WHAT’S THE CAUSE?
Knee pain is a common complaint. The pain may be the result of an injury, a mechanical problem, or arthritis. Signs and symptoms that may accompany your knee pain include:
- Swelling and stiffness
- Redness and warmth to the touch
- Weakness or instability
- Popping or crunching noises
- Inability to fully straighten the knee
A knee injury can affect any of the ligaments, tendons, or fluid-filled sacs (bursae) that surround the knee joint as well as the bones, cartilage, and ligaments that form the joint. Common knee injuries include:
- ACL injury. An ACL injury is the tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) — one of four ligaments that connect your shin of four ligaments that connect your shinbone to your thighbone. An ACL injury is particularly common in people in a sport that requires sudden changes in direction.
- Torn meniscus. The meniscus is the cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between your shinbone and thighbone and is formed of tough, rubbery tissue. It can tear if you suddenly twist your knee while bearing weight on it.
- Knee bursitis. Some knee injuries cause inflammation in the small sacs of fluid (bursae) that cushion the outside of the knee joint.
- Patellar tendinitis. Runners, skiers, and people involved in jumping activities are prone to develop inflammation in the patellar tendon, which connects the quadriceps muscle on the front of the thigh to the shinbone.
Mechanical problems that can cause knee pain include:
- Loose body. A piece of bone or cartilage breaks off and floats in the joint space. If the piece interferes with knee joint movement, the effect is something like a pencil caught in a door hinge.
- Iliotibial band syndrome. The ligament that extends from the outside of your pelvic bone to the outside of your tibia becomes so tight that it rubs against the outer portion of your femur. Distance runners are especially susceptible to this problem.
- Dislocated kneecap. The triangular bone (patella) that covers the front of your knee slips out of place, usually to the outside of your knee.
- Change in gait. If you have hip or foot pain, you may change the way you walk. The altered gait can place more stress on your knee joint.
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common causes of arthritis-related knee pain. Gout or pseudogout can also affect the joint.
It’s dependent on the cause of the pain.
Medications. Nonprescription pain relievers can often treat mild knee pain. Prescription medications may help relieve pain from conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout. In some cases, medication may be injected directly into the knee joint:
- Corticosteroids. An injection may help reduce the symptoms of arthritis flare and provide pain relief for a few months.
- Supplemental lubricant. A thick fluid, similar to the fluid that naturally lubricates joints, may be injected into your knee to improve mobility and ease the pain.
Physical therapy. Strengthening the muscles around your knee will make it more stable. Arch supports may help to shift pressure away from the side of the knee most affected by osteoarthritis.
Surgery. Surgery may be performed to remove loose bodies, remove or repair damaged cartilage, or reconstruct torn ligaments. All or part of a damaged joint may be replaced with artificial parts.
Self-care. If you’re overweight, losing weight may reduce the pain and related symptoms. You may also need to change the way you exercise. Consider switching to swimming, water aerobics, or other low-impact activities.
Excerpt From: The Mayo Clinic. “Mayo Clinic A to Z Health Guide”.