Knee pain originates from the knee joint or the soft tissues around the knee joint. Many factors contribute to knee pain, such as excessive physical activity, sprains, strains, sitting in one place, or a similar position for a prolonged period. Old age can also cause knee pain due to wear and tear of the knee joint.
Knee pain is the second most cause of chronic pain. A study in the US shows knee pain affects around 15% to 20% of men. And the overall prevalence of knee pain is more in women than men, with a figure of nearly 20%. The incidence increases with age steadily in both men and women. However, in adolescents and children, it is approximately 18% and 4%, respectively.
About Knee Pain
Knee pain is the most common musculoskeletal condition in people today. The knee joints have several functions, including bearing our body’s entire weight and helping the body to bend and straighten up.
Knee pain can affect the movement of the whole body if not treated or controlled in time. Many debilitating symptoms can lead to knee pain. Arthritis, mechanical problems, and injuries are some of the common causes of knee pain. However, you can manage the knee pain symptoms, and many treatment options are available.
What are the Symptoms of Knee Pain?
Some of the symptoms of knee pain include:
- Pain and stiffness
- Swelling and redness
- Warmth on touch
- Instability and inability to straighten the knees
- Crunching noises while moving the knee joints
When to See a Doctor?
You should immediately seek medical attention when you notice the following symptoms of knee pain:
- If you feel your knees cannot bear your body weight and are unstable
- If there is excessive knee swelling
- If you cannot bend or stretch your knees completely
- If you notice a sudden onset of fever accompanied by pain, redness, and swelling in the knees
- If you have a knee injury accompanied by severe pain
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What are the Causes of Knee Pain?
It is crucial to identify the underlying cause of knee pain to treat it correctly. Here we have rounded up some of the common causes of knee pain.
Several factors can contribute to knee pain, such as injury, arthritis, or many others, as discussed below. To diagnose the cause of your knee pain, your doctor may advise tests, such as X-Ray, CT scan, MRI, and ultrasound.
- Injuries. Your ligaments (tissues joining bones to bones), fluid-filled sacs (bursae), or the tendons around the knees can be affected by an injury. A knee injury can also affect the bones, ligaments, and cartilage of the knee joint itself. Knee injuries can be of different types:
- Ligament injuries. An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a tissue connecting the shinbone and the thigh bone. ACL injuries are mostly caused by playing sports such as football, basketball, or tennis. An ACL injury causes the knees to swell up and cause discomfort. Less frequently than the ACL, the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) might also get injured and result in knee pain.
- Torn meniscus. Sometimes, a knee injury causes the cartilage to rip and get stuck in the knee joints, which causes excessive pain and swelling in the knee.
- Fractures. A knee fracture is when the patella or the kneecap (the front bone of the knee) gets injured. Knee fractures can be in the form of a small crack or total shattering of the patella.
- Patellar tendinitis. Patellar tendinitis affects the tendons, which are tissues that connect the muscles and the bones. Patellar tendinitis is also known as jumper’s knee because it is mostly caused by excessive jumping or exercise. It causes the tendons to become inflamed.
- Knee bursitis. Bursitis occurs when the bursa (a fluid-filled sac above the knee joint) is irritated because of excessive kneeling, falls, or overuse of the knee. Bursitis causes pain and swelling of the knees.
- Mechanical Problems. Mechanical problems that can cause knee pain have been discussed below:
- Dislocated kneecap. This condition is caused when the patella is dislocated outside of the knee.
- Hip/foot Pain. Hip or foot pain causes you to change how you walk or sit to avoid the pain areas; this puts pressure on the knee joints and can cause pain.
- Loose body. Sometimes a piece of bone or cartilage may dislocate and float in the gap in between joints. The condition will cause pain and swelling if the loose pieces interfere with knee movement.
- Iliotibial Band Syndrome. Iliotibial band syndrome occurs when the tissues connecting the outer thigh and knee get injured because of overuse; this is mostly caused by excessive running.
- Arthritis. Although there are more than 100 types of arthritis, the more common ones are discussed below:
- Osteoarthritis. Also known as degenerative arthritis is a very common condition. The condition arises when the cartilage of your knees degenerates with age and overuse.
- Gout. Gout usually occurs when the knee joints are affected by uric acid. Gout most commonly occurs in the big toe but can also affect the knee joints.
- Pseudogout. In pseudogout, calcium crystals accumulate in the knee joints instead of uric acid crystals. It is often mistaken for gout because the symptoms are common.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease and can affect any joint, including the knees. It is an autoimmune disease.
- Septic arthritis. Septic arthritis occurs when the knee joints become infected, causing joint pain, swelling, and redness. Septic arthritis can adversely affect knee cartilage.
What are the Risk factors for Knee Pain?
The following are some of the risk factors for knee pain:
- If you are overweight, your body puts extra pressure on the knees while walking or doing other day-to-day activities. Excess weight increases the risk of cartilage damage.
- Weak and damaged muscles can increase the occurrence of knee injuries.
- Some sports such as skiing, basketball, running, or jogging can increase knee injuries.
- If you have an already injured knee, it increases the chances of a further injury.
What are the Complications of Knee Pain?
Knee pain from osteoarthritis can lead to increased pain, joint and bone damage, and disability if not treated in time. Moreover, if you have an existing knee injury, it might increase the chances of injury in the future.
What are the Treatment Options for Knee Pain?
The treatment of knee pain depends upon the cause and severity of your knee pain.
- Medicines. The doctor prescribes medications to relieve pain or treat the root cause of the knee pain.
- Physical therapy. Exercises and physical therapy to strengthen the muscles can go a long way in effectively treating knee pain.
- Injections. Corticosteroid injections in the knee joints can reduce arthritis pain. Hyaluronic acid injections can improve knee mobility and relieve knee pain. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections can mitigate and help treat knee pain.
- Surgery. If your knee injury requires surgery, consider discussing it with your doctor. Knee surgery includes arthroscopic surgery, partial knee replacement surgery, and total knee replacement.
What are the Preventive Measures for Knee Pain?
Some preventive measures can help you prevent or control knee pain if not avoid it. You may also prevent further injuries by following the given suggestions:
- You should maintain a balanced weight to avoid putting pressure on the knees.
- To avoid knee injuries while participating in sports, you should condition your body. You can take the help of the trainers to avoid any severe injuries.
- It will help if you work on strengthening muscle because weak muscles lead to further knee strain. Therefore, you should work on stretching your body and increasing body flexibility.
- If you are a patient with osteoarthritis, you should opt for swimming or water aerobics instead of running and jogging. High-impact exercises can further increase knee pain.
Knee pain can hamper your daily activities if not diagnosed and controlled on time. Apart from medicines, therapy, injections, and surgery, you can opt for home remedies. It is essential to take rest to heal knee pain. You can opt for ice therapy or heat therapy for temporary relief from knee pain. You can also use a compression bandage for knee support. Lifestyle change and maintaining a healthy weight can help you a lot in controlling knee pain.