Glucosamine Joint Support

Causes of Knee Pain and Treatments

Knee pain is a quite common with several potential causes that may include acute injuries to complications of medical conditions.  While knee pain can be localized to a specific area of the knee it can also diffuse throughout the knee.  Knee pain can often accompanied by physical restriction.  A thorough medical physical examination may establish the cause of your knee pain.knee_pain

What are knee pain symptoms and signs?

The location of the knee pain can vary depending on which structure is involved. With infection or an inflammatory process, the whole knee might be swollen and painful, while a torn meniscus or fracture of a bone gives symptoms only in one specific location. A Baker cyst will usually cause pain in the back of the knee. The severity of the joint pain can vary, from a minor ache to a severe and disabling pain. Some of the other signs and symptoms that accompany knee pain are difficulty walking due to instability of the knee, limping due to discomfort, difficulty walking up or down steps due to ligament damage, locking of the knee (unable to bend the knee),
redness and swelling, inability to extend the knee, and shifting weight to the opposite knee and foot.
The treatment of knee pain depends on the underlying cause.  The prognosis of knee pain is usually good although it might require surgery or other interventions.  What is knee pain?
Knee pain is a common problem that can originate in any of the bony structures compromising the knee joint (femur, tibia, fibula), the kneecap (patella), or the ligaments and cartilage (meniscus) of the knee. Knee pain can be aggravated by exercise, affected by the surrounding muscles and their movements, and be triggered by other problems (such as a foot injury). Knee pain can affect people of all ages, and home remedies can be helpful unless it becomes severe.

What causes knee pain?

Knee pain can be divided into three major categories: Acute injury: such as a broken bone, torn ligament, or meniscal tear.  Medical conditions: arthritis, infections.  Chronic use/overuse conditions: osteoarthritis, patellar syndromes, tendinitis, and bursitis. Below is a list of some of the more common causes of knee pain. This is not an all-inclusive list but rather highlights a few common causes of knee pain in each of the above categories.

Acute knee injuries

Fractures: Direct trauma to the bony structure can cause one of the bones in the knee to break. This is usually a very obvious and painful knee injury. Most knee fractures are not only painful but will also interfere with the proper functioning of the knee (such as kneecap fracture) or make it very painful to bear weight (such as tibial plateau fracture). All fractures need immediate medical attention. Many fractures require significant force, and a thorough examination is performed to detect other injuries.
Ligament injuries: The most common injury is the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury. This is often a sports-related injury due to a sudden stop and change in directions. The remaining ligaments (posterior cruciate ligament, lateral collateral ligament, and medial collateral ligament) are injured less frequently.
Meniscus injuries: The menisci (medial and lateral) are made of cartilage and act as shock absorbers between bones in the knee. Twisting the knee can injure the meniscus.
Dislocation: The knee joint can be dislocated, which is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Knee dislocation can compromise blood flow to the leg and have other related problems. This injury often occurs during a motor-vehicle accident when the knee hits the dashboard.
Medical conditions:  Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that can affect any joint in the body. It can cause severe pain and disability, as well as swelling.  Gout is a form of arthritis that is most commonly found in the big toe, though it can also affect the knee. Gout tends to flare up and is extremely painful during the acute episodes. When there is no flare-up, the knee can be pain free.  With septic arthritis (infectious arthritis), the knee joint can become infected; this leads to pain, swelling, and fever. This condition requires antibiotics and drainage treatments as soon as possible.

Chronic use/overuse conditions

Patellar tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendons connecting the kneecap (patella) to the bone of the lower leg. Patellar tendinitis is a chronic condition often found in individuals repeating the same motion during exercise (such as runners and cyclists).
Patellofemoral pain syndrome is caused by degeneration or stress under the kneecap (patella) where it meets the thighbone (femur). Patellofemoral pain syndrome occurs in runners and cyclists.
Osteoarthritis: A wearing down of cartilage of the joint due to use and age

What are risk factors for knee pain?

