After a skiing injury 30 years ago, Bert Pepper, MD, got osteoarthritis in his left knee. "I stopped skiing and gave up tennis, running, and other sports that are tough on the knee," he says. "I turned to speed-walking to stay fit, but the knee kept me from walking at a good pace."
As his pain got worse and walking became harder, he looked into having a knee replacement. It's not a decision to make lightly, says Pepper, who is a psychiatrist. "It's a major life event. You have to be prepared to...
Don’t rest too much. Too much rest can weaken your muscles, which can worsen joint pain. Find an exercise program that is safe for your knees and stick with it. If you're not sure which motions are safe or how much you can do, talk with your doctor or a physical therapist.
Do exercise. Cardio exercises strengthen the muscles that support your knee and increase flexibility. Weight training and stretching do, too. For cardio, some good choices include walking, swimming and water aerobics, stationary cycling and elliptical machines. Tai chi may also help ease stiffness and improve balance.
Don’t risk a fall. A painful or unstable knee can make a fall more likely, which can cause further knee damage. Curb your risk of falling by making sure your home is well lit, using handrails on staircases, and using a sturdy ladder or foot stool if you need to reach something from a high shelf.
Do use "RICE." Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) is good for knee pain caused by a minor injury or an arthritis flare. Give your knee some rest, apply ice to reduce swelling, wear a compressive bandage, and keep your knee elevated.
Don't overlook your weight. If you're overweight, losing weight reduces the stress on your knee. You don’t even need to get to your "ideal" weight. Smaller changes still make a difference.
Don't be shy about using a walking aid. A crutch or cane can take the stress off your knee. Knee splints and braces can also help you stay stable.
Do consider acupuncture. This form of traditional Chinese medicine, which involves inserting fine needles at certain points on the body, is widely used to relieve many types of pain and may be useful for knee pain.
Don't let your shoes make matters worse. Cushioned insoles can reduce stress on your knees. For knee osteoarthritis, doctors often recommend special insoles that you put in your shoe. To find the appropriate insole, speak with your doctor or a physical therapist.
Do play with temperature. For the first 48 to 72 hours after a knee injury, use a cold pack to ease swelling and numb the pain. A plastic bag of ice or frozen peas works well. Use it for 15 to 20 minutes three or four times a day. Wrap your ice pack in a towel to be kind to your skin. After that, you can heat things up with a warm bath, heating pad, or warm towel for 15 to 20 minutes, three or four times a day.
Don’t jar your joint(s). High-impact exercises can further injure painful knees. Avoid jarring exercises such as running, jumping, and kickboxing. Also avoid doing exercises such as lunges and deep squats that put a lot of stress on your knees. These can worsen pain and, if not done correctly, cause injury.
Do get expert advice. If your knee pain is new, get a doctor to check it out. It's best to know what you're dealing with ASAP, so you can prevent any further damage.