Knee pain is a common problem that affects individuals of all ages. Knee pain can result from an injury affecting the knee such as a torn cartilage or a ruptured ligament. There are other medical conditions such as gout, infections and arthritis that can be behind the pain. Most of the knee pain cases will respond positively to self-care measures and physical therapy is also effective in the management of the condition. In rare cases, the condition will be managed through surgery.
The knee joint consists of articulation involving 4 bones, the patella, the fibula, tibia and femur. This means that the knee has four compartments. These are the superior tibiofibular joint, the patellofemoral compartment, the medial compartment and the lateral tibiofemoral compartment. The components of these compartments are at risk of suffering from injury, disease and repetitive strain. The main reason why the knee is vulnerable is because it takes a lot of body weight and absorbs great load when a person is jumping or running.
Knee pain is more likely to occur as an individual gets older. Overweight individuals and people who are involved in sporting activities are also likely to experience knee pain. Sports that involve multiple turning such as netball, skiing, football, basketball among others will increase the risk of developing knee pain as a result of injury.
Signs and Symptoms of Knee Pain
The severity and the pain in the knee will differ according to the cause behind the condition. There are signs and symptoms which will accompany knee pains such as the stiffness and the swelling of the knee. Most patients will complain of warmth to the touch, redness, inability of the joint and weakness of the knee. During movement, there might be crunching or popping noises and most people will not have the ability to straighten their knee fully.
There are occurrences that need the affected individual to seek medical attention. When the knee cannot bear the body weight or when there is marked swelling on the knee, it is important to see a doctor. If it has become a difficult affair to straighten the knee fully, there is obvious deformity of the leg or knee, and there is pain, swelling, redness and a fever, or a feeling of the knee giving out or being unstable, the patient should see a medical practitioner for diagnosis and treatment before the condition worsens.
Causes of Knee Pain
Knee pain can be as a result of injury, mechanical issues and some arthritis types.
Knee injuries will affect tendons, ligaments and bursae surrounding the knee joint, the cartilage and the ligaments forming the joint. The most common knee joint injuries are ACL injury which refers to the tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament. This is one of the ligaments connecting the thighbone and the shin bone. This kind of injury is common in people who take part in sports that require sudden direction change such as basket ball, football, soccer among many others.
Knee bursitis is also a common knee injury caused by the inflammation of the bursae found in the knee joint. Patellar tendinitis is an irritation and inflammation of the tendons in the knee joint. This injury mostly affects runners, cyclists, skiers, and people involved in jumping sports. Torn meniscus is another common type of knee injury and is caused by a sudden twist of the knee while bearing force on the knee. This leads to the tearing of the meniscus and can cause great knee pain.
Some of the mechanical problems that are known to cause knee pain include the degeneration process leading to the breakage of the cartilage or bone. The breakage might not cause a problem unless the broken part (loose body) interferes with the movement of the joint. Illiotibial band syndrome is a mechanical problem that occurs when the ligament extending from the pelvic bone to the outer part of the tibia becomes tight such that it starts rubbing against the outer part of the femur. This is common with long distance runners.
Hip or foot pain might lead to a change in walking style and this might put extra stress on the knee leading to knee pain. A dislocated knee cap occurs when the patella slips out of place causing pain.
There are more than 100 types of arthritis but the ones known to cause knee pain include septic arthritis, pseudogout, gout, osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis.
There are a number of factors that have been identified to increase the risk of developing knee problems that lead to knee pain. The following are some of these factors:
Excess weight – Obese or overweight individuals are at a greater risk of developing knee problems based on the amount of weight that is absorbed by the knee joint. This will also increase the chances of osteoarthritis which will breakdown the cartilage found in the knee joint.
Biomechanical problems -People with one shorter leg, a misaligned knee or any other structural abnormalities are prone to knee pain.
Other risk factors include sports that involve putting pressure on the knee joint, previous injury and the lack of flexibility and strength in the surrounding muscles.
Diagnosis of Knee Pain
Diagnosis will involve physical examination where the physician will inspect the knee for pain, tenderness, warmth, swelling and bruising. The patient will be asked to move the lower leg in different direction and there will be a push or a pull of the knee joint for structure integrity evaluation.
In some cases, the doctor will make use of other forms of tests such as computerized tomography scan (CT), X-ray, ultrasound and magnetic resonance MRI. There will be lab tests incase the doctor suspects gout, pseudogout and infection.
Knee Pain Treatment
The treatment of knee pain varies depending on the case of the pain. Medication is mostly prescribed to assist in relieving the pain and in some cases, to treat the underlying condition such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis. Therapy that involves the strengthening of the muscles around the knee will assist in stabilizing the joint. The involved training focuses on the front thigh muscles and the back thigh muscles because they are connected to the knee and provide the needed support.
Injections can be used in the treatment and this will include supplemental lubrication which is a thick fluid injected into the knee joint to enhance mobility and alleviated the pain. Corticosteroid injections into the knee will help in reducing the intensity of the symptoms but might not be effective in all cases.
There are knee pain cases that might require surgery but it is always important to weigh the pros and cons of the surgical procedure. Some of the procedures that might be recommended include arthroscopic surgery, partial knee replacement surgery and total knee replacement where the damaged parts of the joint are removed and replaced with an artificial joint, usually made of polymers and high grade plastic or metal alloys.