Between the smooth gliding surfaces and the shapes of the articulating joints there is very little inherent stability in the knee. As a result, there should be no surprise when, after an activity that you’ve no doubt performed hundreds of times before without incident, you sit staring in utter agony at your knee wondering what in the world happened. In such situations, however, it may be useful to know some of the most common knee injuries; or, just what the heck should you do now?!
Perhaps it wasn’t a single, individual action that resulted in your injury. Rather, your discomfort may be due to an activity performed more repetitively. The synovial lining of the knee’s bony prominences become inflamed due to overuse or chronic irritation.
The location and purpose of the 4 knee ligaments go a long way towards explaining their injury. The anterior cruciate ligament (popularly known as the ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) provide stability to the backward and forward motion of the joint. Being the most frequent motion that the knee makes, it’s no wonder that this is one of the most talked about injuries. The medial (MCL) and lateral collateral ligaments provide side-to-side stability.
Frequently, damage results from rapidly changing direction, decelerating too quickly, and landing from a jump. Even if not traumatically torn, a ligament that is sprained can also cause significant discomfort.
Sudden popping, pain, swelling, and difficulty bending or straightening the knee could point toward a ligament problem.
The meniscus acts as a kind of cushion, or shock absorber, within the knee joint, while also contributing to stability. Frequently torn as the result of a twisting injury, treatment ranges anywhere from healing with rest and activity modification to arthroscopic surgery.
Interestingly, no synthetic meniscus has been created that can mimic all of the properties of this amazing cushion (which is often referred to as a type of cartilage). If necessary, it can be replaced as a transplant.
Knee Cap Injuries
Thankfully, knee cap injuries are among the least frequently seen knee injuries, as they also tend to be the most painful. High impact incidents can result in a dislocation or even fracture of the patella (another name for the knee cap). These types of insults to your knee may need surgical intervention.
So just what do I do now? First thing’s first, of course; contact a medical care provider right away. Knee injuries can be complex, and an accurate diagnosis requires an expert eye, which can potentially impact your future mobility. If you lose sensation or movement in your leg or toes, it's urgent to seek medical attention immediately.
In addition to that, there are a few interventions that you can take now
In addition to that, there are a few interventions that you can take now.
- Ice is great for orthopedic injuries. Heat may very well feel good during its application, but it also increases inflammation. Ice, on the other hand, decreases inflammation and helps to calm down those fiery nerves. No more than about 20 minutes at a time, though, otherwise it can actually result in the opposite effect.
- Rest. This one may seem like a no-brainer (after all, Patient: “Doc, it hurts when I do this…”, Doctor: “Don’t do that.”), however, it’s surprising how often people with obviously injured knees attempt to continue hobbling around on them. It will only make it worse.
- Elevating a swollen extremity above the level of your heart will help to bring down swelling (and swelling contributes to pain!). Therefore, although kicking back in your recliner is a good idea, to be truly effective stuff plenty of pillows under that leg!
- If you can tolerate NSAIDS (such as ibuprofen), they work by decreasing inflammation, which helps to treat a major cause of the pain you’re experiencing. Narcotics, on the other hand, only mask the pain by making your head foggy.
- Utilizing a brace can be an effective treatment, even if only palliative, for many types of knee problems. On the flip side, properly applied external knee support can reduce the risks of re-injury.
The functional capability of the knee, not to mention its fluidity, agility, and utter beauty, is truly amazing. Unfortunately, inherent in its design is a potential proclivity to knee injuries. However, by keeping in mind a few simple interventions, you’ll know just what the heck you should do now!