The management of acute or chronic knee pain entails the acronym PRICE:
- P= Protect the knee (use padding to prevent further injury)
- R= Rest the knee (expedites the healing process)
- I= Ice the knee (reduces swelling if applied as soon as possible)
- C=Compress the knee joint (use a brace or wrap to reduce swelling and to keep the joint in alignment)
- E=Elevate the knee joint (reduces swelling by propping the joint on a pillow or foam roller)
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can be used to manage knee inflammation and pain (e.g., Aleve, Advil, Motrin). In addition, Tylenol can be used to control knee pain although it is not as effective in reducing inflammation.
Set up an appointment with a doctor or orthopedist if PRICE and OTC medications fail to lessen knee pain in a week. X-rays and/or CT scans (to detect possible bone fracture or dislocation) or an MRI (to detect possible ligament or tendon injury) may be warranted depending on the nature of the pain and range of motion of the knee joint. In addition, fluid may be drained from the bursae, fluid-filled sacs which cushion the joint, to lessen inflammation and joint pain.
Knee pain as a result of osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic condition since inflammation is persistent due to cartilage degeneration. Activity usually increases knee pain and prolonged sitting results in stiffness. Treatment entails either taking OTC or prescription medications. Joint injections of hyaluronic acid (e.g., Synvisc-One) can relieve chronic pain from OA. Severe cases of OA may require narcotic pain medications or knee joint replacement.
After treatment, you can prevent further pain by:
- Losing bodyweight (reduces force impact on the knee joint)
- Periodic stretching (reduces tendon tightness)
- Water exercise (buoyancy reduces force impact on the knee joint)
- Wear a brace , compression or knee pads when active
Other possible causes of knee pain include: chondromalacia caused by degeneration under the kneecap due to hypertonic quads, repetitive overuse or knock knees; patellofemoral pain syndrome caused by improper patella tracking or medial/lateral quad imbalance; unstable knee joint caused by overstretched ligaments; locked knee caused by a torn meniscus or a loose particle within the joint capsule; swelling caused by an internal injury; and crepitus caused by cartilage grinding.
Brian Danley, CFT
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