What Is Knee Pain
The knee is a joint that permits the leg to bend and straighten. Knee pain is common due to injury, age-related degeneration, inflammation, and infection.
What Are Symptoms of Knee Pain?
Symptoms of knee pain include:
- Sudden, intense pain at the knee
- Inability to bend or fully straighten the knee
- Clicking, crunching, or catching sound in the knee joint when walking
Signs knee pain may be serious include:
- Extreme pain
- Feeling or hearing a popping when injury occurs
- Joint instability
- Inability to bear weight on affected leg
- Inability to straighten leg
- Knee buckles under when you try to walk
Is My Knee Injury Serious 5 Signs To Look For
Howard J. Luks, MDUpdated September 17, 2021
Your knee twists, you hear a pop, and now you have knee swelling and pain when trying to walk or with bending your knee. Perhaps you were struck by another player and have bruising, but no swelling. Are these severe knee injuries? When should you consider seeing a Sports Medicine Doctor following a knee injury? Lets go over 5 things that trained professionals look for to determine if your knee injury is serious.
As an active athlete or competitor, you know that severe knee injuries are common. Both contact and non-contact knee injuries can be severe. This post will cover five signs to look for to help determine if you might have a severe knee injury. In general, the most common and worrisome finding is immediate, significant swelling.
Even though most of the injuries I see in the office turn out to be mild, it is essential for you to know what the warning signs are to look for a potentially severe knee injury.
Exercises You Can Do To Prevent Knee Surgery
Avoid serious knee problems by making your knees stronger with easy home exercises. Try these three targeted exercises:
- Sit and stand: Sit upright on a sturdy chair. Squeeze a small ball between your knees so you can feel the muscles working inside your knees and thighs. While squeezing, stand up slowly. Slowly sit back down. Do two sets of 10 squeezes.
- Step-ups: Stand sideways in front of a staircase. Hold on to the wall or banister. Put the leg closest to the stairs on the first step. Straighten the leg on the step to slightly lift your other leg. Bend the leg on the step slightly to lower your other leg. Do this leg bend 10 times and switch legs.
- Squats: Correctly doing squats builds leg and hip strength. Stand with your back against a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart. While your back is flat against the wall, slide down to a semi-sitting position. Hold the squat for 10 seconds and push back up using your thigh muscles. Dont squat too low.
Gentle cycling strengthens the muscles that support your knee, too. Cycling can be an ideal activity that puts little pressure on your knee joints.
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Who Is At Risk For Injuries Related To Knee Instability
Risk factors for injuries related to knee weakness include:
- Engaging in sports, especially football, lacrosse, basketball, or skiing
- Ignoring knee pain: Pain is your body’s sign something is wrong. If you let it persist unchecked, you could be allowing its cause to worsen.
- History of torn ligament surgery
- A prior knee replacement
Why Do I Feel Knee Pain When I Exercise
If youre under the age of 50 and you feel sudden knee pain when you exercise, you probably have a sprain or a strain. Symptoms include tenderness and swelling, and you may not be able to put weight on the injury or use it normally.
If youre over 50 and you feel sudden knee pain, its more likely that its a sign of arthritis. Exercise can trigger symptoms of arthritis that are already present in the knee but havent yet been identified. Your doctor may book you in for X-rays if theysuspect you have arthritis.
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Other Causes And Symptoms Of Knee Pain
Other injuries, syndromes, and mechanical problems may also cause knee pain. These include:
ACL Injury An ACL injury occurs when you tear your anterior cruciate ligament , which is one of the four ligaments that connect your shinbone to your thighbone. It’s a common injury among people who play sports like basketball and soccer, which require sudden changes in direction. Call your doctor immediately if you experience symptoms of an ACL injury, such as a loud pop or “popping” sensation in the knee, advises Mayo Clinic.
Fractures A knee fracture can occur if the knee bones, including the kneecap , break during incidents like falls or auto accidents. It can also be caused by something as slight as stepping the wrong way if your bones are weaker due to osteoporosis, per Mayo Clinic. Call your doctor right away if you experience symptoms of a knee fracture, which include sudden pain around the kneecap or in the knee itself, possibly with swelling inability to bend or straighten the knee or to hold the leg out straight deformed appearance of the knee or bone protruding from the skin of the knee, per Johns Hopkins.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Patellofemoral pain syndrome, which is sometimes called runners knee, refers to pain between the kneecap and the thighbone, per Mayo Clinic. This condition is common in athletes and young adults, and can develop in older adults due to arthritis.
