Knee pain is uncomfortable to live with, and in some cases can interfere with daily activity; depending on the severity, and the cause, however, it can often be treated or managed from the comfort of your own home.
Regardless of the cause of your knee pain, rest is likely the best first step. If you’re recovering from an injury from strain, repetitive motion, or other trauma, the area needs time to heal. Walk carefully and consider avoiding stairs if you feel you need to; ease back into physical activity once the knee has begun to heal, and stop activities that aggravate the pain. For a minor injury, you may need no more than a day or two of rest, while a more serious one may require a couple of weeks.
Icing is another simple measure: applying an ice pack or a package of frozen vegetables (peas are good because it can wrap around the knee) for 20 minutes at a time eases pain and reduces inflammation, which can lead to pain down the line.
Compression and elevation shouldn’t be overlooked. Compression bandages do double duty in preventing fluid buildup as well as helping to stabilize and support the knee, while elevating the injured leg fights inflammation by directing blood and other fluids away from the knee.
For pain that is not severe or debilitating, over the counter medication is usually sufficient to help you manage it. Common pain relievers like ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen (you probably know them by brand names like Advil, Aleve, and Tylenol) can alleviate mild to moderate pain when taken appropriately. Many people also find relief from topical treatments: ointments containing lidocaine help numb the area, while those containing capsaicin (the chemical that give peppers their heat) provide warming relief.
Treatment doesn’t just stop with a healed or semi-healed knee, though: lifestyle changes can help you heal more quickly and prevent future injury. Stretching properly before and after physical activity is important — just as important as staying physically active. Strong muscles support knees and are less likely to become injured, and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen helps keep excess weight off, which is important since obesity strains joints like the knees and puts you at a higher risk for conditions like osteoarthritis.
If your knee pain is severe or long-lasting and doesn’t respond to home treatment, consult your doctor.