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Doctors may recommend different types of knee pain relief, depending on the severity of the pain and the condition that is causing it. If the pain is mild and the underlying condition is temporary, a person may decide to treat it at home. On the other hand, severe knee pain or that which is caused by a condition, such as arthritis, or an infection may require a doctor's care.
People who injure their knees due to exercising mishaps or overexertion often benefit from applying an ice pack, which offers pain relief and can reduce swelling. Hard ice packs can be wrapped in a thin towel and placed on the knee. If no ice pack is available, a bag of frozen vegetables or ice cubes may be substituted. Ice may be placed on the knee for 20 minutes at a time, about three times daily. The knee's skin, tissues, and nerves may be damaged if the ice is left on it longer than that.
Heat therapy can also be used for knee pain relief. This may help, especially if the muscles around the knee are sore, as the heat will relax the area and encourage blood flow. A heating pad can be used, or the patient may apply a hot, moist towel. If the patient's knee feels overly or uncomfortably hot, the heat source should be removed to avoid burns. Heat therapy may also be used to ease knee pain before a person engages in physical activity.
Patients may benefit from compression bandages. Sufferers can either wrap the knee in a sports bandage, or choose to wear a brace specifically designed for the knee. Patients should choose a brace that hugs the knee, but does not interfere with blood circulation. A compression bandage may help prevent swelling, as well as provide support and stability to the joint. In addition to compression, patients who wish to reduce swelling can elevate the knee, or put it up in a resting position, to encourage drainage of any accumulated fluid.
Over-the-counter topical ointments can help provide temporary knee pain relief. Typically applied directly to the skin, these often contain ingredients like lidocaine, menthol, and capsaicin. While patients may need to experiment to find the product that works best for them, such pain relievers should not be combined, or used more often than recommended on the instructions label. Topical products may be applied with a cotton swab or paper towel so that the patient avoids getting the ointment on his hands.
Oral medications can also alleviate knee pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin may be taken for mild pain in accordance with product directions. Patients who experience severe knee pain may seek stronger, prescription medications from their doctors. A physician can determine which such drug will work best for each patient.
In some cases, the doctor and patient may decide that oral medications are not the best course of treatment. In this event, a physician may administer a corticosteroid injection into the affected joint, which can provide knee pain relief for as long as a few months. If the joint suffers from inflammation, an injection of hyaluronic acid may help. This fluid is found naturally in joints and may provide knee pain relief for up to half a year.
Even if the course of treatment is successful, the patient should work to prevent future knee injuries and pain. This may mean reducing or halting the activity that caused the initial problem. Or the patient can work with a physical therapist to strengthen the muscles around the knee, to prevent future injuries. If the pain was caused by a chronic, underlying condition, such as arthritis, the patient should follow a doctor's instructions to treat it.
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