Knee pain can be caused by a variety of conditions. Also, injuries to the knee can cause pain and disability, which can affect work or other activities. Fact is, knee pain from knee problems can occur at any age. Some may be mild and others may be so severe that it requires medical or surgical intervention. The following are some of the most common causes of knee pain, which include tips on how to avoid common knee problems.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common types of arthritis. It commonly affects large joints, such as the hips and knees. Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee is by far the most common osteoarthritis affecting overweight and obese people.
The knee structure damaged in OA is the articular cartilage. It is a tough material, which covers ends of bones found in a joint. The articular cartilage plays a role in protecting the joint’s bone surfaces. In addition, it protects the joint by acting as shock absorbers. In OA, however, these protective joint linings are damaged causing bone ends to rub against each other. Over time, the bone ends get damaged and can cause pain and swelling.
To avoid having osteoarthritis, experts recommend losing weight and maintaining a healthy diet. In doing so, stress on the knees will be decreased, preventing future damage.
A bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac, which works as a cushion or padding between a bone and other moving parts, such as muscles or tendons. Bursitis is the medical term used to denote inflammation of the bursa. It can be caused by repetitive movements or overexertion of the knee. Also, kneeling on a hard surfaces for a long time can cause bursitis to develop. Sometimes bursitis can be caused by other health problems, such as infections, arthritis, or an autoimmune disease like lupus.
To prevent bursitis not caused by other health problems, warming-up and stretching before a physical activity may help. Use foam when kneeling for a long time or kneepads in jobs or tasks that require kneeling for long periods.
Knee Tendon Injuries
There are two major types of knee tendon injuries. They are tendinitis and ruptured or torn tendon. Tendons are tough fibrous bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Tendinitis, which means inflammation of a tendon, occurs because of overusing a tendon. Certain activities that require repetitive movements, such as dancing, running, or cycling can cause the tendon to become stretched and inflamed. Sometimes, the tendon can tear because of too much effort or too much repeated stress.
Performing warm-up and stretching exercises before doing strenuous exercises or sports can prevent injury to the knee tendons. By doing so, tension on the tendon is reduced and blood flow to muscles increase. Jerking motion while lifting weights should be avoided.
The menisci are two disc-like structures located between the ends of the femur (thigh bone) and tibiea (larger leg bone) in the knee joint. These two crescent-shaped discs are found on the inner and outer sides of the knee. The menisci, like the articular cartilages act as shock absorbers. In addition, they also provide stability to the knee.
The menisci can be damaged when too much force is exerted in turning the knees while the foot is fixed on the ground. This can occur in sports like basketball where a player gets the ball and then suddenly twists or turn the upper leg when passing the ball.
To avoid this type of knee injury, try to avoid sudden or quick turning of the upper leg while the foot is planted on the ground. Strengthening the back and front thigh muscles may also help make the knee stable.
Medial and Lateral Collateral Ligament Injuries
The medial and lateral collateral ligaments are tough bands of tissue, each of which are located on each side of the knee. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) runs along the inner side part of the knee. It provides steadiness to the inner side of the knee joint. The lateral collateral ligament or LCL, on the other hand, runs along the outer side of the knee. The LCL provides steadiness or stability to the outer side of the knee joint.
Among the two, MCL is the most commonly affected collateral ligament. This ligament is commonly injured in activities like contact sports wherein a direct blow on the outer side of the knee occurs, causing stretching or tearing of the MCL. Such contact sports include football and hockey.
Lateral collateral ligament injury can result from a blow to the inner side of the knee causing stretching or tearing. Although it is less common, like MCL injury, lateral collateral ligament injury may also occur in contact sports athletes.
To avoid medial and lateral collateral ligament injuries, the use of proper technical skills when playing sports may be essential. However, many cases of these types of injury may be difficult to prevent. Maintaining stability to the knee by strengthening the thigh and leg muscles may help.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome
The iliotibial band is a thick band of tissue that runs from the hip and attaches to the outside part of the knee. Iliotibial band syndrome occurs when the iliotibial band repeatedly rubs over the outer end part of the femur (thigh bone) on the knee. Although the condition can occur as a result of direct injury to the knee, long-term repeated stress or overuse of the iliotibial band commonly causes it.
Prevention of iliotibial band syndrome may include performing warm-up exercises and stretching exercises. Resting in between activities may also help.
In conclusion, most knee pain occurs because of overuse or repetitive movements, poor form while performing physical activities, being overweight or obese, not warming up or stretching, or not taking breaks from repetitive tasks often. While mild knee pain can be managed with rest; ice application; elevating the limb; and taking pain medication may help, severe cases, such as torn ligament or tendon or damaged cartilage may require a consultation with a qualified health care practitioner.
Knee Injuries and Disorders (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/kneeinjuriesanddisorders.html). Updated: November 2009. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
Questions and Answers About Bursitis and Tendinitis (http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bursitis/default.asp). Published: April 2007. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
Q&A About Knee Problems (http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Knee_Problems/default.asp). Revised: May 2006. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.