Biomechanics: The knee joint is complicated in its operation and is used frequently throughout the day. Any change in the movement of the joint (leg-length difference, change in walking style due to back problems) can cause subtle changes and cause pain and injuries.
Excess weight: The stress on the knee joint is increased with excess weight. Obesity also increases the risk of osteoarthritis as the cartilage breaks down more rapidly.
Overuse during repetitive motions as are found during certain exercises (jogging, skiing) or work conditions (long periods of kneeling) can cause breakdown of cartilage and lead to pain.

When should people with knee pain call a health care professional?

Any pain that does not respond to rest or disappears within a few days should be evaluated by a doctor. In addition, the following are symptoms and signs in the knee that a doctor should evaluate: Swelling, Inability to bend, Deformity, Unable to walk or discomfort while walking
Significant pain.
What are some of the complications of knee pain?
Frequently, knee pain will disappear without ever finding a specific cause. Depending on the underlying cause of the pain, the condition can progress and lead to more serious injuries or complications. Usually, these complications are long term and result in worsening pain or an increasing difficulty to walk.
How do physicians diagnose knee pain?
A health care professional will begin by asking questions related to the person’s general health and then specifically to the nature of the knee pain (how long, how severe, does anything make it feel better or worse, etc.).  Next, an examination of the knee will be performed. This will include bending the knee through the full range of motion, checking for stability of the ligaments, and evaluating for any tenderness and swelling. It is often helpful to compare the results of the examination of the painful knee with the other knee. Frequently, this is all that is required to make a diagnosis and start treatment. In several research studies, it has been found that an experienced examiner is as reliable as X-ray examination.  Sometimes the doctor might want to do further studies such as the following tests.
Radiologic tests
Plain X-ray can establish fractures and degenerative changes of the knee.
MRI is used to evaluate the soft tissues of the knee for ligament tears or cartilage and muscle injuries.
Blood tests
If gout, arthritis, or other medical conditions are suspected, a health care professional might order blood tests.
Removal of joint fluid (arthrocentesis)
Some conditions are best diagnosed by removal of a small amount of fluid from the knee joint. During arthrocentesis, a small needle is placed into your joint and fluid is withdrawn. This is done in a sterile method. The fluid is then sent to the laboratory for evaluation. This procedure is especially helpful if an infected knee joint is suspected or to distinguish gout and different forms of arthritis. If there is a collection of blood in the joint due to a traumatic injury, removing the fluid can help relieve the pain.
What kind of doctors treat knee pain?
Often knee pain can be evaluated and treated by your primary-care doctor. If the knee pain requires surgery or the cause of the pain needs further evaluation, an orthopedic surgeon will usually be consulted. With arthritis, gout, or inflammatory joint problems a rheumatologist may be consulted.
What is the treatment for knee pain?
Treatments for knee pain are as varied as the conditions that can cause the pain.
Medications might be prescribed to treat an underlying medical condition or for pain relief.
If you are taking over-the-counter pain medications regularly for your knee pain, you should see your doctor to be evaluated.
Physical therapy
Sometimes strengthening the muscles around the knee will make it more stable and help guarantee the best mechanical movements. This can help avoid injuries or further worsening of an injury.
Injecting medications directly into your knee might help in certain situations. The two most common injections are corticosteroids and lubricants. Corticosteroid injections can help arthritis and other inflammations of the knee. They usually need to be repeated every few months. Lubricants that are similar to the fluid already in your knee joint can help with movement and pain.
Knee Surgery
Knee operations range from arthroscopic knee surgery to total knee replacement. Arthroscopic knee surgery is a very common surgical procedure that allows the physician look inside your knee through a few small holes and a fiberoptic camera. The surgeon can repair many of the injuries and remove small pieces of loose bones or cartilage. This is a common outpatient procedure.
Partial knee replacement: The surgeon replaces the damaged portions of the knee with plastic and metal parts. Because only part of the knee joint is replaced, this procedure has a shorter recovery then a total knee replacement.
Total knee replacement: In this procedure, the knee is replaced with an artificial joint.
Other therapies
Acupuncture has shown some relieve of knee pain, especially in patients with osteoarthritis. Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements have shown mixed results in research studies.
