Knee pain knows no boundaries. It’s an equal opportunity affliction that affects every age and gender indiscriminately. The smallest amount of discomfort can sideline your workouts, athletic activities and the simplest of daily mobility. It’s necessary to get to the root of the cause to avoid issues that can worsen over time, and it’s equally as important to learn how to treat pain once it manifests.
The Injury Report
Perhaps the most obvious cause of knee pain is as a result of injury… and you don’t have to be in the NBA or NFL to suffer. A simple fall on the winter ice can do the trick. A torn ACL—the anterior cruciate ligament connecting your thighbone to your shinbone—is the most common. Most frequently, it happens when you turn suddenly in one direction while your foot is planted, a common occurrence with basketball and soccer players. Similarly, the meniscus, cartilage that absorbs shock between your shinbone and thighbone may be torn when a person twists his or her knee. Repeated stress and bearing too much weight can lead to a condition known as bursitis of the knee. This is caused by inflammation of the small sacs of fluid that help tendons and ligaments move over the joint with ease.
It Could Be Mechanic
Like we’ve said before, you don’t have to be an athlete or a gym devotee to experience issues with your knee. Our joints are affected by time making them susceptible to issues. Fragments of bone or cartilage can become lodged in the space between your joints resulting in extreme discomfort and difficulty with movement—this is referred to as a “loose body”. The patella (knee cap), which is the triangular bone that sits in front of the knee, can sometimes slip out of place, resulting in a dislocation or subluxation. Lastly, the term “tendinitis” is used to describe the irritation that comes from extended overuse of the tendons within the knee.
The A-Word (Arthritis)
Most of us are familiar with this word but did you know there are well over 100 types of arthritis? While age is often a major contributor, it’s not the only factor. Osteoarthritis is the most common and pertains to the normal wear-and-tear that comes over time. This results in a progressive deterioration of cartilage in the knee, which is difficult to treat. However, rheumatoid arthritis is regarded as the most painful because it is a chronic autoimmune disease that comes and goes, with varying degrees of severity. It can affect all limbs in the body but is particularly incapacitating in the knee because it severely restricts mobility.
Age and mechanical issues are often the main culprits of knee pain but there are a host of others that are just as real… and just as uncomfortable. Perhaps you’ve heard of gout? A disease once thought to only affect kings, (because it is exacerbated by eating a diet high in shellfish and meats) this excruciating condition is caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in a joint. When found in the knee it restricts mobility almost entirely.
Excess weight puts unnecessary stress on your joints, which can result in injury or a breakdown of cartilage. Unrelated pain in your hip or foot can alter the way you walk and thus cause you to overcompensate with one knee—this will most definitely create discomfort. In addition, poor posture irritates joints and musculature to the point where the knees take on additional stress as well.
Think of your knee as you would a car—regular maintenance and proper care ensures longevity. The road to recovery from knee pain is long but there are easy treatments available. At the onset of a minor injury, it is best to take a day or two to go easy. Resting is not always convenient but it is the only way to heal. Icing your knee is helpful following an injury or during chronic bouts. It serves to alleviate pain and inflammation. Ice packs and bags of frozen peas work best (they conform to the contours of your knee) but remember to wrap all artificial ice sources in a towel to avoid discomfort on your skin. Compression bandages help in prohibiting the buildup of fluid (swelling) in and around the joint and aid in stabilizing the joint following injury. We’ve all heard the mantra that elevation helps with knee pain because it helps in the removal of swelling from the area that contributes to the pain. Well, the quicker you get a pillow under your knee and ankle, the faster you will heal. Fact.
If you have questions about the knee pain you’re experiencing and the above treatments are providing little relief, please contact JAG-ONE Physical Therapy today for a consultation. We have several offices located across New Jersey for your convenience.