I have been treating a man recently who suffers with wear and tear in his knee, after a number of football injuries when he was younger. Since Christmas he has decided to take up jogging but two weeks ago came to see me with a dodgy knee. I presumed it would be his bad one but unfortunately this time his 'good one' had given up on him!
In his case, the cartilage in the knee (otherwise known as 'menisci') has started to wear and break down. This is by far the most common knee problem I see and is the precursor to osteoarthritis. His knee was swollen and painful and he couldn't fully straightening or flex his knee, occasionally it would lock. We've had two treatments so far and the symptoms are improving. Lots of deep massage into all the muscles surrounding the knee, ensuring that the hip, ankle etc are working as well as they can be, sports taping and home exercise. This hopefully will continue to settle down but this type of injury can be irritated again and looking after his knee will now be important.
So how can you look after your knees?
1. Look at how/if you are exercising - movement is key, the knees generally prefer to move and lack of movement increases the stiffness and pain around them. If you are doing lots of high impact exercise (like running, racket sports etc) it might be best to swap in some of your sessions for something a little less demanding on the knees (like swimming or gentle cycling) - at least until the inflammation settles. Having someone look at and potentially adjust your technique may help as well (I could write a whole post on running technique and knees but that's for another day!).
2. Footwear - sadly, the more sensible the footwear the better. If you're knees aren't happy then they won't thank you for high heels or flip flops. A supportive, enclosed shoe is always best. If the foot is in a good position, this will follow on up through the knee.
3. Look after the muscles around the knee - the knee is effectively two bones balancing on top of each other and so relies a lot on the surrounding muscles and ligaments for support. Keep the hamstrings flexible with stretching and the quads strong. A good starting point if you do suffer with knee troubles is to place a rolled towel (or foam roller if you have one) under the knee and then contract the quads to straighten the leg. The calf is also important to keep strong yet flexible - standing on the balls of your feet on the edge of a step, raise up onto your toes and then let the heels drop down to stretch.
4. Diet and supplements - as with any joint, carrying a few extra pounds can worsen the problem, but this in particular applies to the knees. Anti-inflammatory supplements/foods such as turmeric can be great during a flare up, but generally making sure you are well hydrated and eating well will go a long way. Bone broth is a favourite of mine for getting collagen (gelatine) into the the diet which can help keep cartilage healthy. Try this one https://wellnessmama.com/5888/how-to-make-bone-broth/
5.If you do have a flare up try to keep moving as much as possible, within the limits of your pain. Rest the knee at a slightly flexed angle e.g: at night in bed prop a pillow under the knee so it can't lock out straight. Ice is beneficial in helping with the swelling (15-20 mins every 3-4hours for the first few days) and you may consider some anti-inflammatory gel/capsule for short term use.