Dos and Don’ts when living with knee pain
Achy joints are a common phenomenon thanks to osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear form of arthritis. Approximately 31 million Americans suffer with the pain of osteoarthritis and a common joint affected is the knee. Once the disease has set in, reversing joint damage is not possible. That’s why if you are living with knee pain, to keep it from getting worse, here are some dos and don’ts to provide some knee pain relief and to help manage osteoarthritis knee pain.
· Do – Choose low impact knee joint-friendly exercises
Movement is important to keep your knees from beginning completely stiff but be wise on what you choose. A great place to start if you are unsure on what exercises are safe, see a physical therapist to get individualized instruction on how and when to exercise. In the meantime, low-impact aerobics activities such as walking, biking, and swimming are considered joint-friendly.
Don’t –Participate in repetitive, high-energy exercises harmful to joints
Some of the worst exercises for knees with osteoarthritis are tennis, basketball or running. These joint-pounding moves can put undue strain on knees already damaged. Anytime you are doing an activity that is causing excess pain in your knees, don’t do it.
· Do – Keep your knees and leg muscles strengthened and flexible
Part of a good fitness plan for knee osteoarthritis is to include strength and flexibility training along with aerobic exercise. What will help support the muscles around the knee joint most are to incorporate strength moves with stretching to help maintain and keep as much flexibility around knee joint as possible.
· Do – Always warm up and cool down before and after exercise
It’s very important to warm up before a workout when you have knee osteoarthritis. Warmups help lubricate your joints to help loosen stiffness making it easier to move. The last thing you want to do is to begin exercising without a warmup which could risk further injury to the knee. After exercise, take time to cool down. If you are unsure what type of warmups and cool down exercises to do, consult with a physical therapist who can teach you the proper moves and techiniques.
· Do – Reach a healthy body weight to take stress off your knee joints
The more you weigh, the more pressure and strain will added to your already damaged knee joint. This means more pain you will experience. To help relive knee pain and slow down the rate of cartilage degeneration, it you need to lose some weight, do so. Even just a 5% to 10% weight loss can result in significant improvement with less knee pain felt.
· Do – Wear shoes that are comfortable and friendly to your knee joints
What type of shoes you wear matter when it comes to protecting your knee joints. To help reduce the force placed on your knee, choose flat, flexible shoes that mimic the foot’s natural mobility.
· Don’t – Be afraid to use a cane or walker for assistance
Whether you should use a cane, walker, or a knee brace, any of them help take extra load off your knees and can improve function. If you are suffering a great deal with pain yet the time for a knee replacement is not right, using a type of assistive device can make a big difference in keeping you mobile and injury free.
· Do – Take medications as prescribed
The mainstays of treating knee osteoarthritis are usually either over-the-counter or prescription strength non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). These medications are meant to relieve pain but are not meant for slowing down the disease progression. Other treatments available for knee stiffness, pain and swelling are analgesics such as acetaminophen and injections of corticosteroids and hyaluronic acid into the joints. Another useful treatment can be using heat and cold therapy to relive symptoms.
· Don’t – Ignore new or worsening knee osteoarthritis symptoms
Anytime you notice the pain becoming more severe and is happening even when you are resting or if the pain is awakening you at night, it could mean the osteoarthritis is progressing. Other concerning factors are signs of swelling, a locked knee, or a knee that gives way. If you have any of these new symptoms appear, see your doctor as you may need a new plan of care.