The knee is a complicated hinge joint. It’s the largest joint in our body. The surface of the knees are covered in cartilage and the joint is stabilised with muscles, ligaments and tendons. The knee takes the force of our entire body weight and comes under extra strain when we walk, run or jump. Knee pain can be really problematic, it can make moving the joint difficult or may get worse after exercise or when resting in the evening.
Who is most at risk of suffering from knee pain?
- We’re more likely to get painful knees as we get older, cartilage around the knee can naturally degenerate and osteoarthritis can develop with age.
- Sports players are at risk from knee injury, especially if you play a sport which involves a lot of turning, twisting, stopping and starting like football or Tennis.
- Knee pain is the most common type of injury in runners, as the repeated impact on the knee joint can cause damage.
- Women are more likely to get painful knees, because their hips are wider their femurs (thigh bones) tend to point inward from the hip to the knee, which can cause extra strain on the joint. A woman’s hormonal fluctuation can cause painful joints and many women report that their joint pain started at perimenopause or menopause, it can also be a symptom of PMS.
- Some people are prone to painful knees simply because of the way they are built. There can be slight variations in the way our bodies are structured that can cause problems.
- Stress can cause joint pain. Cortisol, the stress hormone, works as an inflammatory agent and can make joints painful.
- Knee pain is one of the most common complications of being overweight. Each pound of weight loss can reduce the load on the knee joint by four pounds.
When should I seek help from a physiotherapist about my knee pain?
- If you become injured and your pain does not go away after a couple of days of caring for it at home.
- If your knee pain is mild but has been present for more than a few weeks.
- If you have pain even when resting, or at night.
- If your knee painfully clicks when bending it.
- If your knee is locking.
- If your knee looks deformed.
- If your knee is swollen, red or feels very hot.
- If you cannot fully bend or straighten your knee.
- If your knee gives way or you cannot put any weight on it.
- If you have pain, tingling or numbness in the calf muscles below your knee.
How can I alleviate knee pain at home?
Even if you have booked an appointment with a physiotherapist, it’s still important to care for your knee pain or injury when it is hurting. We recommend the RICE method (rest, compression, elevation, ice) which will help reduce swelling and inflammation. Take painkillers or non steroidal anti inflammatory tablets if you feel you need to. If your knee pain is worse at night when you are in bed then some people find that putting a pillow in-between their thighs while they sleep can ease the pain.
How can I avoid knee pain?
- It’s a good idea to eat a healthy diet with nutrients that can help you reduce or prevent joint pain. We have written more about this here.
- If you are overweight losing weight can reduce the stress and strain on your knees, even if it’s just a few pounds, it can make a difference.
- Wearing comfortable shoes can take pressure off the knee joint. If you have painful knees high heels are a bad idea!
- Weak glutes (the muscles in your bum) can cause your pelvis to drop and the upper thigh bone (femur) to fall inward. This can cause stress on the hips, knees and ankles. Strengthening your glutes through special exercises can help keep your knees in good shape.
- Strengthening and stretching the muscles around your knee can stop them from becoming tight and causing knee issues.
- When exercising, warming up and cooling down properly will help you prevent injuries.
- If you are a keen runner or cyclist, mix up your routine by doing an exercise like swimming a couple of days a week instead. Swimming does not have as much impact on your knees and will give them a break, but you will still be getting fit. Read more about how to prevent injury when running.