Quick Guide
Are there any home remedies for relief of knee pain?
Over-the-counter pain medications can frequently alleviate the pain. If someone is taking these medications on a regular basis, he or she should see a health-care professional to evaluate the knee pain for proper diagnosis and to avoid the potential side effects of chronic medication use.
The RICE method is often helpful, especially for minor injuries:
Rest: Rest the joint, and take a break from your usually activities involving the knee joint.
Ice: Applying ice can help with pain and inflammation.
Compress: A compression bandage can help prevent swelling and help knee alignment. It should not be tight and should be removed at night.
Elevate: Elevation can help with swelling and resting of the knee.
Is it possible to prevent knee pain?
There can be many reasons for knee pain. Therefore, there are different strategies to prevent the pain depending on the underlying cause. Running on soft surfaces or decreasing the amount of running can help if the pain is due to overuse. Avoiding any direct injuries to the knee including wearing a seatbelt can prevent traumatic injuries. Weight loss can be helpful for many different forms of knee pain.
What is the prognosis of knee pain?
Frequently, knee pain will occur for a short period of time and then resolve. Sometimes it can return a few weeks or months later. If your knee pain becomes chronic, it is important to get it evaluated to avoid further damage to cartilage, bones, or ligaments. Prognosis depends on the underlying causes of the pain.  With modern surgical techniques, it’s possible to relieve many of the knee pain syndromes and return to an active lifestyle.
Acupuncture is the practice of inserting needles into the body to reduce pain or induce anesthesia. More broadly, acupuncture is a family of procedures involving the stimulation of anatomical locations on or in the skin by a variety of techniques.
Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. When joints are inflamed they can develop stiffness, warmth, swelling, redness and pain. There are over 100 types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, gout, and pseudogout.
CAT Scan
A CT scan is an X-ray procedure that combines many X-ray images with the aid of a computer to generate cross-sectional and three-dimensional images of internal organs and structures of the body. A CT scan is a low-risk procedure. Contrast material may be injected into a vein or the spinal fluid to enhance the scan.
Cortisone Injection
Cortisone injections are used to treat small areas of inflammation or widespread inflammation throughout the body. There is minimal pain from these injections, and relief from the pain of inflammation occurs rapidly.
Gout (Gouty Arthritis)
Buildup of uric acid crystals in a joint causes gouty arthritis. Symptoms and signs include joint pain, swelling, heat, and redness, typically of a single joint. Gout may be treated with diet and lifestyle changes, as well as medication.  Gout attacks (gouty arthritis) are caused by crystals of uric acid deposits. Learn about symptoms, causes, treatments and medication for this painful condition.
Knee Joint MRI Scan
MRI (or magnetic resonance imaging) scan is a radiology technique which uses magnetism, radio waves, and a computer to produce images of body structures. MRI scanning is painless and does not involve X-ray radiation. Patients with heart pacemakers, metal implants, or metal chips or clips in or around the eyes cannot be scanned with MRI because of the effect of the magnet.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease affecting both cartilage and bone. Joints most often affected by osteoarthritis include the knees, hands, back, or hips. Osteoarthritis symptoms include pain, swelling and joint inflammation.
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, the tissue around the joints, as well as other organs in the body. Because it can affect multiple other organs of the body, rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systemic illness and is sometimes called rheumatoid disease.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Early Symptoms
Early RA symptoms and signs vary differently from person to person. The most common body parts that are initially affected by RA include the small joints of the hands, wrists, and feet, and the knees and hip joints. Joint inflammation causes stiffness. Warmth, redness, and pain may vary in degree.
Torn Meniscus
A torn meniscus (knee cartilage) may be caused by suddenly stopping, sharply twisting, or deep squatting or kneeling when lifting heavy weight. Symptoms of a meniscal tear include pain with running or walking long distances, popping when climbing stairs, a giving way sensation, locking, or swelling. Treatment depends upon the severity, location, and underlying disease of the knee joint.
Total Knee Replacement
During total knee replacement surgery, the diseased knee joint is replaced with artificial material. The risks include blood clots in the legs, urinary tract infection, nausea and vomiting, chronic knee pain, nerve damage, and infection.