Knee joint pain can have a major impact on your life, particularly if you're an athlete or work a job that comes with physical demands. Unfortunately, knee joint injuries are not the type that will typically just "go away" on their own. In fact, knee injuries can be among the worst in terms of healing time, with recovery times ranging anywhere from three to nine months (depending on the specific cause and extent of your injury). Furthermore, without the proper diagnosis and care, even slight knee joint pain can become exponentially worse in a very short period of time.
If you've recently been noticing knee joint pain, it's important to be aware of the common causes, treatment options, and steps you can take to avoid such problems in the future. This way, you can recover from your knee pain and get back to your normal way of life as soon as possible.
Possible Causes of Ongoing Knee Joint Pain
There are so many potential causes of knee joint pain that it can often be difficult to narrow the cause completely. Specifically, the knee contains four main ligaments, and all it takes is a sprain of one of these to cause knee joint pain. There are also four bones surrounding the knee joint, with connective tissue stretching between the joint and the surrounding tibia, fibula, and knee cap. The key is determining which ligament (or ligaments) are affected
One of the most common causes of knee joint pain is that of osteoarthritis, a condition associated with joint degeneration and deterioration; this can cause severe pain and inflammation.
Tendinitis is another potential medical condition associated with knee pain. When this occurs, pain tends to be localized around the front of the knee and worsens when walking on an incline.
Bursitis is especially common among athletes (especially runners) and is attributed to overuse of the knee joint over time. This results in inflammation and sharp pain that will worsen over time.
Sometimes, knee joint pain can also be caused by dislocation of the kneecap. When this occurs, it should be quite obvious that something is wrong. Most often, this will occur as a result of trauma, such as a car accident or other sudden injury.
It is also possible that a torn ligament around the knee could cause knee joint pain. The most commonly torn ligament around the knee is the ACL, and this is a very likely knee injury for athletes--especially those who participate in contact sports.
Less likely (but still possible) causes of knee joint pain include bone tumors (which could be linked to bone cancer) meniscus tears, and even cysts.
Even minor knee injuries can be made worse by overuse, bad posture, or failure to properly stretch the muscles before exercising.
Risk Factors for Knee Joint Pain
Anybody with legs is at some risk for knee joint pain. However, some people have higher risk factors than others. For example, those who are overweight or obese tend to be at a greater risk of knee problems. In fact, for every pound a person is overweight, that translates to an additional four pounds of pressure one's knee joint is subjected to when partaking in any physical activity that involves the knees.
Furthermore, athletes are far more prone to knee joint injuries--especially those attributed to overuse of the joint, as are those who have suffered from knee injuries or knee trauma in the past.
Finally, it's worth noting that one's chances of encountering a knee joint injury increase with age. This is especially true for conditions like osteoarthritis.
Symptoms to Watch Out For
Knee joint pain can manifest itself in a number of different ways depending on the specific cause. Symptoms can also vary from one person to the next. Still, most people with a knee joint injury will experience some sort of aching in the affected knee; in some cases, the pain may be sharp and very specific in is location, whereas others may experience more generalized pain. In some cases, it may not necessarily be painful, but the person affected may experience a dull burning sensation or other uncomfortable feeling in the knee.
In cases where dislocation or a torn ligament is the cause, it is not uncommon for swelling and inflammation to occur. When this happens, the knee itself may be tender and painful to the touch.
When to See a Healthcare Professional
If you're experiencing any of the above symptoms of knee joint injuries, then it's in your best interest to see a doctor as soon as reasonably possible. Only a healthcare professional will be able to officially diagnose your injury and make sure you receive the proper treatment based on the cause.
In diagnosing your knee pain, your doctor will take into consideration your symptoms and lifestyle. However, there's a good chance that your doctor will also need to perform blood work, take X-rays, run a CT scan, or possibly even order an MRI to determine with absolute certainty the cause of your knee pain. Only from there will it be possible to come up with a customized treatment plan that suits your needs.
Viable Treatment Options for Knee Joint Pain
There are a number of possible treatment options for knee joint pain, ranging from rest and medication to more invasive treatments, such as injections and surgery. Surgery should always be considered a last resort, as this is a very invasive procedure that can take up to a year to recover from.
In most cases, simply resting the knee and potentially immobilizing it will help to promote healing. As the knee heals, your doctor may also prescribe you some painkiller medications to help you find relief from the pain. Your doctor might recommend that you stay off your feet as much as possible until your follow-up appointment, and that you take the time to ice the affected knee several times per day to reduce inflammation and swelling.
Those whose knee joint pain was caused or worsened by being overweight may also be encouraged to embark on a diet and weight loss plan.
In situations where trauma has caused a serious knee joint injury (such as total dislocation), there may be no choice but to perform surgery on the knee.
Preventing Knee Joint Pain in the Future
Dealing with knee joint pain is never a pleasant experience, but in most cases, it can be avoided. For those who are physically active, taking the time to warm up and stretch before exercising can make all the difference in avoiding injuries, as can sticking with low-impact exercises such as swimming and cycling.
For those who spend a lot of time on their feet, having the right shoes can also make all the difference. Lack of support can lead to poor posture, which can not only increase your risk of knee injuries, but can cause back pain as well.
Knee joint pain is very common in both physically active people and those who are mostly sedentary. By knowing the common causes of knee joint pain, the symptoms to watch out for, and treatment options available, you'll be better prepared in the event that you ever encounter a knee joint problem. For more information on knee joint pain and what you can do to help find relief, contact us today.