemaid’s knee (yes, it does exist!) and so on – the list of painful complaints that can affect this complicated joint is as long as your arm. Problem knees are surprisingly common in people of all ages, placing severe restrictions on both movement and lifestyle as a whole.
Strong and stable joints
On a day-to-day basis, we expect great things from our knees. As the largest joint in the human body, the knee basically forms a sort of hinge where the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia), meet. This enables the leg to bend, straighten and generally move freely so we can run, twist, jump, fall over and so on. Knees must be also strong and stable enough to support our weight, even if it increases. These joints are ably assisted in their task by bones and soft tissue including muscles, cartilage, ligaments and tendons – all of which have the potential to go awry.
The knee joint may be a sophisticated mechanism but it’s still relatively easy to injure. For example, a sudden increase in intensity or duration of exercise can temporarily damage the bone, muscle or ligaments. Problem knees can lock, click, catch, give way or refuse to straighten. More gradually developing pain, especially in older people, points to conditions such as osteoarthritis. Here, the cartilage facilitating smooth movement between the femur and tibia gradually wears away, forcing both surfaces to rub together and resulting in pain and stiffness.
It’s all a bit of a catch-22. With persistent knee pain, most people’s instinct is to rest the knee and avoid putting any weight on the joint, therefore taking less exercise. While this would appear to be a sensible thing to do, if not diagnosed and treated, long-term weakness of the surrounding leg muscles can slowly develop.
Looking after problem knees
So, what should you do if you suddenly develop painful knees? Here are a few initial things that you can try at home:
- The key is basically RICE: rest, ice, compression, elevation. This means, at the very least, not irritating the joint and, at best, giving the joint a chance to recover under its own steam;
- When icing, use ice wrapped in a wet towel for 5 minutes and remove for 10 minutes, repeating twice more;
- Sit, rather than stand, with the leg elevated, to avoid putting weight on the knee – rest as much as you can;
- If suffering with acute or severe pain, in the short term, take painkillers such as Paracetamol;
- If you feel up to it, try some gentle exercise, such as walking at a pace that does not aggravate your symptoms or non-weight bearing exercise such as swimming;
- If your knee pain is still present after several days or is getting worse, why not book an appointment with Osteopath Robin Kiashek to see if we can find the cause of your discomfort and get you back on the road to recovery.