We beat on them. We twist, spindle and mutilate them. We pray on them, propose on them and crawl around on the floor with the kids and grandkids.
...and our knees take it! They stand up to all of our abuse and pounding, until one day they don't. That's the day that you finally go see your doctor because now your knees are slowing you down. Those knees that have carried you well for so long now hurt every time you take a step. Those knees that you bounced those babies on are finally getting run down by life.
What happened to my knees? Over time, machines wear down. Your knee is an amazing machine that carries you around, twists and turns all day long and usually does it pain-free. Why have they slowly gotten stiff and sore? There are a number of reasons that knees begin to break down, from normal to pathological. Eventually, the cartilage that serves as a cushion and glide between the bottom of your femur (thigh bone) and the top of your tibia (shin bone) begins to thin or break down. It might be that little pieces of cartilage or other soft tissue are causing irritation with movement. It might be the result of an old knee injury. It might be that the cartilage has been worn down to the point that you now have bone-on-bone contact between your femur and your tibia.
Depending on your symptoms and how much they bother you, your doctor may have sent you for imaging studies of those amazing joints. Those x-rays or MRIs you doctor ordered for you may show mild or major problems. They may show thinning cartilage, foreign bodies or arthritis. You may be thinking surgery, but hopefully your doctor is thinking about the conservative measures she can use, first.
What are conservative measures? If your knees are in significant discomfort, but you and your physician aren't ready to talk about surgery yet, knee brace or knee support might be an option. Here are some options to consider:
- Rest. If your knees hurt, give them a break. Walk less. Don't carry heavy loads. Avoid stairs and uneven ground. If appropriate, weight loss may also help your knees get some rest.
- Heat/Cold. Heat or cold or both may ease your discomfort, reduce swelling and increase mobility of the joint. Limit either to about 20 minutes at a time, and be aware that you don't damage your skin and underlying tissue with temperatures too hot or too cold. Do not apply heat or cold packs directly to the skin.
- Anti-inflammatories. There are various over-the-counter and prescription medications which may help your knees feel better and reduce inflammation.
- Physical Therapy. A physical therapist will work with you and your physician to customize a plan to deal with your specific issues. Strengthening both the knees and the other muscles you use in walking can help take some of the stress off of your knees. The therapist can also evaluate your gait and how you carry your body, both of which can cause knee pain.
- Chiropractic or Massage. Many people find that their knees started hurting after they hurt their back. Back pain can cause you to change your posture, which can affect your hips, knees or other joints. Sometimes, treating back pain helps address knee and hip pain.
- Bracing. In collaboration with orthopedists, physical therapists and other professionals, we design, test and build a wide variety of supports and braces for the knees and all of your other joints. Whatever problem your knees have, Mueller has a brace or support to help you out.
Here at Mueller Sports Medicine, we have been designing and building the devices that physicians use to treat knee injuries since 1960. If you want to find out how we can help you walk more comfortably through life, please contact us.