As we age, we notice more aches and pains than ever before. The most common complaints doctors and physical therapists hear about are knee pains. The knee is particularly vulnerable to pain and damage due to its high wear and tear factor. The knee takes the full impact of a person’s body weight, or any added force from running or jumping. However, there are plenty of natural treatments and alternative therapies that can stop you from living at the doctor’s reception room.
Assess your pain
For any moderate to severe pain, you should get medical help because some injuries require physical therapy, a brace or even surgery. Successful home treatments can be done for mild to moderate knee pain. This can be for both pains caused by sprains or arthritis. If you think the pain is due to inflammation, arthritis or minor injury, you can choose from several effective home remedies.
How to treat pain due to injury
If you have suffered a twisted leg, fallen or strained your knee in other ways, a useful mnemonic to remember is ‘RICE’.
Rest - Stay off your feet.
Ice - Apply a bag of ice or a cold compress (a bag of peas also works).
Compression - Wrap a compression bandage around your knee. This prevents swelling. Make sure it’s not too tight otherwise you might cut off circulation.
Elevation - Lie on a bed or keep your foot elevated with a foot stool or ottoman.
How to treat pain due to arthritis
As people age, the lubrication and padding around their joints deteriorates. Without cartilage cushioning the joints, they will suffer bone-on-bone contact and can become inflamed, causing much pain. This is known as Osteoarthritis. For more severe cases, doctors might suggest replacing joints or inserting artificial cartilage. While there is no way of reversing the damage, there are ways to treat mild to moderate pain with natural dietary supplements or alternative therapies.
Try willow bark
You wouldn’t think that a piece of tree bark could offer so much relief, but research has found that willow bark’s active ingredient is salicin, which acts similarly to aspirin. This natural painkiller has been commonly used since the time of Hippocrates. It is used to treat fever and inflammation, as well asheadaches, muscle pains, spine disease, arthritis, and osteoarthritis.
Use ginger extract
Another pain relief option that grows naturally is ginger, which can be ingested in several different ways. You can use the fresh root, drink it as a tea, eat it as a dried spice or take prepackaged supplements. Research has discovered that the phytonutrients in ginger reduce the production of chemicals in the body that promote joint inflammation. Together with prescription arthritis medication, ginger can greatly reduce joint pains, since it acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. Be cautious if you take blood thinners, as ginger has the risk of increasing bleeding.
Apply herbal ointment
A salve made from cinnamon, ginger, mastic, and sesame oil was found to be just as effective as over the counter medicine, in a study published in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences. Traditional over the counter ointments used to treat arthritis usually contain salicylate, which is used topically to relieve pain.
Heat and cold therapy
It’s worthwhile investing in a heating pad, gel-style cold pack or cool compress for chronic pain. These can easily be found at a drug store, or ordered online. Heat is used to keep joints from stiffening while cold therapy can reduce pain and swelling.
Practice Tai Chi
This ancient Chinese practice is a mind-body exercise, which helps improve balance and flexibility, works twofold for those who suffer from arthritis. A study published in Arthritis and Rheumatism (a journal), highlights that the mental aspect of the practice promotes coping mechanisms for chronic pain, and the physical exercise helps reduce pain and increases range of motion.
Consider exercise and weight management
For some people, knee pain is reduced by moving the joint, so daily exercise is recommended. Keeping a leg stationary can stiffen the joint, and reduce the range of motion. Consider swimming or water walking as these exercises have less of an impact, together with offering countless other health benefits. Carrying excess weight can also aggravate the impact on joints, so it’s important to try and keep off any unnecessary weight. Here are some weight loss management tips.
Finding care - final note
Your health is important, and sometimes dietary supplements and alternative therapies can conflict with any other medication you might be taking. It’s important to talk to your doctor and find the cause of any pain. Sometimes this might involve X-rays and blood work, but it’s necessary to get on the road to recovery.