Aside from being the largest joint in the body, the knee is also very important in your mobility. It goes without saying that your knees play a huge part in the movement of your lower extremities and allow you to do routine daily activities such as walking, climbing the stairs, sitting, and standing. Even though they’re fairly strong, however, your knees are also prone to all kinds of injury which can affect their normal functioning.
Knee pain is relatively common, and it can affect people of all ages. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) found out that about 19.5% of American adults report knee pain.
There are multiple causes of knee pain and they are extremely varied, from a result of an accident to a complication from other pre-existing conditions. There’s no need to fret, however, because in most cases, treatment involves non-surgical measures.
What are the common causes of knee pain?
The knee is in a vulnerable spot and it consists of several other vital structures which can be easily injured especially during vehicular accidents, falls and sports-related collision. Some examples include fractures, ligament and tendon tears, cartilage damage and dislocation. Other symptoms accompany the pain such as redness, swelling, bruising and instability when standing or walking.
This happens when your bursae (small, fluid-filled sacs which serve as a cushion to the bones, muscles, and tendons) become inflamed. It results in swelling, redness, warmth, tenderness and an achy, dull pain in your knee. Bursitis develops with a repetitive knee movement particularly kneeling.
Although there are more than 100 types of arthritis, the most common ones are osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia. It happens much later in life and is manifested by inflammation, stiffness, and pain which differs in quality depending on the type of arthritis. For example, those with fibromyalgia often complain about widespread pain while people with gout experience excruciating pain upon waking up or getting out of the car. Long periods of inactivity can exacerbate the condition.
Bacterial or fungal infection.
This occurs when microorganisms reach the joint through your blood or when the joint becomes infected because of the introduction of bacteria or fungi after an injury or surgery. If you have any chronic illnesses, a bacterial infection in another part of your body or an open wound somewhere near or in the knee, your risk of developing knee infection increases. It can happen to anyone, even young children, and infants.
Hip or foot pain.
When you have hip or foot pain, your body compensates by altering the weight distribution in your lower extremities to mitigate the pain, unknowingly adding stress and strain to your knees.
Other risk factors.
Obesity and lack of exercise can also contribute to knee pain. Obesity increases your chances of developing osteoarthritis due to wear and tear injuries. Also, the increased weight can add stress to your knee joints. Lack of exercise, on the other hand, can cause knee injuries because your weak muscles cannot effectively support your joints.
What are the available treatments?
Treatment usually depends on the cause and severity of your knee pain.
Here are some treatment options you can apply:
Aside from preventing additional stress and strain on your knee, resting also helps ensure there will be no further injuries. This means no more prolonged standing.
Elevate your legs with a pillow.
This will help reduce swelling and propel any fluid accumulating in the knees to circulate normally again.
Use frozen vegetables or an ice pack wrapped in a towel on the knee. Do this for around 20-30 minutes 2-3 times a day.
Over-the-counter pain medications.
Ibuprofen and Paracetamol provide pain relief, but these should be used with caution since they’re contraindicated in people with kidney problems, hypertension, and stomach ulcers.
Pain relief creams.
Instead of taking pain medications orally, you can opt to apply creams that provide pain relief for painful joints in the affected area.
When should you consult your doctor?
In most cases, knee pain will go away using home remedies. However, your doctor still needs to assess and evaluate your condition since there’s also the likelihood of knee pain being a symptom of something more serious. Osteoarthritis, for example, might get worse and may even lead to disability if left untreated.
When you experience any of the following, it’s time to call a healthcare professional:
- Pain doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medications or other interventions
- Walking is almost impossible
- Your knee gives way
- You cannot move or bear weight on your knee
- Swelling and deformity
- Inability to flex or extend knee
- Knee painfully locks or clicks
Knee pain varies in duration and severity. Although it’s a common condition, you should never shrug it off as something insignificant because it may signal a serious underlying condition which requires immediate treatment.
By Joe Fleming
who is the President at ViveHealth. Passionate about healthy lifestyles and living a full life, he enjoys sharing and expressing these interests through his writing. With a goal to inspire others and fight ageism, Joe writes to help people of all backgrounds and ages overcome life’s challenges. His work ranges from articles on wellness, holistic health and aging to social narratives, motivational pieces and news stories. For Joe, helping others is vital.