Pain-Free Knees

How to handle the creaks, aches, and stiffness associated with knee pain.

By Ted Spiker from Reader's Digest | July 2008

Pain Free KneesComstockCompleteStaying active can build knee-protecting muscle.
After all these years spent carrying you around, your knees may be starting to fight back — with creaks, aches, and stiffness. Common causes include osteoarthritis (OA), especially as you age or if you’re overweight, and “weekend warrior” injuries such as a torn ligament and tendonitis. Of course, the ideal situation is to prevent knee problems in the first place.

The best way? Keep your weight down. In fact, losing just 15 pounds can cut knee pain in half for overweight arthritis sufferers. “I’ve seen people with their knees going bad, and the rate of deterioration decreased significantly when they lost weight,” says John Reveille, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Here, more strategies that can help ease pain:

     

  • 1.

    Have your feet checked.

    Some knee problems stem from walking with poor biomechanics. “People with bad feet or those who roll the foot outward while walking or running develop knee pain that doesn’t necessarily reflect knee damage,” says Dr. Reveille. Go to a good athletic-shoe store and ask a staffer to evaluate your gait and look at your shoes’ wear pattern. Orthotics or physical therapy can compensate, and the discomfort should go away.

  • 2.

    Build muscle.

    Staying active can build knee-protecting muscle. “A joint with a conditioned muscle around it is far more able to absorb stresses,” says Dr. Reveille. But avoid exercises that put excessive strain on the knee, such as squats and jogging.

  • 3.

    Apply ice or heat.

    “Ice is one of nature’s painkillers,” says Wayne M. Goldstein, MD, a professor of orthopedics at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. “It will help reduce inflammation.” Use ice for acute, occasional pain and apply heat for more chronic aches.

  • 4.

    Try medication.

    Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs may help temporarily. OA sufferers can also try supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin.