Most people have experienced minor knee problems at one time or another, as knee pain symptoms typically develop from a number of common causes, such as normal wear and tear, overuse, and injury. The knee is the largest joint in the body, and the surface is covered by cartilage, which helps absorbs shocks and provides a smooth surface for movement.
Knee pain treatment varies depending on the cause, location, and severity of an injury, as well as other factors like the person’s age, overall health, and level of activity. Medical treatment such as pain- and inflammation-reducing medicines, physical therapy, orthotics, bracing, steroid injections, and reconstructive surgery may be required.
Many symptoms can be reduced with common knee pain home treatments like over-the-counter pain relievers in pill and topical cream forms, icing, elevation and plenty of rest, in order to give the joint time to heal. Additionally, knowledge about how knee injuries develop is an effective prevention measure.
Types of Knee Injuries
Acute knee injuries develop suddently and may be caused by direct impact to the knee or from severe twisting, bending, or falling. Pain, bruising, and swelling will likely be severe and develop shortly after the injury. Sprains, strains, or other injuries to the ligaments and tendons of the knee are common acute injuries.
The kneecap can also dislocate or break, causing severe knee pain, and this most often the result of falling, a severe twisting motion, or by slamming the knee into an object. Tissue or bone pieces may get caught in the joint and interfere with movement when this occurs. Kneecap dislocation happens most frequently in females aged 13 to 18. While knee joint dislocation is quite rare, it requires immediate medical attention.
Overuse injuries occur with repetitive activities or prolonged pressure on the knee and usually cause inflammation and tendinitis. Issues not directly related to injury or overuse include osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease), Osgood-Schlatter disease (rupture), or popliteal cyst (swelling in the back of the knee).
Knee Pain Risk Factors
A number of factors can increase the risk of knee pain and related problems. In many cases, age plays a large role. Osgood-Schlatter disease and patellar tendinitis are common in young people, while others causes, such as osteoarthritis, gout, and pseudogout, tend to affect older adults. Sex is also a factor in the causes of knee pain. Teenage girls are more likely than boys to have an ACL tear or dislocated kneecap, but teenage boys are at greater risk of Osgood-Schlatter disease and patellar tendinitis.
Being overweight or obese causes increased stress on the knee joints, even during ordinary activity like walking, and increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis by accelerating the breakdown of joint cartilage. Structural abnormalities, such as having one leg shorter than the other, misaligned knees and even flat feet makes one more prone to knee pain symptoms.
Some sports, like alpine skiing, basketball and jogging apply greater stress on the knees and increase the risk of injury and overuse. Injuring the knee once increases the risk of additional knee pain and symptoms, even re-injury in the future. Not all knee pain has serious causes, but some injuries and conditions can lead to increasing pain, joint damage, and even disability if left untreated.