The holiday season is one of the happiest times of the year, regardless of how cooperative your knees are or aren’t. Family, friends and food bring both excitement and stress. You want everything to go off without a hitch. That means there is no room for knee pain!
Unfortunately, your body doesn’t check the schedule before it begins giving you trouble. If anything, this time of year invites aches and pains. All’s not lost, however! You can safely navigate this holiday season if you know what causes your pain and the options for managing it.
What causes knee pain?
Any number of conditions can result in knee pain. Assessing your history and visiting your doctor can help you nail down what exactly is causing your symptoms. Diagnosing the problem is important for properly treating it. What helps in one situation could exacerbate another.
Obviously, injuries can lead to knee pain. Common causes of knee pain include ACL injury, fractures, torn meniscus, knee bursitis, and patellar tendinitis. These injuries are caused by a trauma and will be apparent by the sudden pain. Other conditions, like osteoporosis, can increase your likelihood of experiencing a serious injury.
Mechanical problems can also cause knee pain. Examples of this include iliotibial band syndrome and dislocated knee cap. A loose body, like a broken piece of bone or cartilage, could get into the joint. This is understandably painful. Less obviously, pain in the hip or foot could also result in knee pain. By changing the way you walk, your body places stress on different areas. This may cause knee pain.
Arthritis, which has more than 100 different types, can also impact your knees. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, pseudogout, and septic arthritis are some of the more common versions. The holiday season means shifting weather. As anyone with arthritis can tell you, pain can increase as a result of lowering temperatures, falling barometric pressure, and increased precipitation.
Who is at risk of knee pain?
Since anyone can get injured, everyone is at risk for knee pain. However, there are some traits that make you more likely to experience it than others.
Excessive weight can put a strain on your knees. Even ordinary activities stress your knees worse than necessary when you carry additional weight on you. Obesity also puts you at higher risk of developing osteoarthritis as cartilage is broken down faster.
As odd as it may sound, both a lack of physical activity and certain sports put you at risk for knee pain. By having a sedentary lifestyle, you lose strength and flexibility. Both are necessary to support your body properly. When your body is not supported, it can lead to avoidable accidents. Some sports, like basketball or skiing, can also cause knee pain due to the repeated pounding they endure.
How to prevent knee pain during the holidays?
All year long, there are opportunities to damage your knees. This season, however, increases a few risk factors. Car accidents, falling while decorating, and injuring yourself while carrying luggage or presents are not uncommon.
If you are travelling this year, be wary of varying weather conditions. We are fortunate that San Antonio, Texas only rarely has icy roads. It does happen, though! Additionally, many travelers drink at holiday parties, which unfortunately can lead to drunk driving. Do not drive your car after drinking but also be aware others may not be as prudent. Remain alert any time you are behind the wheel.
When decorating, stay on a stable surface and have realistic expectations of your abilities. Don’t climb on surfaces not meant for climbing and ask for help if you need it. Your knees will thank you!
A little preparation can help protect you from luggage or heavy present related injuries. Buying luggage with wheels and handles can save you a lot of future (physical) stress. Pack only what you absolutely need and ship anything too heavy to your final destination. Get help unloading if you need it.
How to manage knee pain once it’s here?
Unfortunately, either due to an accident or aging, sometimes pain is unavoidable. Once it is here, you must manage it somehow. Thankfully, there are lots of options to help you. It’s important, however, not to get distracted by the holidays and remember to think long term. Quick fixes can get you through Christmas day but your knees need to work in 2017 too!
Depending on what causes your knee pain, you may be able to control your knee pain through medication. If your pain is due to inflammation, for example, there are many over-the-counter options.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID)
Although pain medication provides an easy, immediate option for relief during a busy, stressful holiday season, do not mistake it for a magic pill. Medication masks the pain. However, it does nothing to resolve it. When the medication wears off, any structural damage is just as present as it was before. For a simple injury, like stepping funny off a stepping stool while decorating a tree, pain medication can get you through the brief recovery without issue. However, pain medication is not intended for chronic pain. Even over-the-counter medication can have harmful side effects if it is taken too frequently or in too large of doses. For more long term pain, like that caused by arthritis, you need to consider another option.
What treatments work for knee arthritis?
Treat pain from arthritis with heat and hydration. Dressing warmly, under many layers, can keep your joints warm and decrease pain. Additionally, since dehydration makes you more sensitive to pain, remaining hydrated helps your body keep pain at bay.
If your pain is due to a severe enough injury or degeneration, then surgery may be necessary to correct the issue. Regardless of whether or not you go through surgery, physical therapy can help decrease your pain. A strong, healthy body is less likely to injure itself than one that is already weakened. By building muscle, you help your body stabilize itself and increase your ability to maintain your balance.
Physical therapy can be intimidating if your knee pain is already bad. That is why finding a well-trained professional is important! A good physical therapist will assess your starting strength and challenge you accordingly without putting your body at unnecessary risk of injury itself further.