Found in the lower extremities (the legs), the knees are the largest and the most complex joints in our bodies and nearly our entire weight rests on them. The knees connect an intricate assortment of bones such as the femur (also known as the thigh bone which is the longest bone in our bodies), the patella (triangular shaped bone also known as the knee cap or the knee pan) and the tibia (also known as the shinbone or the shank bone and it is the largest and strongest human leg bone below the knee). The knee joint also connects the surrounding anatomical area which incorporates the popliteal fossa (also known as the knee pit) which is the slight recession located behind the knee joint and tendons, ligaments, cartilage, blood vessels, bursae (sac filled with fluid) and muscles. The knees are hinged joints whose pivotal mobility of flexion and extension is a coordinated blend of rolling and gliding movements with minor rotation capabilities in their flexed positions.
Causes and Symptoms of Knee Pain
With so many components at play and with such a heavy load to carry, one should not be surprised to hear that the knees are the joints which are the most prone to serious injuries or to developing such potentially debilitating conditions as osteoarthritis (also known as OA, degenerative arthritis or the degenerative joint disease) or any number of other clinical conditions such as gout and numerous infections. The consequence of all these conditions is knee pain. In fact, statistics show that roughly one third of the American population over the age of 45 suffers knee pain due to one cause or another.
Some of the most common pain causing knee injuries are:
1/ Ligament Injury. The knee joint consists of four ligaments which are durable bands of connective tissue. Tearing any one or more of these ligaments will probably cause –
- – Immediate pain which worsens with any movement and it is combined with a popping sound.
- – Inability to bear weight on it such as during standing.
2/ Tendon Injuries (Tendinitis). Tendons are thick cordlike fibers that attach muscles to bones. Tendinitis is an inflammation or an irritation of the tendons and it is most prevalent in runners, skiers, skaters and cyclists. Its symptoms are –
- – Pain in one or both of the knees which is accompanied by swelling in front of the knee or below its cap.
- – The pain tends to increase when jumping, running, squatting or climbing up stairs.
- – The inability to extend the knee joint to its fullest.
3/ Meniscus Injuries. A C-shaped piece of cartilage within the knee, the meniscus is at risk of tearing in any number of patters but they all lead to –
- – Pain followed by moderate swelling which tends to appear as late as 24 to 36 hours after the actual injury.
- – The injured knee joint may feel locked and unable to fully straighten.
4/ Bursitis. This is an inflammation of the bursae and it causes –
- – Continual pain whether at rest or in motion along with swollen redness which radiates heat.
- – Stiffness and intense pain when kneeling or walking up or down stairs.
5/ Dislocated Knee Cap. When the patella moves out of place it causes –
- – Severe pain and swelling.
- – Extreme difficulty walking or straightening the knee joint.
Other injuries and conditions that cause knee pain are: Osgood-Schlatter disease, Iliotibial band syndrome, Hyperextended knee, Septic arthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Gout and Pseudogout, and Chondromalacia of the patella.
Treating Knee Pain
Depending on its cause and its severity, knee pain may be treated with physical therapy, compresses, icing, elevation, rest, analgesics, anti-inflammatory or antibiotic medications, as well as corrective or replacement surgeries.