At some point or another, everyone experiences some kind of pain in the knee. Whether you overdid it during a basketball game, have been running more than usual or even just bumped your knee on a piece of furniture, knee pain is very common. But while a knee injury for some only results in taking it easy for a few days, for others what starts as a minor pain in the knee can develop into a persistent and chronic problem. If you’ve been dealing with knee joint pain that has lasted for longer than a short period of time, it may be time to seek out professional help.
Whether you have been diagnosed with a knee injury or you are just looking into potential causes of pain, learning as much as possible can be of benefit as you work to develop an effective treatment plan. That’s why we put together this helpful overview of the major causes of pain in your knee, as well as the most effective treatment options to pursue — from physical therapy to knee replacement.
The caring staff at Outpatient Joint Replacement Center of America (OJRCA) is always ready to assist with any questions you have. Please feel free to reach out at any time.
Pain in the Knee Caused by Knee Injury
There are many different ways that a knee injury can develop in the knee joint. When you think about the tremendous stress we place on these joints as we perform activities, including running and jumping, it’s easy to understand why so many people suffer from knee pain. In addition to the bones that make up the knee joint, there is also a very large variety of muscles, tendons and ligaments, that can develop any number of injuries. Some of the most common knee injuries include:
- Ligament sprains and tears
- Muscle and tendon strains and tears
- Bursitis, which is inflammation of the bursae that allow different body parts to glide against one another
- Chondromalacia, which is caused by damaged knee cartilage
These injuries can be caused by trauma, such as a sudden impact, or overuse, which is caused by repetitive stressful motions. Athletes and people who work physical jobs are particularly prone to developing knee pain although it can happen to anyone.
Pain in the Knee Caused By Natural Degeneration of the Knee Joint and Arthritis
Another major cause of knee pain, particularly knee joint damage, is age-related degeneration. Basically over time, the protective cartilage and other soft tissue in the knee joint begins to wear down, resulting in increased bone on bone contact. This in turn causes inflammation that is commonly known as arthritis, or osteoarthritis to refer to natural “wear and tear” arthritis.
Other types of knee arthritis can include rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack healthy cells, and post-traumatic arthritis, a form of the disease caused by long-term effects of injuries.
Any type of knee arthritis can cause stiffness, aches, cracking and popping sensations as well as the development of bone spurs. These are bony growths that can further restrict movement and cause pain by compressing nerves and other soft tissue in the knee. Over the long-term arthritis can also result in progressive joint damage that can lead to the need for knee replacement surgery. This is one reason why it is important to take a proactive approach to treatment for any pain in the knee.
First, Explore Conservative Therapies For Knee Pain
Any persistent pain in the knee should receive a professional diagnosis if it lasts for longer than a very short period of time, such as a few days or a week. A qualified physician can perform an evaluation of your knee pain that involves a physical examination and the ordering of any necessary diagnostic tests. This can include imagery such as an X-ray or an MRI to determine the extent of damage to the knee joint or soft tissue.
Depending on the exact diagnosis, you can then work with your doctor and other treatment professionals to develop a treatment plan. In most cases of knee pain, especially minor injuries and arthritis, treatment will begin with conservative therapies. The goal of conservative treatment is to both relieve symptoms of knee pain while also strengthening the joint and improving function.
This can be accomplished with the following specific methods:
- Initially resting the knee and icing with elevation
- Changing daily activities and movements to reduce knee joint stress, reducing impact loading
- Taking over-the-counter pain medication or anti-inflammatories
- Alternating cold compression with a heating pad to reduce inflammation.
- Working with a physical therapist to strengthen the knee, improve range of motion and address mechanical and postural issues that may be contributing to your pain in the knee
- Receiving a corticosteroid injection to reduce pain and inflammation on an intermediate basis
It’s also important to understand and address lifestyle factors that may be contributing to knee pain and knee joint degeneration. Eating a healthy diet, getting regular low-impact exercise and losing weight, if needed, are just a few of the ways to promote knee health. In the case of any progressive condition that causes joint damage, there is no way to turn back the clock, but there are ways to slow it down.
Another effective option for some patients is exploring orthotics, as many cases of knee pain can be due a misalignment that is related to a mechanical or structural problem in the feet.
Knowing When To Consider Surgery, Including Knee Replacement Surgery
In most non-emergency cases, surgery is seen as a last-resort treatment. Patients are recommended to fully explore conservative treatments and make any needed lifestyle changes before considering surgery. Howevever, if weeks or months of treatment has not offered the relief needed to comfortably engage in the activities of daily life, surgery may be recommended.
There are many types of knee surgery, from arthroscopic procedures to repair torn ligaments or resect torn pieces of cartilage, to knee replacement surgery designed to replace a damaged knee joint surface with a prosthetic replacement. Specific knee surgery recommendations will depend on your diagnosis and the extent of joint damage. Traditional knee surgery typically involves hospitalization and can lead to a long and often difficult recovery period. Patients should know that this isn’t their only option. Advances in the field of orthopedic surgery have led to the development of minimally invasive partial and total knee replacement procedures that can be performed in an outpatient setting.
Patients exploring minimally invasive knee replacement will undergo a health screening prior to surgery to determine the setting (hospital vs ASC) that is most appropriate for their surgery. In some cases, the best option is a hospital setting with the option of staying as an inpatient in the event of changes in their medical conditions.. For example, people with severe or poorly controlled cardiovascular conditions may need hospitalization after knee replacement to monitor for any potential complications.
Learn About Your Options for Minimally Invasive Knee Replacement
The decision to undergo outpatient knee replacement should be made on an informed and confident basis. Finding a surgeon you can trust and a state-of-the-art facility are essential to this. Dr. Phillip Clifford and the entire OJRCA team are passionate about patient-centered care and giving everyone the personalized attention they deserve.
To learn more about outpatient knee replacement surgery that can get you back to a healthy and active lifestyle, reach out to our team today. We can help you find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our advanced procedures.