Knee pain is a problem that anybody can face regardless of age. But sometimes, age can be the sole reason behind the pain. However, it can also develop because of an injury like a cartilage tear or a ligament rupture. Some serious ailments like arthritis, infections, and gout can also be knee pain causes. We’ll be learning about knee pain in detail, so let’s get started.
The first and foremost thing that plays a vital role behind diagnosis is to look keenly at the symptoms. It is because the degree of severity and location might vary from person to person. Reading the signs will help in knowing the cause of the knee pain. Some common knee pain symptoms are:
- Redness and warmth around the area
- Instability or weakness
- Unusual noise like popping or crunching from inside
- Finding it impossible or difficult to straighten the knee
However, some severe symptoms might require a doctor’s intervention. Such symptoms are:
- Unable to take weight on the knee or feel knee instability that your knee might come out
- You can see a deformity in your knee
- Apart from redness, swelling, and pain, you get fever too
- Severe knee joint pain due to an injury.
Causes behind Knee Pain
There can be different causes behind knee pain like a knee injury, arthritis in the knee, mechanical problems, and other problems. Let’s cover the injury part first:
1. Varied Injuries
An injury can affect any part surrounding the knee, like tendons, ligaments, or bursae (fluid-filled sacs). It can also affect the ligaments, cartilage, and bones forming the knee joint. Some common knee injuries are:
- Fractures: During a fall or any kind of accident, the knee bone, which is called the kneecap or patella, might break, and this is called a fracture. People suffering from weak bones due to osteoporosis can develop a fracture by even stepping wrong.
- ACL injury: ACL or anterior cruciate ligaments are the four ligaments that connect your thigh bone and shin bone. Any tear in these knee ligaments is termed an ACL injury. It mostly happens to people who play sports in which there is a sudden change of direction like basketball, football, badminton, etc.
- Bursitis Knee: Bursa is a sac that contains fluid and lies over the knee joint and below your skin. It prevents friction during joint movement. Repeated bending, falling, excessive use, and kneeling might irritate this sac and cause pain and swelling. It is also known as the preacher’s knee.
- Meniscal tear: There is robust and rubbery cartilage between your thigh and shin bone, called the meniscus. It acts as a shock absorber. There are chances of a meniscus tear if you suddenly twist your knee while carrying a weight on it.
- Patellar tendinitis: Tendons are thick and fibrous tissues that connect muscles and bones. Any inflammation or irritation of the tendons is termed patellar tendinitis. This particular tendon aids in running, kicking, and jumping. Such injuries can happen to cyclists, runners, skiers, and people who do jumping sports or activities.
There are 100 types of arthritis, but we will be discussing knee arthritis here:
- Rheumatoid arthritis: It is an autoimmune condition that affects multiple joints in your body, and the knee is one such joint that gets affected by it. However, the severity varies from patient to patient; sometimes, it might go and later flare up again.
- Osteoarthritis: One of the most commonly found forms of arthritis is degenerative arthritis. The wear-and-tear situation of your knee cartilage degenerates with usage and age. Thus, this type of arthritis in the knee can be problematic.
- Gout: In this type, the uric acid crystals start accumulating on the joint. It usually affects the big toe, but in rare cases, it can also happen in the knee.
- Pseudo Gout: Generally confused with gout, this arthritis type involves calcium crystal accumulation in the joint fluid.
- Septic arthritis: Infection in the knee joint can cause knee pain, swelling, and redness. You might also experience fever with it. It is possible that septic arthritis can quickly damage your knee cartilage. If you have similar symptoms, consult your doctor immediately.
3. Mechanical Issues
Following mechanical issues might lead to knee pain:
- Kneecap dislocation: The triangular bone covering the knee front (patella) is your kneecap, which might get displaced and cause pain. Sometimes you can see the dislocation as well.
- Loose body: Often, due to bone or cartilage degeneration, a bone or cartilage piece might break and keep floating in the joint space. It can usually be non-problematic, and the problem can start only if the broken piece hinders the knee joint movement.
