Traveling down the road, isn’t it great to enjoy the view through the windows of your rig? Your elevated position displays great distances of countryside and roadways, unobstructed by four-wheelers. Unfortunately, this excellent view may come at a cost. Climbing into your rig and jumping down many times each workday can take a toll on your knees, especially when landing on pavement or a concrete pad.
Many people jump out of their trucks for years without knee pain, but a number of factors may increase your risk of injury, such as: carrying excess weight, causing everyday activities to automatically stress your knees and accelerate the breakdown of cartilage within the joint; weak or inflexible leg muscles that don’t support the joint enough to help absorb the shock created during impact; weakened tendons and ligaments from repeated turning, twisting, and pounding.
The three most common sources of knee pain are issues with the knee joint itself, or with the soft tissue that surrounds your knee, including: tendons (bands connecting muscle to bone); issues with the ligaments (bands connecting bone to bone); or, issues with the bursae (synovial fluid sac cushioning between bone and the tendons and/or muscles around a joint). These issues are primarily caused by injury, mechanical problems, and/or underlying chronic medical conditions.
Injuries include fractures, dislocations, torn collateral ligaments, and/or torn meniscus (rubbery cartilage shock-absorber between shin- and thigh-bone). Mechanical problems could consist of a dislocated kneecap, a fragment of bone or cartilage wedged in the hinge of the joint, or a strain from adopting an improper gait to compensate for a hip or back injury when walking.
Some chronic medical conditions causing knee pain include ACL, avascular necrosis (bone death due to impaired blood supply), gout, bursitis, lupus, tendonitis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteomyelitis (bone infection), septic arthritis (joint infection), and/or patellar (kneecap) tendonitis.
Although most knee pain is not caused by a serious medical concern, the pain becomes serious when it interferes with regular work/life activities. If it slowly appeared, or flared up after an unusual strenuous activity, it shouldn’t require immediate medical care. You should be able to manage this pain within a day or two on your own.
After an injury, begin the healing process by reducing/avoiding pain-causing activities. When exiting your rig, lower yourself using the grab handle instead of jumping to the ground. Snuggly wear a flexible knee brace or elastic bandage, while maintaining circulation, to support the affected knee until the pain subsides.
Ice the painful area for 15-20 minutes a few times a day. (Carry a sealable plastic bag to make temporary ice packs using ice dispensers in the soft-drink area of fast food restaurants and truck stops). In between loads, elevate your leg.
To relieve swelling, pain and inflammation, take over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, etc.) and naproxen sodium (Aleve).
Since these medications may upset your stomach, take them with a glass of water. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is recommended if you are 50 years of age or older, or if you have kidney trouble or high blood pressure. Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements may also reduce osteoarthritis pain.
However, if your knee pain was triggered by a forceful impact, consider contacting your doctor, especially if your knee becomes swollen, red, tender, warm around the joint, and extremely painful, if you can’t sleep or work, and/or if you develop a fever.
Seek immediate medical attention if you heard a popping/cracking sound, particularly if the joint: appears deformed; cannot support your weight; does not fully extend or flex; becomes extremely painful; swells suddenly; and/or shows bruising.
Over the long-term, maintaining the health, strength, and stability of your knee will help avoid issues. Maintain a healthy weight, include a variety of muscle- and bone-building foods in your diet, and regularly engage in leg-strengthening exercises like walking, bicycling and swimming. Don’t become weak in the knees.
Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant, and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.