How to Self Assess and Manage your Knee Pain

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What can I do for my knee pain


Summer outdoor fun can often lead to the occasional aches and pains. Not every pain is worrisome and in non pandemic times you probably knew how to change your exercise routine to manage the occasional pain. But with gyms just starting to re-open and apprehension about in person classes, we’re getting a lot of questions asking about how to self manage knee pain.  From self diagnosing to icing and bracing, read on to learn more about how to manage your knee pain.


What caused your knee pain?

Your injury may have been traumatic with a memorable impact during a sport, training or awkward stumble. 

If you don’t recall an injury or painful event, then you may be experiencing a referral of symptoms from another area such as your ankle, hip or back. Weakness or stiffness of these areas may be overloading your knee. 


What does your pain feel like

Pain that feels like an ache is often being caused by muscle pain. Burning or stinging may be due to swelling or a nerve related symptom. Sharp and catching symptoms are often associated with injuries to structures within your knee. If your knee is locked, physically stuck either bent or straight, it can indicate that something is jamming the joint which could be cartilage fragments or a torn meniscus.


Where does your knee hurt?

The location of your pain will often give a good indication of what your  problem is. Joint pain can often refer down to the inner or outer calf. Local inner or outer knee pain that is the result of a trauma can be either your medial or lateral collateral ligament respectively. Pain at the front of the knee can be knee cap pain, the patellar tendon or an IT band pain.


What bothers your knee pain.

Knee cap pain often hurts when kneeling or sitting with your knees bent and feels better to sit with the knee straight. It can also be bothered with squatting or on stairs. 

Localized front knee pain below your kneecap is often the patellar tendon or a small inflamed fat pad and may have been related to ramping up your activity or training too quickly.

Pain from swelling, arthritis and meniscus often hurts with putting weight on your knee or pivoting on your knee.


Is your knee swollen?

Swelling will often be seen or felt as a bump in the back of the knee and with filling in of the dimples at the front of your knee.

Hot swelling will often indicate that you’ve injured something with a rich blood supply. The faster the swelling the more richly vascularized the tissue. That’s why an ACL injury or fracture will instantly swell but a meniscus injury may not bother you immediately. 

If your knee feels swollen but but doesn’t look swollen and if your knee isn’t warm you may be feeling mild generalized swelling for knee arthritis. 



Were you able to continue your activity?

When severe ligament or structural injuries have occurred, your symptoms will come on quickly and you shouldn’t have been unable to continue your activity. These include traumatic meniscal injuries, ligament injuries (MCL, LCL or ACL).



Have you had any change in your medical history or activity level in the past few months?

Your knee is a joint that does well with controlling bending forces. Problems tend to arise when it isn’t getting help from other areas that control twisting. This can include your foot or ankle, hip or back. Imbalanced exercise routines, previous pains in these areas or a more sedentary period of time can contribute to pain at the knee where no injury is recalled.

Some medications such as antibiotics can have the potential side effect of tendon pain or rupture.



What can I do for My Knee Pain?

If you have a swollen acutely painful joint then resting from the aggravating injury and icing are the first steps. Cross training with a non weight bearing exercise like swimming or cycling can help you maintain your conditioning.


What brace can I use for my knee pain.

If a traumatic ligament injury occurred, a knee joint brace with “stays” on the inner and outer part that control your medial and lateral mobility will help to reduce your pain.

Pain with running that comes on gradually and is above or below the outer knee can often be managed in the short term with an IT band strap that is applied above the area of pain.

A patellar tracking brace can help with your kneecap pain.  However, compression of the brace on your knee cap may cause an increase in pain so make sure that the brace feels like it’s helping.

A patellar tendon brace can often help to reduce the pain you’re having from a painful patellar tendon. 

Arthritic knee pain will often feel better with a general compression type of brace. These braces won’t give you support but help to retain heat and can help with mild symptoms. 

If your arthritic pain isn’t being helped with this type, braces that can decompress the painful area of your knee are the next step.  These “offloading” braces come in different models and price ranges depending on your need.  If you need help with one of these options, our team of physiotherapists can measure you and guide you towards the best bracing option for you.


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The physiotherapists at Family Physiotherapy have been providing high quality assessment and treatment techniques using safe and evidence based techniques to the residents of Thornhill, Markham, Richmond Hill, Woodbridge, Vaughan and Toronto. Our therapists are continually upgrading their skills and take the time to provide you with the one on one care necessary to quickly get you back to the activities you love doing.  Comprehensive assessment and treatment techniques are always one on one without the use of assistants or double booking patients to make sure that you achieve your functional and sports goals as soon as possible.  Our therapists would be happy to help you to achieve your goals, contact the clinic to schedule a consultation to get you back on track.  Don’t let pain ruin your day!


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