Most people will experience some type of knee pain at some point in their lives. Exercise, sports, and other activities can lead to injuries in the knees such as tendinitis, muscle strains, and more serious injuries to the cartilage and ligaments. While it’s difficult to know exactly how many people have suffered from knee pain in their lives, we do know that in 2017, over nine hundred thousand knee replacement surgeries were performed in the US alone. The severity of knee pain can vary, and will depend on a range of factors including the cause of the pain, your age, your weight and more. For some people, knee pain can get in the way of the active lifestyle that they enjoy while others have it so severe that it limits their everyday activities. Here are some of the most common injuries and conditions that lead to knee pain.
Tears can occur in the cartilage of the knee, which is a semi-hard tissue that covers the end of the bones. Knee cartilage includes two menisci which are located on either side of the joint. Tears to the meniscus is a common injury that will often require surgery. This injury will usually occur as a result of one single movement such as a sudden turn or twist that results in the knee cartilage tearing. This injury is often more common as people get older and the cartilage gets weaker. Symptoms include pain and discomfort that gets worse over the days following the injury, stiffness in the knee, the knee ‘giving out’ when walking, knee locking or catching, and a popping sound in the knee.
You will experience knee pain if you have injured the ligaments in your knee. Ligaments are what connect the thigh bone to the lower leg bone, holding the two bones together and keeping your knee stable. Tears and sprains to the ligaments in the knee are very common injuries to experience during sports and can occur to one of the three main ligaments. They may also be the result of a high-energy accident like a car crash. Tears and injuries to the ACL, which is the main ligament that runs through the middle of the joint between the shin and thigh bones, are some of the most common injuries for athletes. They can occur as the result of several sports movements including colliding with somebody else, jumping and landing incorrectly, stopping or starting suddenly, or suddenly shifting directions.
Arthritis of the Knee
Kneecare Clinics can help if you are suffering from pain caused by arthritis of the knee. Arthritis is a condition that leads to pain and inflammation in various joints in the body, and tends to occur in the knee most often. It is a chronic condition that can worsen over time and, for some people, may lead to a requirement for surgery. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis are the three most common types. Common symptoms to look out for including difficulty fully bending the knee, swelling and stiffness around the knees, and knee pain.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, referring to a progressive weakening of the cartilage. It is more common in people who are aged fifty and above. After the age of fifty, the impact of this condition can often get worse due to prolonged use of the joint and the natural wearing down of cartilage that occurs with age. This condition is a result of bone running on bone, and can be caused by several different factors including age, genetics, weight, infections, illnesses, and previous injuries around with working in certain occupations such as construction. Symptoms include pain in the knee, a limited range of motion, joint swelling, tenderness and stiffness in the knee, weakness and deformity, and pain that gets worse rather than better over time.
This is an autoimmune condition that leads to the tissue around joints to become thickened and inflamed. As a result of this chronic inflammation, the tissue often becomes damage and cartilage is worn down or lost. This condition currently occurs in around 0.6% of the US population, and is more likely to affect women. Some of the main symptoms include knee pain and swelling, stiffness in the knee and a difficulty fully bending the knee.
This condition can be the result of a serious injury to the knee such as ligament tears and bone fractures. Broken bones, for example, can wear down the surface of the joint which leads to arthritis developing over time. As we get older and our risk of knee injuries is higher, these injuries can also damage the cartilage in your knee leading to symptoms such as swelling, stiffness and pain.
How the Cause of Knee Pain is Diagnosed
Medical professionals will diagnose the main cause of knee pain and other knee problems using a physical evaluation and X-rays. A range of tests may also be used to identify the type of problem that is affecting your knee, especially if you are suspected to have arthritis. These include:
- Fluid tests: Fluid is drawn from the actual knee to be examined in the lab. If there are uric acid crystals present, it may indicate that the pain and inflammation is the result of gout. Or, if bacteria are present, you may be treated for an infection.
- Bloodwork: A blood test can check for an anti-CCP antibody, which can be the result of rheumatoid arthritis. Other antibodies present in the blood may indicate that the patient is suffering from another disorder that is more widespread and causes inflammation throughout the body, such as lupus.
- Imaging: X-rays can help to identify some of the common signs of arthritis such as narrower space between the bones, joints that are not correctly aligned or the presence of bone spurs. A CAT or MRI scan may also be used to get a more detailed image of the soft tissues and bones.
Suffering from severe knee pain is typically the result of one of these injuries or conditions. It may be an injury that will heal over time, or a more serious health condition that requires ongoing treatment.