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Knee Pain: Symptoms, Causes,Treatment And Prevention

What is Knee Pain?

Knee Pain is a common condition which affects individuals of any ages. Knee pain can either be experienced immediately after an injury, or it might develop gradually due to certain medical conditions or strenuous exercises. Knee pain can either be confined to a particular spot in the knee or spread throughout the knee. The common symptoms include swelling, stiffness and pain. The treatment of the knee pain depends on its cause. In few cases, self-management alone is effective, and in few cases, surgery is required.

Knee-painSymptoms of  Knee Pain:

Depending upon the cause the severity and the location of the knee pain vary in the individual. The various signs and symptoms of the knee pain are:

  • Stiffness in the knee
  • Swelling of the knee
  • Redness in the affected area
  • A crunching noise while bending the knee
  • Inability to extend the knee completely

Causes of Knee Pain:

It is caused due to sudden injuries, strain injuries or any other underlying medical condition. The various causes of the knee pain are categorised as follows:

· Injuries

  • Injury of the anterior cruciate ligament, a ligament that connects the thighbone and the shinbone
  • Fractures
  • Inflammation of knee brusae, a fluid sac around the joint cavity
  • Inflammation of the patellar tendon, a tendon connecting quadricep muscles to the shin bone
  • Torn meniscus, a cartilage present between the shin bone and the thigh bone

· Mechanical problems

  • Hip or foot pain
  • Kneecap dislocation
  • Loose, broken piece of cartilage or bone interfere with the joint movement
  • Iliotibial band syndrome, a painful condition in which the connective tissue present on the outer portion of the thigh bone becomes stiff and rub against the thigh bone

· Arthritis

  • Gout
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Septic arthritis
  • Pseudo gout

· Other problems

  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome, a condition characterised by pain below the knee due to the damage of cartilage below the knee. The damage is due to overuse or injury.

Risk Factors for Knee Pain:

A risk factor is behaviour, characteristic or attribute that increases the probability of developing a medical condition. The risk factors for knee pain include:

  1. Weight: Excessive weight increases the probability of knee pain as it increases the strain on the joints. Obesity and overweight are also the risk factors for osteoarthritis, a cause of knee pain.
  2. Injury: A history of knee injury increases the risk of the possibility of injuring the knee again.
  3. Overuse: Overuse of the joint due to repetitive work-related activities such as kneeling, frequent lifting of heavyweight, climbing stairs etc or exercise such as skiing, jogging etc increases the risk of knee pain.
  4. Reduced Muscle Flexibility and Strength: Reduced muscle flexibility and muscle strength are the leading cause of the knee pain. Weak and stiff muscles cannot absorb sufficient stress which leads to knee pain.

Complications of  Knee Pain:

The severity of the knee pain depends upon the underlying cause. In most of the cases, knee pain disappears without any serious issues. However, in few conditions knee pain can cause serious issues, for example, if osteoarthritis remains untreated it may cause disability.

Diagnosis of Knee Pain:

Every possible cause of the knee pain needs a different diagnostic test. The various diagnostic tests that are done for diagnosing knee pain are:

  • Physical Examination: In physical examination, the physician will look for various symptoms of knee pain such as swelling, bruising, tenderness etc. The physician will also study the range of motion and evaluate the correctness of knee joint structure.
  • X-Ray: An X-ray is done to find out if the patient has osteoarthritis or fractures.
  • Blood test: A blood test is done when an infection, gout or other types of arthritis are a suspected cause of the knee pain.
  • Arthrocentesis: Arthrocentesis involves removing a small amount of fluid from the joint by inserting a tiny needle. The extracted fluid is sent to the laboratory for further testing. It is done to differentiate gout from other types of arthritis.
  • Ultrasound Scans: An ultrasound scan involves the use of ultrasound waves to produce the image of the knee and its surrounding tissue. To determine the range of motion the physician might take ultrasound scans in various positions.
  • Computerized Tomography (CT) Scans: Computerised tomography scans are useful in detecting the loose pieces of bone or ligament that will affect the movement of the knee. In CT scans, various scans taken from different directions are combined to form a cross-sectional image.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scans: Magnetic resonance imaging scans are done when an injury to ligaments, cartilage, tendons and muscles is the suspected cause of knee pain. MRI scans produce a 3D image by using radio waves and a magnetic field.

Treatment of  Knee Pain:

Treatment of the knee pain depends upon the cause. Mostly, knee pains are treated by primary care doctors but if surgery is required an orthopedic surgeon is consulted. The various treatment options are discussed below:

· Medications:

The physician might prescribe over-the-counter pain relievers for treating pain. Medications for the underlying conditions are also prescribed.

· Physical Therapy:

Physical therapy is essential as it strengthens the muscles around the knee thereby, easing movement preventing injuries and stabilises balance.

· Injections:

In few cases, the physician directly injects corticosteroids, hyaluronic acid and platelet-rich plasma. Corticosteroids are injected for relieving pain and symptoms of arthritis. Hyaluronic acid is injected as it acts as a lubricant for the joints. Platelet-rich plasma helps in treating inflammation.

· Surgery:

The various surgical approaches include:

  • Arthroscopic surgery: Arthroscopic surgery is done to remove small, loose pieces of bones from the joint, to fix the torn cartilage or to reconstruct the ligament.
  • Partial knee replacement surgery: In partial knee replacement surgery, only the damaged part of the knee is replaced with plastic or metal replacements.
  • Total knee replacement surgery: Total knee replacement surgery involves replacement of the entire knee joint with an artificial joint.

Prevention of Knee Pain:

Knee pain is not preventable every time. However, following preventive measures can be taken as prevention is better than cure:

  • Lose Weight:

Losing weight is essential as extra weights put additional strain on the joints.

  • Make Muscles Strong:

Knee injuries are mostly caused by weak muscles. So, the individual must build quadriceps and hamstring muscles that support the knees.

  • Stay Flexible:

The individual must do flexibility exercises as tight muscles are contributors to injury. Apart from this balance and stability exercises improves the movement of muscles around the knees.

  • Do Suitable Exercises:

An individual must do exercise after consulting the physiotherapist or the fitness trainer. As inappropriate exercise may aggravate the condition or cause injury.

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