What is the exact cause of knee pain? Although knee pain can be due to injuries from sports, recreational activities, or work, it can also develop over time from normal wear and tear such as osteoarthritis, or having an underlying condition which commonly affects the knees.
Types of knee injuries and conditions:
Knee pain can either be acute or chronic. Acute pain is often associated with sudden injuries and can be caused by direct impact to the knee, or from abnormal twisting or bending. However, many people experience knee injuries from simply doing everyday tasks such as walking, running, or stepping. And since the knee is one of the most used joints in the body, injuries can also occur from overuse. Some common knee injuries include:
- Sprains or strains: Sprains and strains often occur to the ligaments or muscle tendons that connect and support the kneecap (patella).
- Ligament tears: This happens commonly among athletes with their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL). The knee can twist and turn, but with excessive force, these ligaments can often tear painfully.
- Kneecap or knee joint dislocation: The knee joint or kneecap can pop out of place or dislocate. This often happens with stepping wrong or excessive force due to sport-related activities. The more severe dislocations may require surgical intervention.
- Meniscus tears: Due to injury or wear and tear, the rubbery cartilage that cushions the knee joint can tear.
- Fractured kneecap: Fractures to the knee are commonly caused by a fall or abnormally hard impact to the knee.
- Overuse injuries: Overuse injuries are caused by repetitive use of the knee. A common condition is tendonitis, which is inflammation and pain in the tendons surrounding the knee.
- Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease): The most common cause of knee pain and inflammation in the joint of the knee. Cartilage wears down and the bones rub together, causing limited mobility and severe pain.
- Osgood-Schlatter Disease (Common in children 11 to 15): This condition is characterized as inflammation of the area just below the knee where the tendon from the kneecap (patellar tendon) attaches to the shinbone (tibia).
Diagnosing, treating, and caring for your knee pain
Due to the numerous types of injuries or conditions that may be contributing to the cause of your knee pain, it is important that the cause of the pain be properly diagnosed by an orthopedic surgeon. A knee examination will be done to check for injuries, tenderness, and swelling, and test your range of motion and stability of the ligaments. If they feel that there may be an injury to the muscles, tendons, or ligaments of the knee joint, the doctor may order diagnostic imaging such as X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI for further investigation, with the goal of reaching an accurate diagnosis. After your initial diagnosis, the doctor will devise a treatment to get you back to living your life to its fullest.
Treatment of knee pain depends entirely on the cause of the problem. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you understand the cause of your symptoms before starting a treatment program. Knee pain and its symptoms can come on strongly in the blink of an eye. Therefore, if you are unsure of your diagnosis, or the severity of your condition, you should seek medical advice before beginning any treatment plan. Don’t ignore any signs, as early treatment can help avoid further complications. Some signs that you should be seen by a doctor include:
- Inability to walk comfortably on the affected knee
- Injury that causes deformity around the joint
- Knee pain that occurs while resting
- Knee pain that persists beyond a few days (chronic)
- Locking and stiffness, inability to bend the knee
- Swelling of the joint
The health of your knees depends on movement, and the strength of the joint. Strong muscles support the joint and relieve pressure, so that there is no pain. Movement and mobility are important, as it keeps healthy tissues within the joint flexible, lubricated, and enriched with nutrients that help with healing and pain reduction.
Our caring team at Movement Orthopedics can help patients get the treatment that best fits their individual needs. We like to educate our patients about their condition and treatment options, so they can play an active role in their care and treatment process. Non-surgical treatment options available at Movement Orthopedics include rest, ice/heat, stretching, proper footwear, physical therapy, and medication. If you are experiencing knee pain, activity and exercise are so important, especially for those with arthritis. A good treatment and knee care plan in place will help to avoid possible knee surgery, strengthen your knees, and help you maintain your mobility, enabling you to live your life to the fullest.