15 Home Remedies for Knee Pain
Don't "run through" knee pain. Many people, especially athletes, believe that it's best to "run through" knee pain -- that if they keep going, the pain will disappear. However, they are likely doing more harm than good. Pain is a sign that something is wrong, and if you push through it, even more damage may occur.
Change surfaces. If you walk or jog on a road, do so on the flattest part -- roads slant downward toward the edges so that water will drain off. If the side of the road is your only option, switch sides of the road frequently.
Hard surfaces such as concrete or asphalt can increase the beating the knees take, too. If possible, run or walk on a softer surface, such as a forest pathway, grass, or a running track. Bypass soft, shifting sand, however, which can stress the knees.
Running or walking downhill can cause knee problems, as well. The natural tendency is to "brake" with the knees downhill, which can overstress them. Slow down and, whenever possible, traverse (that means zig-zag) rather than going straight down hills. If you're already having knee problems, you should probably avoid training downhill.
Mix it up. Repetitive movements strengthen some muscles while they allow others to grow week with disuse. That's why cross-training is such a good idea. When you cross-train, you do a variety of physical activities rather than just one or two. Combine running or walking with biking, swimming, dancing, aerobics, weight training, or any other activities you enjoy.
Stretch and strengthen. For strong, flexible knees, try performing these exercises regularly:
Hamstring stretch. Lie on your back, raise your right leg, and hold the thigh up with your hands. Gently and slowly straighten the knee until you feel a stretch in the back of the thigh. Don't bounce. Hold the stretch for 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat three to five times on each leg.
Quadriceps stretch. Stand with your right hand on the back of a chair. With your left hand, reach back, pull your left heel toward your left buttock, and point your left knee to the floor until you feel a stretch in the front of the thigh. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat using the right hand and right leg. (If you can't reach your ankle, loop a towel around your foot to pull the leg up, or do the stretch lying on your stomach on a bed or the floor.)
Calf stretch. Stand two to three feet from a wall and lunge your right foot forward. Keep your left leg straight, with your heel on the floor and your toes pointed forward, and keep your right leg slightly bent. Lean into the wall, with both hands on the wall supporting you, until you feel a stretch in the left calf. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat with your left leg bent and your right leg straight.
Hip-extensor strengthener. This exercise strengthens the muscles in the back of the hip. Lie on your stomach, tighten the muscle at the front of your right thigh, then lift your right leg eight to ten inches off the floor, keeping the knee loosely locked. Hold for five to ten seconds. Do ten repetitions. Repeat with the left leg.
Hip-abductor strengthener. This exercise strengthens the muscles at the outside of the thigh. Lie on your left side with your head resting on your left arm, tighten the muscle at the front of your right thigh, then lift your right leg eight to ten inches off the floor. Hold for five to ten seconds. Do ten repetitions. Repeat on opposite side.
Hip-adductor strengthener. This exercise strengthens the muscles on the inside of the thigh. Lie on your left side with your head supported by your left hand, your right knee bent slightly and resting on the floor in front of you; keep your left leg straight. Tighten the muscle at the front of the left thigh, then lift the left leg eight to ten inches off the floor. Hold for five to ten seconds. Repeat ten times. Switch legs, and repeat ten times.
Quadriceps strengthener. Lie on your back with your right leg straight and your left leg bent at the knee to keep your back straight. Tighten the muscle at the front of your right thigh, and lift your right leg five to ten inches from the floor, keeping the knee loosely locked. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat ten times. Switch legs, and repeat ten times.
R.I.C.E. it. Okay, despite all the good advice, you've overdone it and your knee hurts. Give it R.I.C.E. -- rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Take the weight off the knee. During the first 24 to 48 hours, use an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel (20 minutes on, 20 minutes off) to keep the swelling down. Then wrap the knee (not too tightly) in an elastic bandage to reduce swelling, and keep the knee elevated.
Take an anti-inflammatory. Aspirin or ibuprofen can reduce the pain, inflammation, and swelling (acetaminophen eases pain but does nothing for inflammation). Don't use anti-inflammatories, however, if you have an ulcer, a bleeding condition, or a sensitive stomach. For a list of precautions to take when using over-the-counter analgesics, click here.
Avoid heat. Ice prevents fluid buildup, but heat can promote it. For the first 48 to 72 hours after a knee injury, when the knee is probably still somewhat swollen, avoid hot tubs or hot packs.
Massage it. While massage won't affect the bony structures of the knee, it does increase circulation and can loosen tight hamstrings and other tissues that may be pulling on the knee. If you've already developed knee pain, see a massage therapist or physical therapist, not just a friend, for a professional massage.
Strong Muscles, Strong Knees
Often, a muscle imbalance, in which one muscle or muscle group is stronger than another, causes knee problems. In other cases, lack of flexibility can contribute to knee pain or injury. In order for knees to function well, the muscles around them need to be both strong and flexible. You can do this by strengthening and stretching both the quadriceps (the muscles in the front of the thigh) and the hamstrings (the muscles at the back of the thigh).
While rest is important when you injure your knee, too much rest can contribute to knee problems. Lack of use can cause muscles to weaken. Gentle exercise such as swimming can help keep muscles toned even when knees are a bit sore. And regular exercise can correct imbalances, increase flexibility, and prevent many injuries.
However, not all exercises are healthy for the knees. Avoid loading the knee with weight when it's in a 90-degree position (that's the same angle it's in when you're sitting in a chair) or bent even more than that (such as in a baseball catcher's position), especially if you have kneecap pain. Unless you are getting up from sitting, avoid this position.