While the knee is a significantly small part of your body, an injury to it can make routine tasks painful or even impossible. For this reason, it’s advisable to see a joint pain specialist at the first signs of problems so they can properly diagnose knee pain and commence treatment.
Common Causes of Knee Pain
The knee is one of the more complex joints in the body. Its different parts can be sources of pain and inflammation, from minor knee pain to medical conditions that require knee replacement surgery. Here are some of the most common causes of knee problems and pain:
Patellofemoral pain syndrome
This is also known as a runner’s knee and is a common cause of knee pain. This is caused by too much physical activity or misalignment on your kneecap. It can also result from the muscles around your knee being too tight or weakened.
This condition causes cartilage under the kneecap to weaken and get damaged. This can be caused by overusing the knee, a knee joint injury, or a misalignment of the joint.
Tendinitis (jumper’s knee)
Tendons are strong tissues that anchor muscles to bones. If they get inflamed due to wear and tear, you develop a condition known as patellar tendonitis which might cause mild or severe pain.
Anyone can develop this condition, but it’s more prevalent in jumping athletes (occurs in as many as 20% of jumping athletes) like basketball and volleyball players.
The knee has fluid-filled structures called bursas. These fluid sacs help cushion the knee joint. Certain activities like kneeling on a hard floor can irritate the bursa. This can cause pain and limit mobility.
Arthritis is among the most common causes of knee pain. There are three types of knee arthritis, with the most common one, osteoarthritis. This type progressively wears away joint cartilage.
Here are the common symptoms of arthritis of the knee:
- Buckling and Locking: With time, your knee muscles progressively weaken making the bone structure unstable. This weakness can cause your knee joint buckle or lock up such that you cannot bend or straighten it. This can happen from time to time, and you should have this checked out as soon as you notice it.
- Inflammation or tenderness: Arthritis of the knee may cause swelling. This swelling is a result of extra fluid in your knees, or bone spurs called osteophytes. This swelling is more distinct after periods of inactivity, such as after waking up in the morning or after a long flight.
The skin around your knee might also feel warm to the touch. With time, you find that the inflammation does not go away, even with over the counter anti-inflammatory pain medications.
- Gradual Increase in Pain: While arthritis pain can begin suddenly, it’s likelier to develop slowly. You are likely to notice creeping pain after moments of inactivity, climbing stairs, kneeling, or when standing up after being seated.
At times pain can come from trying to sit down and ordinary things like taking a walk. For some people, changes in weather patterns can cause discomfort. If your knee pain is too intense that you cannot sleep, this might be a symptom of osteoarthritis.
- Cracking or popping sounds: This is a grinding or popping sound as you move. This happens when you lose some of the smooth cartilage that allows a smooth range of motion. If you have arthritis, these sounds are a result of bone spurs and rough surfaces rubbing against each other as you move your knee.
- Reduced range of motion: Arthritis can make it harder for your joints to glide as they should. This makes simple, normal movement difficult and at times, impossible. You can notice this when climbing stairs, performing physical exercise and even trying to sit down and stand up.
Because osteoarthritis wears away bone cartilage, it makes it harder for your joints to function normally. This makes day to day activity progressively harder until, in time, you might have difficulties moving without a cane or a walker.
- Knee deformities: As arthritis progresses, you might notice changes in your knee’s appearance. As muscles surrounding your knee weaken and thin out, a sunken area is created and becomes visible.
Your knees can also point towards each other or bend outwards. These deformities can range from hardly visible to very pronounced and debilitating.
- Loss of joint space: Arthritis can wear away cartilage and expose the bone. This can be seen on an x-ray film. In an attempt to repair itself, bone spurs then develop along the edges of the exposed bone.
If you have chronic knee pain and haven’t been able to get relief from over-the-counter remedies or your primary care doctor, it’s time to see a specialist in joint health. Starting with a physical exam, we’ll develop a treatment plan that addresses your painful knee problems. With services such as physical therapy, worker’s comp care, viscosupplementation, and more, we’ll get you up and moving again with less pain. Contact us today for an appointment.