We’ve covered a number of different causes of knee pain, so it’s time to discuss the what and how of fixing it!
Chances are that if you’re searching the interweb for knee pain fixes, the pain is either slowing you down, limiting what you can do or you’re just sick of it. But almost every type of chronic knee pain will respond to a well-structured management plan.
Here’s our top three tips for successful management
- The first tip is to be patient. Knee problems tend to make months to manifest so it won’t be solved overnight.
- Stay the course. Too often people are on the right track to fix it but get frustrated and try something different (and not as effective). Make a plan and stick to it for at least one month.
- Do as much as you can. Although knee pain sucks the fun out of exercise, it’s easier to tweak the loading on an otherwise healthy knee that it is to rebuild a sedentary knee from scratch.
So what’s effective for knee pain?
It’s best to stick to research-proven methods and avoid quick fixes or social media advocated “best kept secrets”.
- Strength training. Strength is king. At any age. For every knee problem. You may need expert advice to design the program so it doesn’t stir up your symptoms but there’s a way forward for every injury.
- Load management. That’s a fancy way of saying “do as much as you can but not too much”. Activities like bike riding and nordic hiking (hiking with poles) are generally safe options. Walking on unstable surfaces like soft sand or twisting activities like martial arts are generally a bit risky (but not impossible).
- Meds. Not always required but can help break the cycle and speed up your initial response. Worth noting that they’re not a long term solution and have no longer term effect without concurrent strength training.
How long will knee pain take to get better?
- First, you must get rid of excess fluid in the knee. It causes pressure on the cartilage and joint capsule, creating pain. Clear it with meds, a firm elastic knee brace and gentle exercise and your symptoms will significantly reduce. The speed of response depends on how much new fluid is being added to the collection. With no fresh fluid accumulating, most swelling resolves in 1-2 weeks. If there’s new stuff accumulating, it won’t resolve until you get the source under control (see the treatment options above).
- Strength builds slowly but responds quickly. Actual muscle improvement will take over two months so become evident. However your muscle function improves within a few weeks. They can perform better due to other factors like nerve input, and you’ll notice less knee symptoms after only a few weeks of strength exercises.
- Sensitivity of the affected area. During the injury, the joint lining, cartilage and bone can become sensitive. It makes the area easily aggravated. That settles over time, meaning that you’ve really got to overdo it before it flares up. That time can be 4-6 weeks for soft tissue and up to 6 months for bone, but it will pass so be patient (see point #1 at the start!).
Pete has over 20 years experience as a Physiotherapist and specialises in running biomechanics and complex injuries. He believes that you must identify and fix the underlying cause of an injury, to recover faster, prevent recurrences and improve performance.