A Comprehensive Guide to Knee Pain and Stiffness Treatments

No one wants to live life in pain, but that’s exactly what millions of people have to do each and every day. According to the CDC, nearly 20% of reported chronic pain is related to a knee injury.

All the others stem from neck pain, low back pain, severe headaches and migraines, shoulder pain, hip pain and finger pain.

Knee pain and stiffness is fairly common, but few people know what to do to overcome or prevent it from recurring. Some folks live with it, not knowing there are solutions to alleviate the pain or even eliminate it.

If knee pain and stiffness is the culprit for your life’s miseries, then this guide should shed some light on your condition. And hopefully, point you in the right direction for alleviating it.

What is Knee Pain and Stiffness?

Knee pain normally results from some sort of injury in the hip or knee. There are various bones that help your knee joint to move. This includes the thigh bone, shin bone, and knee cap.

All of these bones are held together by ligaments. And your quadriceps muscle helps to stabilize your knee. Cartilage covers your knee joints, along with the menisci. Together, this provides protection and lubrication, so your knee can function optimally.

Quadriceps muscle interior view

Quadriceps muscle

Then there are the bursae, which surrounds the knee joint. These are compartments filled with fluid, which help lubricate the various structures making up the knee. When any of these structures are injured, it can result in knee pain.

In most cases, the knee pain and stiffness is felt in the front joint of the knee. The pain can also stem from issues in your hip, making it hard to diagnose.

When it comes to knee stiffness, it can be caused by conditions, such as osteoarthritis.

Knee Pain and Stiffness Stats

Pain and stiffness in the knee is a common occurrence in America and around the world. As we can see, nearly a quarter of the chronic pain diagnosed in America is in the knee. As we grow older, the likelihood of us suffering from knee pain increases.

This will likely play a role in your disability and pain in your golden years. This condition isn’t biased towards men or women and it can even be found in children. Let’s take a look at the stats.

Knee Pain and Stiffness in Men

A significant amount of men in all age ranges suffer from knee pain and stiffness. It’s recorded that between 15 and 20% of men are living with knee pain.

There was a study performed in the United States which shows 18% of men 60 and older suffered from knee pain. This shows the incidence of knee pain climbs as you age. And it’s not just in America, it’s expected that Australian men will suffer from similar proportions of knee pain and stiffness.

The men with the most knee pain are between 85 and 90 years old, which is at almost 24%.

Women Living with Knee Pain and Stiffness

Surprisingly, a number of women with knee pain is higher than in the male population. Overall, 20% of women are affected by knee pain and stiffness. In America, the number of women over 60 years old with knee pain is around 23%.

It’s also expected for Australian women to have similar proportions of knee pain. The trend shows the older women get, the higher the incidence of knee pain. About 30% of women between 85 and 90 years old are living with knee pain.

What About Children Living with Knee Pain and Stiffness?

Chronic knee pain and stiffness is less common in children as it is for the adult population. But it’s not unheard of. The number one reason why it’s uncommon is that degenerative joint disease doesn’t really occur in children.

About 4% of children suffer from knee pain, compared to 18% of adolescents. There’s really no difference between the prevalence of knee pain among female and male adolescents.

The reason adolescents have a higher rate of knee pain is because of the rapid growth of articular structures.

Treating Knee Pain and Stiffness at Home

One of the leading causes of knee pain is due to overuse and physical activities. When the knee injury isn’t severe, there are home remedies you can use.

Let’s review some of the methods you can start today for your knee pain.

Give it Plenty of Rest

Obviously, you don’t want to continue using your injured knee after you’ve injured it. It’s very important to give it lots of rest. This will prevent further stress from causing more damage to the tissue, bone and ligaments.

As a rule of thumb, you should try to rest the knee for one or two days for minor injuries. If severe damage has been done, then a longer recovery time is needed. Your physician will be able to tell you how long it may be.

Apply Ice to Reduce the Swelling

Inflammation is an immediate reaction that occurs after many knee injuries. The pain and swelling can make it difficult to move around. So while you’re resting the knee, it’s recommended you apply ice to the area.

Typically, ice should be applied for between 20 and 30 minutes four or more times each day. To protect your skin, you can wrap the ice pack in a thin fabric. Never leave the ice on the area for longer than recommended because it can lead to skin and nerve damage.

Elevate Your Leg as Much as Possible

By elevating your leg, you help drain fluid and blood away from the injured area. This will, in turn, reduce the swelling in your knee.

Compress the Knee Using a Bandage or Sleeve

Doing so will help minimize the amount of swelling caused to the knee. You can either use a bandage or sleeve to compress the knee. These are typically sold online and at drug stores.

The compression may also help with support and sometimes helps with knee pain and stiffness.

Take Pain Medication

Most injuries cause lots of knee pain for days or even weeks afterward. To help get through it, you can ask your doctor to prescribe a pain medication. Or you can go to a pharmacy to get an over-the-counter pain drug.

