Knee pain affects people of all ages, activity levels, professions and locations. These joints are essential for nearly any kind of movement, but they also absorb a tremendous amount of stress. In fact, it is believed the knees withstand approximately four times the weight of the body with each step while walking and 7-8 times body weight running.
This makes our knees especially vulnerable to knee injury and wear-and-tear conditions that cause debilitating knee pain. Knee pain and other symptoms such as swelling, stiffness, instability and popping or crunching sensations, can be very debilitating and negatively impact your quality of life. While some types of knee pain are acute and improve within a short period of time, others can become chronic.
Learning more about what causes knee pain can help you on your treatment journey. The following information is designed to help you be more informed and engaged as a patient so you can take a proactive approach to relief. The caring staff at Outpatient Joint Replacement Center of America is here to answer any questions and help you learn about your treatment options.
Knee Injury Is a Primary Cause of Knee Pain
People of any age and level of activity can develop a knee injury, but certain injuries are common in athletes and people who work physical jobs. Knee injury risk also increases with age, as our bones become more brittle and soft tissue loses elasticity.
Commonly diagnosed knee injuries include
- Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury: The ACL is one of the four ligaments that hold the knee together and allow for bending and flexing. This ligament is particularly prone to sprains or even tears due to sudden direction changes in sports such as soccer or basketball.
- Meniscus Tears: The meniscus is a c-shaped piece of knee cartilage that acts as a shock absorber in the knee. It is possible to tear the meniscus due to a combination of twisting and putting weight on it.
- Knee Bursitis: The bursae are small fluid-filled sacs that enable smooth joint motion. Inflammation or irritation of the bursae in the knee can result in painful knee bursitis.
- Tendinitis: Inflammation of the tendons that connect muscles surrounding the knee to the bones are common. A common type of knee tendinitis is patellar tendinitis, which affects the tendon that travels from the kneecap, or patella, to the shin.
- Knee Fractures: Traumatic injuries, such as collisions, falls or sports-related impacts can fracture any of the bones in the knee joint. Fracture can also increase in likelihood with age due to loss of bone density.
- Iliotibial (IT) band syndrome: The IT band is a tough but flexible piece of tissue that runs on the outside of the knee all the way up to the hip joint. Overuse injuries, particularly among runners, can cause stiffness that inhibits knee function and causes knee pain.
- Loose Bodies: Certain knee injuries can cause small fragments of bone or knee cartilage to become loose in the knee joint. Although they may not cause knee pain, loose bodies can become painful and debilitating if they become stuck in the joint.
There are a number of mechanical and lifestyle factors that make knee injury more common. People with gait problems in the foot may be at an increased risk of knee pain due to added stress throughout the kinetic chain that increases stress on the knee joint. Weight also plays an important role, because as mentioned above, with each step we put four times our entire weight on the knee. Managing weight helps lower the strain on the bones and soft tissue that makes up the knee joint.
It is essential to follow your doctor’s instructions for recovery and treatment if you are ever diagnosed with a knee injury. Rushing or cutting short the recovery process can result in reinjury or increase your risk of long-term joint damage.
Understanding Types of Arthritis and How They Contribute to Knee Pain
Another major cause of knee pain is arthritis, which is joint inflammation caused by a number of different factors. Knee arthritis is a common form because of the wear and tear and stress that are put on the knees every day. Symptoms of knee arthritis include aches and knee pain, stiffness, and a grinding or popping sensation known as crepitus.
Type of arthritis that can affect the knees include:
- Osteoarthritis: By far the most frequently diagnosed form, also known as degenerative arthritis or wear and tear arthritis, osteoarthritis in the knee occurs because of natural breakdown of knee cartilage and drying out of joint fluid. Over time this causes increased bone-on-bone contact that leads to arthritis symptoms and joint damage.
- Post-traumatic arthritis: Serious, one time injuries such as fractures, or recurring joint injuries can accelerate the degenerative process and increase the risk of developing arthritis. People who sustain any type of physical injury to the knee should watch for warning signs of post-traumatic arthritis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack healthy cells in the body, in this case the lining of the knee, called the synovium, and the cartilage of the joint. An indicator of rheumatoid arthritis is pain in both knees.
There are actually more than a hundred types of arthritis, according to the CDC, with other types including septic arthritis and gout. If you are experiencing arthritis symptoms it is essential to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment to ensure
Treatment Options for Knee Pain
Treatment for knee pain is dependent on the specific diagnosis and other factors like the patient’s medical history and activity level. Many minor knee injuries can improve with rest, hot/cold compression, elevation and over-the-counter medication. It is critical to give injuries time to heal. Rushing back into activity increases the risk of reinjury or chronic knee pain.
More serious injuries such as an ACL tear or meniscus tear may require repair surgery to relieve pain and restore function. Often this is dependent on the location and extent of tearing and the likelihood that it will heal on its own. Many younger patients and athletes opt for surgery as it can offer the best chance of regaining full range of motion in a high number of cases.
Arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, is a nonreversible condition, but it can be successfully managed. Conservative therapies for knee arthritis include rest, medication, activity modification, physical therapy and pain-relieving injections. Restorative injections, including viscosupplementation, platelet-rich plasma injections and amniotic injections, are all options that help the body’s natural regenerative processes.
In cases where serious joint damage develops as a result of arthritis or injury, a knee replacement surgery can become the best option for long-term knee pain relief and improved function. Knee replacement can be either partial knee replacement or total knee replacement. Either type of knee replacement consists of removing the damaged joint surface and replacing it with an artificial implant. The right type of knee replacement will depend on a thorough evaluation to determine the location and extent of damage.
At OJRCA, our highly experienced team specializes in advanced surgical techniques and a multimodal pain prevention protocol that enables outpatient knee replacement surgery. Compared to traditional, hospital-based approaches to knee replacement, outpatient procedures offer a reduced risk of complication and a shorter recovery time.
Learn more about our treatment options for knee pain and get back to the quality of life you deserve. Contact us today to learn more.