by Laura Oxley
Advice to rest and avoid aggravating the pain are frequently dished out. It may seem logical to stop what you are doing, but you may find that you are no better if you do ease off. In fact it is more likely that you'll feel worse! We see many patients like this who don't know what to do for the best anymore!
As a Physiotherapist, a key aspect of my job is to educate people how they can best look after themselves, and help dispel any myths, so that they have a clear plan leading to improvement and ultimately control of their symptoms. Here I look at the common questions our patients at Omnia Physio ask us about improving their stiff and painful knees.
Should I rest my knees if they are painful?
MYTH: Hurt = harm... No it doesn't!
A common question I am asked is whether doing things that make the knee hurt actually damages it more? The answer here is that the damage we see on X-rays and scans has very little do to with how much pain we feel. Pain is influenced by fear, anxiety, stress - the more we worry about something the worse it will feel (see Samantha's blog on pain here). Very soon, simple movements likely getting up off a chair become painful even though there is very little pressure on the knee joint, and activities like this certainly couldn't damage it.
Fear of pain and movement causes us to become less active, depressed, and put on weight. It increases the risk of other chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Not a recipe for an enjoyable life!
Should I keep exercising even though my knees are painful?
FACT: Joints need activity, not rest
To stay healthy, all joints including our knees need movement to stimulate repair and strong muscles to protect them: the evidence to support this is solid. Exercise and regular physical activity, as well as losing excess weight have all been shown to be essential in helping manage knee pain and arthritis.
Recent research from Denmark has shown that those with hip and knee arthritis who exercised twice a week for 6 weeks, experienced an average of 25% less pain! Not a bad return on the exercise investment if you ask me!
And more good news if you're a runner: studies have shown that running doesn't cause knee arthritis and, runners actually have stronger cartilage in their knees than non-runners!
Should I keep exercising if my knees swell up?
Knee swelling is a sign that your knee isn't coping with the strain going through it. Don't stop exercising all together but do reduce any impact going through the knee until the swelling has subsided. Choose low impact strengthening exercises, like straight leg raises, instead, and continue to stretch the knee by bending and straightening it regularly to help the swelling disperse. Once the swelling has gone, you can resume higher impact exercises gradually.
What is the best exercise for knee pain and stiffness?
There is no absolute consensus on the best exercise for knee pain as different approaches work best for different people, and in general any exercise is considered better than none. It may be useful to add in hip muscle strengthening though, as these exercises have been shown to improve walking ability and pain levels in people with knee arthritis.
Other than that, strength training, mind-body exercises like yoga, and simply walking or cycling have all be shown to help, so pick the one that suits you best - and most importantly, something you like!
At Omnia, we will take the time to discuss different options for treating your knee pain with you, and make sure we tailor our advice and exercises to you so that you can resume the activities that you enjoy, and keep doing them.
Have you stopped enjoying your favourite hobbies or playing with the family because of your knee pain? Perhaps you are starting to struggle with everyday activities and are growing increasingly frustrated as a result? If you're not sure what you should be doing to help yourself, why don't you come to Omnia for a detailed assessment and let us get you on the road to recovery!
For more advice on knee pain, why don't you visit our website download our information guide to managing knee pain? www.omniaphysio.com/knee-pain