Knees are beautiful things. Granted, some are more beautiful to look at than others, although they all provide wonderful benefits. Primarily, they allow legs to bend in the middle. Pretty essential when sitting down on a chair or climbing stairs!
The knee joint is pretty complex, even though it is a ‘simple’ hinge joint. From the location and function of the knee cap to the intricate collection of ligaments and tendons both inside and out there is a lot of potential for pain.
A painful knee can range from an intermittent niggle to a debilitating pain that robs the owner of mobility. Any knee pain can potentially progress to something that threatens ongoing pain-free mobility and should be taken seriously. Immediate assessment and treatment is required. There are of course, as always, some steps (sorry!) that can be taken to promote good knee health.
Firstly, remember – not ALL knee pain is indicative of arthritis!
I have identified three main areas for you to explore for self-assessment and treatment of knee pain:
- Aggravation of a knee joint can very often result in swelling. If the knee appears swollen on the outside then it is definitely full of swelling inside. A small shot glass – 25ml – of additional fluid within the knee joint can result in intense pain and significant loss of function. Effective management of any swelling is crucial to recovery and rehabilitation. An insulated ice pack can be applied to the bony parts of the knee to target any swelling. This treatment should ONLY be applied for ten minutes and only ever to the bony parts of the knee. Any increase in time may PROMOTE swelling inside the knee and application over muscles may adversely affect the condition of the muscles around the knee.
- Above, below and around the knee joint are several attachments of muscles. These account for all of the lumps and knobbly knees. Generally speaking, wherever there is a lump of bone, there is something attached to it. Evolution has developed these lumps and bumps both as a reaction to the stresses being placed on the attachments and as a method of providing a biomechanical advantage that results in greater strength. If the surrounding muscles become tight due to accumulation of passive muscular tension then the amount of pull on the attachment sites will increase. This increase can aggravate the attachment site and cause significant pain. Management of the muscles using heat, stretching and self-massage can assist in alleviating the strain on the attachment sites and have a positive effect on symptomatic pain.
- The kneecap is a fabulous piece of engineering. Rather than the common misconception that it exists to protect the front of the knee, it is actually there to increase strength. The kneecap is encapsulated within the tendon that attaches the muscles on the front of the thigh to the bony bit below the knee. By using the kneecap for leverage against the bones of the thigh, the muscles on the front of the thigh are able to increase their strength by up to 50%! The forces that pass over, through and behind the patella are enormous, though. On the back of the kneecap are some grooves that line up with the bony bits on the end of the thigh bone. If the kneecap is misaligned with these bony lumps it can cause extreme pain. Focussing on aligning the knee joint whilst moving and avoiding the knee pointing in or out whilst bending can reduce the symptomatic pain. If, for example, your knees hurt when climbing or descending stairs – walk like a duck! Stick your tail feathers out and watch the knee pain disappear!!
Every part of the human body needs a bit of love to maintain its function. Whatever the daily demands of the particular body part are, whether it includes static or dynamic postures, there will be consequences in the tension held in the body. These after-effects need to be regularly addressed to avoid problems building up and ‘bubbling under the surface’.
If you love your knees, they kneed your love!!