Each possible cause of chronic knee pain requires different diagnostic tests. These include blood work, physical examination, X-rays, CT scan or MRI, and other imaging tests. The condition your doctor thinks you have will determine the types of tests you will undergo to see what’s causing your chronic knee pain.
Each underlying cause of chronic knee pain has a specific type of treatment. These treatments may include:
Bursitis, a common cause of knee pain, is treated in the following ways:
Ice the knee for 15 minutes once an hour for three or four hours. Do not apply the ice directly to the knee; instead, cover your knee with a cotton towel. Place ice in a plastic zip-close bag, and then place the bag on the towel.
Wear cushioned, flat shoes that support your feet and don’t exacerbate your pain.
Avoid sleeping on your side. Use pillows positioned on either side of your body to prevent you from rolling onto your side. When lying on your side, keep a pillow between your knees.
Stay seated when possible. If you have to stand, avoid hard surfaces and keep your weight equally divided on both legs.
Lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
What is the long-term outlook for chronic knee pain?
Some knee pain, especially pain caused by osteoarthritis, will likely be permanent. That’s because the structure of the knee is damaged. Without surgery or another type of extensive treatment, you’ll continue to feel pain, inflammation, and swelling in your knee.
The long-term outlook for chronic knee pain involves managing pain, preventing flare-ups, and working to reduce irritation to the knee.
How can chronic knee pain be prevented?
You can prevent some, but not all, of the possible causes of knee pain. But you can’t prevent chronic knee pain. There are things you can do to alleviate the pain.
If your chronic knee pain gets worse because of overuse or tends to be the most painful after physical activity, you can make lifestyle changes to help treat the pain. These approaches include:
- Warm up before exercise. Stretch your quadriceps and hamstrings before and after exercise.
- Try low-impact exercises. Instead of tennis or running, give swimming or bicycling a shot. Or mix low-impact exercises with high-impact exercises to give your knees a break.
- Lose weight.
- Walk down hills. Running puts extra force on your knee. Instead of running down an incline, walk.
- Stick to paved surfaces. Rough roads or pocked walkways may be hazardous to your knee’s health. Stick to smooth, paved surfaces like a track or walking area.
- Get support. Shoe inserts can help treat foot or gait problems that may be contributing to knee pain.
- Replace your running shoes frequently to ensure they still have proper support and cushioning.