- 28 October 2019
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Knee Pain Common Causes – What You Need to Know
Knee pain affects individuals of all ages from different walks of life. The pain is usually felt around the knee indicating some problem in the knee joint or the tissue surrounding it. Some people experience pain in a specific area of the knee (in case of fracture or torn meniscus) and other may feel diffused pain throughout the knee (inflammation or infection can make the knee painful and swollen). Sometimes the pain is felt in the back of the knee (Baker cyst). Therefore, the location of knee pain may vary. In general, knee pain can originate in any structure of the knee including patella (kneecap), tendons, ligaments and the bony structures of the knee joint (femur, tibia, fibula).
The intensity and severity of knee pain can increase by movement, mobility of the muscles surrounding the knee, excess weight or obesity and can be due to knee injury. Many people resort to home remedies as soon as they experience knee pain. These measures of relieving pain may be helpful for some unless the pain aggravates.
The intensity of knee pain may vary ranging from mild pain to debilitating pain.
The signs and symptoms associated with knee pain include the following:
- Instability of knee making walking and weight-bearing difficult
- Discomfort causing limping
- Walking downstairs and upstairs is difficult
- Difficulty in bending the knee
- Popping or crunching noises
- Difficulty in stretching and extending knee and leg
- Inflammation, swelling and redness of the affected area of the knee
Causes of Knee Pain
People experience knee pain due to several causes ranging from arthritis, injury (torn cartilage or ruptured ligament), mechanical issues, overuse injury, sudden injury, infections, gout and other underlying conditions.
Knee Injury causes ruptured ligaments, torn cartilage and affects bursae (fluid-filled sacs) and can also affect knee cartilage and bones of the knee joint.
Meniscus: It is a tough structure acting as a shock absorber between thigh bone and shinbone. It is made of rubbery cartilage. Sudden twisting while putting weight on the knee can cause torn meniscus.
Knee fracture: knee bone fractures can cause knee pain. During falls or accidental injuries or motor vehicle collisions patella (kneecap) can break and cause knee pain.
ACL injury: An ACL injury is a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This can cause knee pain.
Patellar tendinitis: Tendons are thick fibrous tissues that attach muscles to bones. Inflammation and irritation of tendons is known as tendinitis.
Knee bursitis: The outside of the knee joint is cushioned by small fluid-filled sacs (bursae). This cushioning helps in the smooth gliding of ligaments and tendons over the knee joint. Knee bursitis causes inflammation in the bursae due to injuries and causes knee pain.
Foot Pain or Hip Pain: Even foot pain or Hip Pain can cause knee pain because people who experience knee pain change their way of walking – by adopting altered gait, thus putting stress or additional pressure on knee joint. This may result in knee pain.
Kneecap (Patella) Dislocation: Patella or kneecap – the triangular bone that covers the knee move out of its location and cause pain.
This is an autoimmune disease that affects the joints. It can also affect knee joints. Rheumatoid arthritis deteriorates knee joints, thus causing a chronic and debilitating condition, which may vary in severity.
Another degenerative condition that causes wear-and-tear of the knee joint is osteoarthritis – a common type of arthritis. The knee cartilage deteriorates with age and use.
Infection of the knee joint causes redness, pain and swelling. This condition is known as septic arthritis. The onset of septic arthritis occur with pain and fever and the knee cartilage gets extensively damaged due to this condition.
Pseudogout: In this condition of the knee, crystals of calcium are formed in the joint fluid of the knee. It is often mistaken for gout. Pseudogout most commonly affects the knee joint.
Gout: In this condition of the knee, uric acid crystals build up in the knee joint. This condition commonly affects the big toe, but knee can also be affected by gout.
Self-care or home remedies seem good in some cases and knee pain responds well to such measures. In some cases, knee braces and physical therapy can also help in relieving knee pain. Though all types of knee pain is not serious, knee pain due to conditions like osteoarthritis and knee injuries can lead to excess or severe pain, disability and damage to the knee joint in the long-run if left unchecked. Similarly, if a minor knee injury left unattended, can increase the risk of similar injury in the future. The long-term consequences may include worsening pain and difficulty in walking.
When to see a doctor
A knee pain that persists for long and is not relieved by taking rest or taking pain-relieving measures up to a few days should be evaluated by an orthopaedic doctor.
In the following cases, knee pain should be evaluated by a doctor:
- Knee injury associated with severe and debilitating knee pain
- Significant knee pain with fever
- Knee pain with swelling, redness and inflammation around knee area with fever
- Deformity in the knee – which is obvious with pain
- Walking difficulty with pain
- Feeling discomfort while walking
- Difficulty in fully bending and stretching legs
- Difficulty in bearing weight on the knee
- Feeling instability of the knee while bearing weight
Treatment will vary depending on the cause and severity of the pain. Treatments for knee pain are as varied as the conditions that can cause pain.