Knee Pain

Table of Contents

What is Knee Pain? 

Knee pain is a common health complaint that affects people of all ages. It can be caused by an injury such as torn ligament or cartilage. Medical conditions including arthritis, gout, and infections can also cause knee pain.

There are many types of minor knee pain that respond well to medical treatment. Physical therapy and knee support can also help relieve pain. In some cases, treatment for knee pain may require surgery.

Make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist through Smarter Health if you have symptoms of prolonged knee pain, especially pain due to injury.

Causes of Knee Pain

Knee pain can be due to injuries, mechanical problems, types of arthritis, and other problems.

Injuries

  • The meniscus can be torn by pressure from a forced twist or rotation
  • Bursitis results from certain knee injuries, affecting the small fluid-filled sacs (bursae) that protect the bones, tendons and muscles near the joints.
  • Fractures, including the kneecap, can tear during a motorbike accident or a fall. People with osteoporosis may fracture their knees from taking a wrong step.
  • ACL injury is a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which is one of the four ligaments that connect the shinbone to the femur. ACL injuries commonly affect people who play basketball, soccer, or any other sport that requires a sudden pivot or turn
  • Patellar tendinitis is irritation and inflammation of one or more tendons. Runners, skiers, cyclists, and anyone involved in jumping sports may develop inflammation in the patellar tendon, which connects the quadriceps muscle on the front of the thigh to the shinbone.

Mechanical Problems

Some examples of mechanical problems that can cause knee pain include:

  • Iliotibial band syndrome – occurs when the tough band of tissue that extends from the outside of your hip to the outside of the knee (iliotibial band) becomes tight, so that it rubs against the outer portion of your femur.
  • Hip or foot pain – if you experience hip or foot pain, it’s best to change the way you walk to reduce these painful joints. In some cases, problems in the hip or foot can cause knee pain.
  • Dislocated kneecap – occurs when the patella covering the front of your knee slips out of place, usually to the outside of your knee. In some cases, the kneecap may remain displaced and you will be able to see the dislocation.
  • Loose body – sometimes an injury or degeneration of bone can cause a piece of bone or cartilage to break off and float in the joint space. This may not cause a problem, unless the loose body interferes with movement of the knee joint.

When to See a Doctor for Knee Pain

During the physical exam, your doctor will likely examine the condition of your knee, see how far you can move your lower leg in any direction, push or pull on the joint, perform imaging tests, and laboratory tests.

Imaging tests to diagnose knee pain include X-rays, CT scans, ultrasound, and MRI. Laboratory tests may also be done if your doctor suspects an infection or inflammation. Your doctor will likely recommend blood tests and an arthrocentesis procedure.

Symptoms of Knee Pain

The location and severity of knee pain may vary from person to person, depending on the underlying cause. Signs and symptoms that sometimes accompany knee pain include:

  • Swelling and stiffness.
  • Crackling and popping sounds.
  • Knee weakness or instability.
  • Redness and warmth to the touch
  • Inability to fully straighten the knee

You should call your doctor if you: 

  • Have knee swelling
  • Have a fever, redness, pain and swelling in your knee.
  • Have severe knee pain associated with an injury.
  • Notice a visible deformity in the leg or knee.
  • Are unable to fully stretch or bend your knee.
  • Cannot bear weight on your knee or feel as if your knee is unstable.

Treatment for Knee Pain

Treatment methods for knee pain may vary, depending on the cause. Possible treatment options for knee pain include: 

Medications

Your doctor may prescribe medications to help relieve pain and treat underlying conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.

Injections

Your doctor may suggest injecting medications or other substances directly into your joints, such as corticosteroids, hyaluronic acid, and platelet-rich blood plasma or platelet-rich plasma (PRP).

Therapy

Making your knee more stable can be achieved by strengthening the muscles around your knee. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy or different types of strengthening exercises based on the cause of your knee pain.

If you are physically active or practice a sport, you may need exercises to improve movement patterns that affect the knees and practice good techniques during your sport or other physical activities. It is also important to increase your body’s flexibility and balance.

Under certain conditions, different types of knee braces may be used to protect and support the knee joint. 

Surgery

If you have an injury that requires surgery, it is usually unnecessary to have the operation immediately. Before making any decision, you should consider the pros and cons. Possible surgical options may include: 

  • Arthroscopy surgery is performed to remove loose body from your knee joint, remove or repair damaged cartilage, and reconstruct torn ligaments.
  • Partial knee replacement surgery is performed to replace the most damaged parts of the knee with parts made of metal and plastic.
  • Total knee replacement is a procedure to replace damaged bones or cartilage from your femur, shin and kneecap with artificial joints of high-grade metal, plastic and polymer materials.

Treatment Cost for Knee Pain

Treatment cost for knee pain varies greatly depending on the type of treatment recommended by your doctor and your choice of hospital. 

To calculate the estimated treatment cost for knee pain at home and abroad, contact Smarter Health.

Prevention of Knee Pain

Although it may be difficult to prevent knee pain, you can follow the following tips to help prevent injuries and joint damage:

  • Maintain ideal and healthy weight. Gaining weight puts additional pressure on your joints, increasing the risk of injury, and osteoarthritis.
  • Stay in shape by exercising regularly to prepare your muscles for physical activity. Ask your trainer for help to ensure your technique and movements are correct. 
  • Strengthen your knee – weak muscles are the main cause of knee injuries. Balance and stability exercises help the muscles around your knee work together effectively.
  • If you suffer from osteoarthritis, chronic knee pain, or recurrent injuries – you may need to change the way you exercise. Consider switching to swimming, water aerobics, or other low-impact activities.

Home Remedies for Knee Pain

Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can help relieve knee pain. Some people find relief by rubbing the affected knee with creams containing a numbing agent, such as lidocaine or capsaicin.

You can treat knee pain at home. Knee pain is usually resolved within a few days. You can relieve symptoms of knee pain with the R.I.C.E. method, which goes: 

  • Rest. Take a break form your daily activities and stop the activity that causes the injury.
  • Ice. A bag of frozen peas or an ice pack can help relieve pain and reduce swelling. Apply ice to the injured area for 15-20 minutes three times a day.
  • Compression. Use elastic compression bandages to help reduce swelling.
  • Elevation or altitude. If possible, try to prop your injured leg on pillows to reduce swelling.

Have more questions about knee pain? Write them down in the comment section below or book an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist at home and abroad through Smarter Health.

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