- Iliotibial band syndrome: There is a tough tissue band that extends from the outer part of your hip to the outer part of your knee and is known as the iliotibial band. Sometimes this band can become tight and starts rubbing against the outside of your thighbone. It can cause pain and is common in cyclists and distance runners.
- Foot or hip pain: If you experience pain in your foot or hip, you might walk consciously to avoid pain in that joint. It can put extra stress on your knee and cause pain.
Who is at Risk?
Sometimes the pain source might be between your kneecap and the thighbone. It is termed Patellofemoral pain syndrome. This condition can happen in athletes; people whose kneecap doesn’t fit properly in the grove; young adults, and seniors who generally develop kneecap arthritis with age.
The following factors increase your chance of having knee issues:
- Being overweight: Obesity or being overweight puts excessive stress on your knee in every day-to-day activity. By a certain age, you might develop osteoarthritis due to rapid joint degeneration.
- Particular sport or job: Sports like alpine skiing and basketball might put extra stress on your knees. Also, jobs like construction and farming increase your risk of knee problems.
- Lack of muscle strength or flexibility: It is essential to train your body to keep joint health intact. You cannot build flexibility in a day, and you’ll be prone to injuries if you are not exercising or are inflexible. Strong muscles will always help in stabilising and protecting your joints. At the same time, muscle flexibility will improve your range of motion.
- Old or previous injury: Knee damage in the past increases your chance of developing another injury.
Steps to Prevent Knee Ailments
Sometimes the situation might go out of hand. However, here are some suggestions that might help in protecting your knee joint:
- Warm-up: Make it a habit to always prepare your body for at least 5 minutes before playing any sport or gym. It will help prevent injuries overall, and warm-up exercises are essential.
- Maintaining a healthy weight: Believe it or not, obesity or being overweight is a disease leading to many other bodily complications. Being fit and healthy relieves a lot of stress from your knees.
- Practice correctly or appropriately: Do not just start copying complicated exercises by watching random videos online, especially in the gym. If you start strength training, it is always advised to keep a trainer during the initial months, and it is because perfect posture is necessary to perform any form of exercise.
- Be flexible and stay strong: Not only the knee, the primary cause usually remains weak muscles for any kind of injury. It is an excellent practice to develop your hamstrings and quadriceps (muscles on the front and back of the thighs) because they support the knee joint. Doing stability and balancing exercises will help the muscles around your knee function together efficiently. Do not forget to stretch after you exercise.
- Be mindful: Lastly, the most crucial advice is to be mindful while exercising. Do not overstress to see the results fast. Your body will not improve overnight, and it takes time. Let your body take time. If you are already suffering from joint conditions, plan your exercise accordingly. If possible, take the help of a physiotherapist in the initial days. Switch to activities like swimming and water aerobics.
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Knee pain does not stay forever, and it might go away with proper and timely consultation. However, some conditions like arthritis do not have a complete cure. But treatment helps in these cases, and this prompt action to your body’s call is vital. Lastly, exercise for at least 45 minutes daily to stay active and healthy.
Not all injuries are worrisome. You can apply the RICE technique (R stands for rest, I for ice, C for compression, and E for elevation) for minor injuries or an arthritis attack. Take rest, apply ice to reduce inflammation and swelling, wear a crepe bandage for the knee or compressive dressing, and keep the knee elevated.
You should avoid food and beverages that might aggravate the situation like junk food, anything cold, alcohol, and red meat. A balanced diet can work wonders and maintain a healthy weight. Also, do not over-exercise.
Some food items known to relieve joint pain are Fish oils or omega-3 fatty acids, nuts, seeds, brassica veggies, colourful fruits, olive oil, lentils, beans, garlic, root veggies, whole grains, bone broth, and dark chocolate.
A knee replacement occurs when your knee joint is damaged or has worn out completely. It is judged by factors like your mobility going down to nil, and you do not find relief in pain even after resting a lot. The most common reasons behind this total knee replacement surgery are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
You can cure knee pain due to minor injuries or issues for sure. But knee pain due to arthritis stays. There is no permanent cure for arthritis in the knee. However, treatment subsides or relieves arthritis symptoms, and medicines can delay the disease course.