There are some medications designed for knee pain and stiffness, such as those used by arthritis patients.

When Home Remedies Aren’t Enough

Some knee injuries are more severe than others, requiring more advanced methods for treatment. Your physician will be able to recommend the right methods based on your particular injury.

Let’s review some of the options your doctor may recommend.

Physical Therapy

Some knee injuries will strip away the mobility of your knee. When this happens, you need to rehabilitate it using physical therapy.

The purpose of physical therapy is to help your knee regain mobility by strengthening the muscles around it. This eventually gives your knee more stability.

There are key exercises used to build the muscles in the front and back of your thigh, hips, calves, and ankles. Some of the exercises used can be continued from home.

However, some workouts will require specific machinery, such as treadmills, recumbent bikes and so on.

Surgical Treatment

Orthopedic Surgery

Orthopedic Surgery

Determining whether surgery is needed for your knee comes down to the type of injury and how much damage was caused. Your doctor will also look at the likelihood of the knee injury recurring in the future.

Other things they look at include:

  • Health damage that can occur if surgery isn’t used
  • Physical activities you partake in regularly (sports, exercise, etc)
  • Your motivation to rehabilitate and strengthen your knee after surgery

In most cases, surgery isn’t provided immediately. Once the swelling subsides and you regain mobility and motion, then the doctor may order it.

During the surgery, reconstruction is done. This is needed when there’s damage to cartilage that prevents full range of motion. Or if your knee’s blood supply is severely compromised.

Other Treatment Options for Knee Pain

New and approved methods for treating knee pain and stiffness come out all the time. Some are designed to reduce pain and inflammation, such as with Corticosteroid injections, orthotics and bracing, topical ointment for pain and hyaluronic acid.

What About Treatments for Degenerative Joint Conditions?

That’s a great question because not all knee pain and stiffness stem from injuries. Degenerative joint conditions, such as osteoarthritis and arthritis have to be considered as well.

In the past, knee replacements and various medications, such as Celebrex, were prescribed to patients with these issues. But advancements in the medical community show that these options may not be the best.

It is very common for middle-aged people to suffer from degenerative joint problems because of their lifestyle. This includes playing sports, dancing or doing a lot of bending and lifting at work.

According to recent findings, there are non-steroidal medications that can be used that aid in reducing inflammation and pain. There’s a pharmacy grade chondroitin sulfate called Celecoxib that is now sometimes prescribed.

It helps with minimizing pain, promotes better function and is considered safe. Longer-term research is being requested to determine how safe and effective it is.

The study that was previously done consisted of 604 participants who had knee osteoarthritis. Over the course of six months, they were provided with one of the three daily treatment options.

The results showed the high-grade chondroitin sulfate was better than Celebrex for minimizing pain and improving mobility. The study also showed a fiber-rich diet could reduce the risk of knee osteoarthritis.

When Surgery Fails to Cure Knee Pain and Stiffness

There have been instances where patients underwent knee surgery, only to continue suffering from pain later on.

One patient decided to seek another way and stumbled upon a non-surgical remedy called the iovera system.

This uses cold therapy and is delivered using a handheld device. Attached to it are short needle probes that are frozen by nitrous oxide canisters. It brings the temperature down to negative 126 degrees.

It is injected into the skin, helping to kill the sensory nerves around the knee, so pain signals are no longer sent.

Within 15-25 minutes, the procedure is completed and great results are witnessed. The FDA has already approved ioverta treatment and is recommended for temporary pain relief (up to six months for one treatment).

Since it doesn’t last forever, it proves its safety. This means the nerves aren’t 100% damaged. Instead, the nerves regenerate over time. Patients who receive this state the procedure is painless.

Tips for Preventing Knee Pain

One of the best forms of treatment is prevention. But what can you really do? There are few steps you can take to help minimize pain in your knees.

Increase Physical Activity Slowly

If you’re into working out, consider increasing the intensity and weight slowly over time. If you do too much too fast, it can cause injury and pain.

For example, you should start off walking, then slowly jog before sprinting.

Buy the Right Shoes

The sneakers you use for your physical activities should be suitable for your feet. There are specific shoes you should buy when you’re running, walking, climbing or playing basketball.

For example, running shoes aren’t designed to do pivots and quick turns you’d do in basketball.

Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

Being overweight or obese puts a major strain on all your joints and bones. Maintaining a healthy weight level can prevent this.

You can do this by staying physically active and eating healthier, cleaner foods. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies should be included in your daily meals.

Don’t Overdo It

Listen to what your body is telling you. Once you start to feel pain, slow down or take a break. Overdoing it will increase your chances of having injuries.

Products for Knee Pain and Stiffness

Today, you can find a variety of products that can help with your knee pain and movement. At For-Knees, you can find tips and products you can use to improve your knee function.

If you need assistance with finding a product your doctor recommends, don’t hesitate to contact us!

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