The knee is one of the most important joints in the human body; it is involved in a huge range of actions and movement, from walking and running, to jumping. There are many different causes of knee pain and the main problems are osteoarthritis, lateral knee pain, anterior knee pain and injuries affecting the ligaments or cartilage.
Types of knee pain
Knee pain affects people in different ways and the severity and type of pain are usually dependent on the cause; some people experience dull aches and long-term pain, while others experience sharp pains, which come and go and pain when they use the joint.
In many cases, knee pain becomes worse when you use the joint and the best treatment may be rest; however, if you experience very severe, acute pain or you suffer from prolonged periods of pain, you may have damaged the joint and this usually requires treatment. Treatment options for knee injuries include surgery, exercise and physiotherapy, compression and elevation and rest; in cases where pain is caused by osteoarthritis, painkillers may be recommended and physiotherapy will usually help to improve movement and flexibility in the joint.
Coping with knee pain
If you have an injury or you suffer from pain as a result of osteoarthritis, there are various things you can do to reduce pain and make life a little easier.
If you have osteoarthritis, try standing with your legs straight and avoid sitting down for long periods of time, wear sensible, comfortable and supportive footwear and stick to the exercise programme provided by your physiotherapist.
If you have anterior knee pain, you should rest your knee and then gradually introduce exercises to strengthen the muscles around the joint. Your physiotherapist will help you to do this safely and effectively.
If you have lateral knee pain, it is important to reduce swelling as much as possible; you can do this by elevating your leg, applying ice packs to your knee (always ensure that the ice pack is covered with a cloth or towel to prevent skin damage) and taking anti-inflammatory medication; your doctor will talk to you about taking painkillers.
If you have ligament or cartilage damage, you should rest the knee for the first 48 hours, keep the leg elevated and apply ice to the joint; you can also take painkillers to ease discomfort. Recovery time will depend on the severity of the injury and you may need physiotherapy to build up strength around the joint.