Knee Pain at Work

Work Related Knee Pain

The knee is a fairly exposed structure that must withstand many loads and forces through a typical day. Work related knee pain can come in many forms from trauma to tissue like the ligaments, cartilage, local soft tissues or through systemic changes from various forms of arthritis / inflammatory reactions. Knee pain may simply develop due to very gradual repetitive postures and activities at home or at work that lead to increased sensitivity of tissue or due to long-term biomechanical issues (angles of movement and subsequent changes of forces on tissue). 

It is important to see if you can spot any patterns in when your knee flares up and let your GP know and inform your line manager as they may be able to help and temporarily adjust your duties at work or hours and refer you on to the occupational health department for an assessment and support. 

While Knee pain is rarely due to anything serious, you should attend A&E urgently if: 

  • Pain is the result of a recent substantial trauma. 
  • You are unable to move your knee / leg due to pain and / or extreme weakness. 
  • There is a new significant change in the knee’s colour, significant swelling, heat and redness. 

What causes Knee Pain?

Knee pain can occur following physical trauma (such as a sporting injury, a fall or accident at work), however, the likelihood of developing symptoms and the severity of symptoms depends on a combination of factors including;  

  • Repeated or excessive stresses beyond your knee’s coping abilities – such as through increasing distance and frequency of sporting exercise, repeated poor manual handling techniques at home or work, poor work habits such as not rotating tasks where possible or not taking regular breaks from static loading positions.  
  • Individual factors – being female, increasing age and pregnancy all increase the likelihood of developing pain.  
  • Physical wellbeing factors – smoking, obesity and poor general fitness all increase the likelihood of developing pain and the length of time it takes to recover.  
  • Psychological wellbeing factors – stress, depression and anxiety all increase the likelihood of developing pain and even increase the severity of pain and the length of time it takes to recover as does fear of movement, activity and work.  

How can I help myself?

The majority of work related knee pain cases can be self-managed or treated conservatively with physiotherapy treatment and advice, however, your attitude and the actions you take are the most important factors in preventing long-term problems. The most effective way to manage symptoms of knee pain are to;  

  • Avoid overly prolonged static standing postures and keep mobile and active, find time to sit for short periods where able. Low impact exercise such as yoga, Pilates and swimming or short walks can be a good starting point. Try and keep the knee moving by bending and straightening it on the bed a few times a day. 
  • Talk to your GP or pharmacist about what pain relief may be right for you. If your pain is controlled, you will be able to maintain more movement.  
  • Apply gentle heat (if not red and inflamed) to reduce pain or ice (wrapped in a damp towel) to numb the region and try and reduce any excessive swelling if present.  
  • Ensure you are following all manual handling techniques correctly at home and work – keep the load close to your waist, use your legs to lift, lower or push loads as these are the most powerful muscles in the body, and work within your capability.  
  • Report any symptoms you think may be work-related. Firstly, you may have a lawful duty to report your injury. Secondly, by informing your employers they are then able to make any necessary adjustments to your workplace or working practices, either temporarily for yourself on an individual basis, or permanently for the team to improve overall workplace wellbeing. Also, in reporting it to your line manager, they may be able to refer you for physiotherapy support at work or externally.  
  • If work can adapt your tasks and/ or hours, if needed, then try and keep at work and keep active.  

How can physiotherapy help?

At Physiotherapy Matters, our physiotherapists can conduct a thorough assessment to confirm a diagnosis and work with you to help you manage your symptoms and return to normal activity by:  

  • Helping you understand your condition. 
  • Helping identify the factors that may have contributed to your symptoms and provide advice on how to minimise these, including manual handling or safe DSE use.  
  • Developing symptom management strategies so you always feel in control. 
  • Completing ergonomic workplace assessments to minimise any work-related risk.  
  • Providing an individualised exercise program to improve mobility and strength to address symptoms but also to prevent future episodes, including work-hardening.  
  • Providing additional manual therapies that may help ease symptoms, such as:  
  • Taping to provide postural support  
  • Soft tissue massage to reduce any muscular tension in the surrounding muscles 
  • Mobilisation of the lower and upper back to reduce stiffness 
  • Acupuncture to reduce work related knee pain 

Contact us today

No matter whether your condition was caused by a sport, work accident or otherwise, we welcome the chance to serve you.

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