Balancing summer fun and knee pain

Sunshine and warmer weather means more time outdoors enjoying favorite activities. Unfortunately, this is also the time of year when some of us experience injuries and pain in our joints

Sunshine and warmer weather means more time outdoors enjoying favorite activities. Unfortunately, this is also the time of year when some of us experience injuries and pain in our joints as we become more active. One common complaint is knee pain.

Robert Sharpe, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission. According to Dr. Sharpe, people of all ages are at risk for knee pain, but it is more common as we age. 

“We see most patients develop some element of knee arthritis pain in their 40s and 50s,” said Dr. Sharpe. “As we age, the process worsens and typically the associated pain increases.”

It is common to struggle with knee pain especially when performing high-impact, weight bearing activities such as running and jumping. This is often how knee pain starts and, unfortunately, it can get worse over time affecting regular daily activities. 

“As knee arthritis worsens, patients develop difficulty with prolonged walking or standing, and some even have pain that wakes them at night,” said Dr. Sharpe. “Going up and down stairs or inclines especially aggravates anterior knee pain as do exercises such as squats and lunges.”

So what can you do to prevent knee pain from starting in the first place? Dr. Sharpe’s best advice is to stay healthy and strong as you age. It is important to maintain a normal body weight through good nutrition and exercise, and be sure to incorporate strength training exercises that help keep your leg muscles strong. 

If you are struggling with knee pain, you can try to relieve the pain at home. The first thing you should do is take a brief rest from any activity that irritates your knee. Apply ice if you notice swelling. Dr. Sharpe also recommends using a simple knee sleeve or brace from a sporting goods store or pharmacy.

If you still have pain after a few days of home treatment, it may be time to make an appointment with a physician to have your knee checked. There are lots of nonsurgical treatment options for knee arthritis pain that can get you back to the life you love. Some options are oral analgesics such as Tylenol, NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen, knee bracing, physical therapy, injection therapy including cortisone/steroid injections and viscosupplementation. 

Your physician will likely suggest that you try one or more of these nonsurgical treatments before thinking about knee surgery. Some patients can successfully manage their pain for years with these treatment options. Those who are unsuccessful may end up considering total knee replacement.

“Ideal candidates for total knee replacement are patients older than 65 years of age who are in good health and have knee arthritis pain that interferes with their activities of daily living,” said Dr. Sharpe. “We first make sure they have not responded to nonsurgical treatment options before recommending a knee replacement.”

Untreated knee pain can certainly change your lifestyle and not in a good way. Regardless of your age, lifestyle and level of pain, it is always a good idea to consult a specialist if you are not getting better. Orthopedic surgeons like Dr. Sharpe have the expertise to get you back doing what you love. 

“The most rewarding part of being an orthopedic surgeon is helping patients heal from an injury or resolve their pain, allowing them to regain a normal activity level and good quality of life.”

To learn more about the Orthopedic and Spine Center at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, visit AdventHealthKC.com/orthopedics.