Knee pain is a common problem which can have a variety of causes. In some cases, knee pain can be short-lived, but in others it may last for many years. Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatments for knee pain including acupuncture.
Let’s take a look at what causes knee pain and how this natural therapy could help.
What Causes Knee Pain?
There are many different causes of knee pain. Some of these are acute, meaning that they come on suddenly and last a relatively short amount of time. However, some are chronic meaning that they come on more gradually and may last indefinitely.
Some of the most common knee pain causes include:
- Muscle strains and sprains
- Runner’s knee
- Patellar tendinitis (jumper’s knee)
- Arthritis in knee
- Patellar subluxation
Muscle strains and sprains, runner’s knee, and patellar tendonitis are often caused by overuse or injury during exercise. These conditions will often heal by themselves over time.
Bursitis is another self-limiting condition and is caused by inflammation in the fluid-filled sacs that cushion the knee joint.
Arthritis in knees is a result of inflammation affecting these weight-bearing joints. Arthritis is a chronic condition and is likely to require treatment sooner or later. There are many different types of arthritis and the exact treatment will depend on which type is affecting you.
Patellar subluxation is a partial dislocation of the kneecap (patella) and usually occurs as a result of injury. Once this has happened, the ligaments that support the knee can become weakened, making another dislocation highly likely in the future.
These are some of the most common causes of knee pain, but there are also many others. If you have knee pain due to a reason not listed above, acupuncture may still help. Ask your provider for more information.
What Causes Knee Pain in Chinese Medicine?
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), meaning that it views the body in a different way from western medicine. This means that the causes of knee pain are also very different when viewed from a TCM perspective.
Whereas western medicine sees knee pain as a sign of inflammation, TCM sees it as a sign of something called stagnation. Stagnation occurs when the vital substances qi and blood are unable to circulate around the body as they should. This happens when the channels and blood vessels become blocked as a result of injury or overuse.
Stagnation can happen anywhere in the body, but it is more likely to affect joints such as knees. This is partly because they are being constantly used and put under pressure, but also because the anatomy of a joint is so complex, making it easier for qi and blood to get stuck.
Another common cause of knee pain in TCM is an imbalance in the Kidneys. The Kidney channel runs through the knees, and chronic knee pain or weakness may be a result of problems here. Whereas problems like patellar tendonitis and runner’s knee are more likely a result of stagnation, conditions such as arthritis could be due to stagnation and/or Kidney issues.
Knee Pain Treatment
The most common knee pain treatments include medication such as anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers. These can be useful in the short-term, but if you have a chronic condition such as arthritis, you will need to take these medications daily. This increases the risk of side effects, and so many people with knee pain prefer to seek out natural alternatives.
Manual therapies such as physical therapy, osteopathy, and massage can all be helpful for knee pain. Some people also find some relief from herbal remedies and supplements. Acupuncture is another effective knee pain treatment, with the advantage of having been tried and tested over the course of many years.
In severe cases, surgery may be necessary for knee pain although this is usually a last resort. Acupuncture may also be useful following knee surgery to help reduce inflammation and speed up the healing process.
How Does Acu Help Knee Pain?
Acupuncture for knee pain works in several ways. From a TCM viewpoint, the needles used in acupuncture help to remove stagnation and restore the circulation of qi and blood around the body. If you have chronic knee pain due to a Kidney imbalance, acupuncture can also help to strengthen these organs and resolve any imbalances.
From a western medicine point of view, acupuncture for knee pain has the following benefits:
- Reducing inflammation
- Influencing the nervous system to relieve pain
- Improving circulation
- Relaxing local muscles
- Triggering endorphin release (endorphins are painkilling chemicals produced naturally by your body)
Acupuncture can also be combined with herbal medicine or massage for knee pain, as well as being safe to use with medication such as painkillers. So, whether you have knee pain that is acute or chronic, there is a good chance that acupuncture could help.
Tips for Preventing and Managing Knee Pain
Some forms of knee pain can be prevented by using the right equipment and techniques when playing sports. Problems such as runner’s knee, patellar tendonitis, and patellar subluxation are all much less likely to happen if you take extra care. Always warm up sufficiently, and stretch both before and after exercise. If you start to experience knee pain during any activity, stop and rest or you could make the problem worse.
If you do get injured during exercise, you can reduce inflammation by resting, applying ice packs, and keeping your painful knee raised whenever you sit down. Ice packs and heat packs are another way to help knee pain in general. Experiment with hot and cold to see which one works for you.
Another way to prevent or manage knee pain naturally is by maintaining a healthy weight. This is especially true for problems like arthritis which is worsened by increased pressure on the joints. The best way to keep your weight under control is through a combination of diet and exercise. Choose low-impact activities which won’t stress the knees, for example, walking, swimming, or yoga.
You can also try eating an anti-inflammatory diet to reduce knee pain. These diets are rich in fresh fruit and veg, whole grains, healthy fats, and protein, while being low in processed foods, sugar, and trans fats. The Mediterranean diet and DASH diets are both good examples of anti-inflammatory diets. Adding more anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric to your cooking may also help.