Recent Comments

    Acute Knee Pain

    By Cinder Ernst–

    In the last few columns we’ve looked at muscle pain that comes from working out and “pop up pain” that comes and goes easily. Today you’ll discover a few good ideas to have in case you hurt yourself with an acute injury. I’m going to focus on knee pain as it’s quite common and I’m really good at helping with knees. Most of the techniques work for any acute injury.

    According to The Cleveland Clinic, acute pain comes on suddenly and is caused by something specific. It is sharp in quality and usually doesn’t last longer than six months. Acute knee pain is often caused by a sports injury, a trip or misstep, or some other accident.

    My right knee has taken a beating through the years. Most recently, I was simply bending down to get my boxing gloves out of my bag when I heard a “sound” and felt a sharp knee pain that brought tears to my eyes. I knew I did something. Next, I made a dumb mistake. I let my desire to box override my common sense. I proceeded with my workout. Even though I was careful, as I caught my partner’s left hook, I felt my knee “go” again.

    Here’s what I should have done: RICE. This memorable acronym stands for Rest Ice Compression Elevation. Rest is first on the list. Stop what you are doing and rest. Injuries can teach you to be a good partner to your body. Pause, take a breath, quiet your mind and listen to your body.

    You may have to take a break from certain activities for a period of time. Active rest is a concept where you stay active, but rest the injured body part. Active rest for me after that boxing injury was to ride a stationary bike and not box for a while. I also did some upper body weight lifting. For some of us who love our sports, rest feels like punishment. Active rest can take the edge off. Active rest also promotes healing by increasing overall well-being, physically and mentally.

    The next step in RICE is ice. Icing an acute injury can slow down inflammation and swelling. Ice can also soothe the pain itself by numbing the area. With knee pain, I ice at the drop of a hat. I keep a bag of frozen peas in a Ziploc bag as my go-to ice pack. I also keep an old ACE bandage handy to make icing easier and more convenient. I use the ACE bandage to keep the ice pack in place on my knee; in this way, I can move around and still take care of myself.

    The recommendation is to keep the ice on the affected area for 15 or 20 minutes at a time. If you are off your feet, then icing every hour is good. If you are up and around, then icing a few times a day is good. For a hand or foot injury, sometimes soaking in ice cold water is more effective than an ice pack. Make friends with your ice pack.

    Compression is the C in RICE. Compression is tricky, because you use it to slow swelling, yet you don’t want to cut off circulation. I don’t recommend that you use compression without receiving help from your doctor or health professional. If you are going to use compression, start with a loose wrapping and keep an eye on the area.

    Elevation is the last step in RICE. The purpose of elevating is to slow or reduce swelling. The injured part ideally needs to be above your heart. With a knee injury, you want to elevate, so that your foot stays even or above your knee. Another way of saying this is not to let your foot hang down. Pile lots of pillows under your knee, lower leg and foot. You can do the same with an injured ankle.

    In conclusion: the quicker you rest and ice, the better.

    Cinder Ernst, Medical Exercise Specialist and Life Coach Extraordinaire, helps reluctant exercisers get moving with safe, effective and fun programs. Find out more at