All adults experience knee pain at some point or the other. Sometimes, it could be a mild pain caused by a sprain, whereas other times, it can be excruciating pain caused by a more serious injury. Whatever type of pain you experience in your knee, it will surely affect your day to day activities.
What is knee pain?
Knee pain is pain caused either in the knee joint’s bony structure or the knee cap, ligament, tendons, or cartilage. It is caused by injury, obesity, physical activity, or ageing. People of all age groups can experience this pain. Most goes away on its own with simple home remedies, but some severe cases may require medical intervention.
What are the main causes of knee pain?
Any direct blow to the knee bone could result in a knee injury. Sometimes, the impact can be so severe that it results in a fracture. People who are into active sports might experience ligament injury caused by a sudden stop and change in direction. Another type of injury is the meniscus injury, which is caused by a sudden twisting of the knee.
A knee injury is not only painful but also affects your day to day functions. All types of knee injuries require immediate medical attention.
Some underlying medical conditions can also result in knee pain. It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause and requires an experienced doctor’s help. The most common medical conditions that cause pain in the knees include:
- Bursitis, which is an infection in the sac of fluid cushioning the knee bones.
- Tendinitis, which is an inflammation of the tendons that connect the muscles with bone.
- Baker’s cyst, which is fluid-filled swelling on the back of the knee.
Age and the resulting deterioration of bone can result in knee pain. The most common age-related factors are osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
Osteoporosis occurs when the bone becomes weak and brittle, often due to age. The weakening of the bone results in pain and breakage. Osteoporosis can affect any part of the body, like the hip, spine, and fingers. When osteoporosis affects the knee, it results in pain in the knees.
Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the cartilage that cushions the bone deteriorates over time. This results in pain, stiffness, and tenderness of your knee. Hear more about osteoarthritis from Dr Sean Leo, orthopaedic surgeon from Orthokinetics:
What are the factors that cause knee pain?
Though certain underlying factors cause pain in the knees, other conditions can also trigger or aggravate it. These include:
- Excess weight: When you are overweight, extra pressure is exerted on the knee. This can worsen the already existing pain.
- Exercise: If you do strenuous exercise like cycling and jogging that puts undue pressure on the knee, it can result in pain in your knees.
- Biomechanics: If you have an incorrect walking pattern or a difference in length of both your legs, it can result in pain as well.
When should you see a doctor?
Mild pain in the knee usually subsides once you take sufficient rest. However, if the pain does not subside even after resting, or if you notice swelling in your knee, you should consult a doctor immediately. Similarly, if you experience any discomfort while walking or find that you are unable to walk for long periods of time, it is also best to consult a doctor.
How to treat knee pain?
Unless an injury is the cause of the pain, the doctor will prescribe medications to reduce pain and swelling. This is usually the first step in the treatment of the pain. If the pain does not subside after taking medicine for the prescribed duration, the doctor will do further investigation.
If the doctor suspects that the knee’s muscle is weak, he/she might prescribe physical therapy. This includes exercises and electrotherapy to strengthen the muscles and relieve pain.
In some cases, corticosteroid injections are taken to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Sometimes, fluid is also injected into the knee joint to ease the movement and reduce pain. All injections should be taken only under the supervision of a medical practitioner.
An arthroscopic knee surgery is done in which the doctor examines the inside of your knee through small incisions. This is an outpatient procedure and can repair minor injuries.
If your knee pain is caused by a complete degeneration of the bones or cartilage, a knee replacement surgery is the last resort. The doctor might prescribe a total or partial knee replacement surgery, depending on your condition.
Knee pain has become very common, especially among older adults. Less exercise and lifestyle changes play a key role in reducing such pain. However, the good news is that modern surgical techniques are so advanced that there is a cure for all types of ailments affecting the knee.