by Catherine Brzozowski
Approximately 18 million patients visit a doctor or a hospital because of knee pain each year (Cleveland Clinic). Some of the most common causes of knee pain include: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, baker’s cyst and patellofemoral pain syndrome. Knee pain can largely stem from injuries as a result of sports, falls or trauma. Knee injuries typically involve the ligaments that hold two of the bones of the knee – the femur and tibia – together. Common type of knee injuries are ACL, MCL and meniscus.
The type of knee pain one may experience has much to do with the construction of the joint itself. Humans are bipedal – we stand on two feet – meaning we put a lot of stress in the form of weight and movement on this large hinge-like joint.
Did you know the knee joint is the largest joint in your body? The knee is a complex mechanism made up of bone, cartilage and ligaments. The cartilage in your knee acts as a cushion and gliding surface. When healthy, the cartilage keeps the bones in the joint from rubbing together. However, when the joint is affected by arthritis, the bones make contact and cause pain. Injuries, aging and degenerative conditions such as arthritis can cause the cartilage to break down. Each component of the knee’s complex structure serves an important function.
When any are compromised, it can contribute to pain in the joint. Problems with other joints, like the hips, can also cause knee discomfort.
Many risk factors contribute to knee pain including being overweight or obese, age, prior knee injuries, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, participation in sports like basketball or a job that involves a lot of stress on the knees, such as jumping, squatting and bending. The knee is a vulnerable joint that bears a great deal of stress from everyday activities such as lifting and kneeling, and from high-impact activities such as jogging, aerobics and sports.
The good news is that many causes of knee pain, especially those related to overuse or physical activity, respond well to self-care. If you are experiencing knee pain try to rest and avoid activities that aggravate the pain, especially weight-bearing activities. Keep your knee elevated as much as possible to bring any swelling down and apply ice. First, apply ice every hour for up to 15 minutes. After the first day, apply it at least four times per day. Gently compress the knee by wearing an ace bandage or elastic sleeve to reduce swelling and provide support. You can also try sleeping with a pillow underneath or between your knees.
Sometimes treating knee pain at home doesn’t treat the condition, so it’s important to practice self-care at home and seek medical attention to treat the condition.
Whether you have experienced knee pain, recovered from an injury or are dealing with chronic knee disease, there are steps you can take to prevent injury and minimize knee pain. Knee pain affects people of all ages and although not all knee pain is serious, it’s important to manage your knee pain to prevent similar injuries in the future. Take a step toward a life without knee pain at our free lecture. Our expert will explain the causes, symptoms, and treatments to manage your knee pain – and get back to the life you love.
Join Dr. Vishal Saxena, Temple Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine at Chestnut Hill Hospital, for a free lecture on knee pain on Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 12 p.m. Center on the Hill, 8855 Germantown Ave., to learn more about common causes, symptoms and treatment options to manage knee pain. The event is free, though registration is required. Call 215-753-2000 or visit ChestnutHill.TowerHealth.org for more information.
Catherine Brzozowski is the director of marketing and public relations for Chestnut Hill Hospital.