Knee Pain and Injuries

Knee pain is a very common complaint among people of all ages. Knee pain can range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by other symptoms depending on the cause of the pain and other factors. Causes of knee pain can include anything from knee injuries, such as torn cartilage or strains, to medical conditions, such as arthritis or infection.

Symptoms

Knee pain symptoms vary from person to person and the severity and location mostly depends on what is causing your pain.

Symptoms that often accompany knee pain may include one or more of the following:

  • Stiffness
  • Inflammation
  • Weakness
  • Instability
  • A “popping” sensation
  • Limited range of motion
  • Crepitus, which is a grinding or crunching sensation
  • Redness or warmth over the joint

Causes

Knee injuries are among the most common causes of knee pain, resulting in a reported 10.4 million doctor’s visits in 2010. Common knee injuries include:

Mechanical issues known to cause knee pain include:

  • Degeneration of bone or cartilage
  • Kneecap dislocation
  • Iliotibial band syndrome (IT band syndrome)

Medical conditions can also cause knee pains, including:

  • Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Pseudogout
  • Osgood-Schlatter disease
  • Gout
  • Baker’s cyst
  • Bone cancer or bone metastases
  • Bone infections
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome

Risks

There are several factors that can increase a person’s risk of knee pain, including:

  • Being overweight.
    Carrying excess weight increases the load on your knee joints, which can result in knee pain symptoms and an increased risk of knee injuries and osteoarthritis. Just 10 pounds places the equivalent of approximately 40 pounds of pressure on the knees.
  • Inactivity.
    A lack of physical activity can result in decreased strength and flexibility in leg, back and abdominal muscles. Weak or stiff muscles aren’t able to support the knees properly.
  • Previous knee injury.
    Those with previous knee injuries have a heightened risk of future knee injuries and knee pain.
  • Participating in certain activities.
    Sports and other activities that involve repeated jumping, running, and other motions that cause excessive pounding on the knees increase the risk of knee injuries and accelerate degeneration of the joints.
  • Certain medical conditions.
    Arthritis and other conditions affecting the joints increase the likelihood of knee pain.

Diagnosis

Finding the cause of knee pain generally begins with your medical history and a physical examination. Your doctor will ask you to describe your symptoms and ask if you’ve had any knee injuries that might be responsible for your pain.

During the physical examination, your doctor will check your knee for visible signs of injury or infection, such as swelling, warmth, redness, and bruising. Your doctor may manipulate the leg to check for any restrictions in knee movements.

Diagnostic imaging tests may be recommended. These can include:

  • X-rays.
    Often the first imaging test ordered; X-rays can show fractures and signs of degeneration in the joints.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
    This type of scan offers the most detailed images of the knee’s ligaments, cartilage, muscles and tendons, as well as the bone.
  • Computed tomography (CT).
    A series of X-rays create cross-sectional images of the bones and soft tissues, enabling a doctor to have greater visibility into the affected area.

Additional testing may be required if your doctor suspects that an infection or other medical condition is responsible for your knee pain. Other tests may include:

  • Blood tests.
    Samples of your blood may be used to check for infection or mineral imbalances linked to pseudogout. Blood tests can also check for elevated levels of uric acid associated with gout.
  • Arthrocentesis.
    A small amount of joint fluid is removed from inside the knee joint to check for the presence crystals.

Options

There are several options available for managing knee pain and symptoms of knee injuries and conditions. The treatment(s) recommended will depend on the specific cause of your symptoms.

Options for treating knee pain include:

  • Rest.
    In some cases, resting the knee and avoiding activities that aggravate the knee for a while can relieve knee pains.
  • Medication.
    Over the counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce inflammation and provide relief of pain and stiffness. If your knee pain stems from a medical condition, such as gout or arthritis, medications to treat the condition may also help alleviate knee pain symptoms.
  • Physical therapy.
    A physical therapist can work with you to strengthen the muscles surrounding your knee and improve your flexibility. Special exercises can improve your range of motion and balance, as well as alleviate pain and stiffness.
  • Corticosteroid injections.
    Corticosteroids contain cortisone and a numbing agent that can offer fast relief of inflammation and knee pain when injected into the joint.
  • Hyaluronic acid (HA) injections.
    These injections use a fluid similar to the thick fluid found in our joints that provide lubrication so the joint can more better.
  • Surgery.
    Depending on the cause and severity of your knee pain, surgery may be recommended. Knee surgery options include arthroscopic surgery, partial knee replacement and total knee replacement.

Unless the damage to the knee is severe, most doctors will recommend avoiding knee surgery until nonsurgical options have been used for some time without relief of symptoms. Surgery is an effective way to relieve knee pain symptoms caused by knee injuries and medical conditions, especially when implementing ARO’s unique surgical approach which include knee arthroscopy, regenerative medicine and denervation. The benefits and risks of surgery and other treatments should be considered when choosing a treatment for knee pain.