Mechanical Problems Several mechanical problems with the knee can also cause pain, including:
Urgent Advice: Get Advice From 111 Now If:
- your knee is very painful
- you cannot move your knee or put any weight on it
- your knee is badly swollen or has changed shape
- you have a very high temperature, feel hot and shivery, and have redness or heat around your knee this can be a sign of infection
111 will tell you what to do. They can tell you the right place to get help if you need to see someone.
Go to 111.nhs.uk or .
You can also go to an urgent treatment centre if you need to see someone now.
They’re also called walk-in centres or minor injuries units.
You may be seen quicker than you would at A& E.
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Why Is Diagnosis So Important
The most common reason for knee pain to recur is failure to treat the underlying cause of a problem, usually due to an inaccurate knee pain diagnosis.
For example, let’s say your knee is swollen. You can treat the swelling with ice, compression bandages, elevation and exercises and the swelling will most likely start to improve. But chances are, your knee problems will come back again unless you have identified what caused the swelling in the first place and also treated that.
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 anti-inflammatory pain medications regularly for your knee pain, you should see your doctor to be evaluated.
Sometimes physical therapy sessions to strengthen the muscles around the knee will make it more stable and help guarantee the best mechanical movements. Working with a physical therapist 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.
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First Aid For Knee Injuries In The First 48 To 72 Hours
- Stop your activity immediately. Dont work through the pain.
- Rest the joint at first.
- Reduce pain, swelling and internal bleeding with icepacks, applied for 15 minutes every couple of hours.
- Bandage the knee firmly and extend the wrapping down the lower leg.
- Elevate the injured leg.
- Dont apply heat to the joint.
- Avoid alcohol, as this encourages bleeding and swelling.
- Dont massage the joint, as this encourages bleeding and swelling.
Can Knee Pain Come Back After Treatment
Frequently, knee pain will occur for a short period of time and then resolve. Sometimes it can return a few weeks or months later. For chronic knee pain, 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.
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Why You Can’t Bend Your Knee Without Pain
Mobility is everything. Our world understands this concept now more than ever. When you cannot go where you want to go when you want to go, frustration sets in. When you can’t bend your knee without pain, you quickly find yourself limited.
You may wonder, why can’t you bend your knee without pain? Knee pain results from one of three problems. A sudden injury, an overuse injury, or disease can cause knee pain when bending.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about what to do when you can’t bend your knee without pain.
How Do You Know If You Need Knee Surgery
Even if youve done all you can do to relieve your knee pain, your health care provider still wont recommend knee surgery lightly. You need to have X-rays and an imaging test called an MRI to determine if your knee bones or soft tissues are damaged. You may have to have a blood test to rule out other causes for pain.
There are two types of knee surgery:
- Arthroscopic knee procedures: This surgery repairs knee problems that arent as severe. A surgeon uses a small camera and small tools to do surgery through tiny incisions.
- Knee replacement surgery: You may have this surgery when you have osteoarthritis and your knee joint is severely worn out. A surgeon replaces some of the surfaces in your knee with artificial ones.
Professional Help For Knee Injuries
- Aspiration if the knee joint is grossly swollen, the doctor may release the pressure by drawing off some of the fluid with a fine needle.
- Physiotherapy including techniques to reduce pain, kneecap taping, exercises for increased mobility and strength, and associated rehabilitation techniques.
- Arthroscopic surgery or keyhole surgery, where the knee operation is performed by inserting slender instruments through small incisions . Cartilage tears are often treated with arthroscopic surgery.
- Open surgery required when the injuries are more severe and the entire joint needs to be laid open for repair.
What Is Wrong With My Knee
There is a saying that life is movement. The saying itself is true, but it is not precise. For the vital organs that sustain life, such as the heart, lungs, and brain, exercise improves their function, accelerates metabolism, and has definite benefits for the above-mentioned internal organs. The benefits of moderate exercise for bone and cartilage are also numerous, but it is important to choose the right type and intensity of exercise for you based on your age and the amount of exercise you do on a regular basis. Excessive exercise is at the expense of the motor system, especially the ligaments and cartilage, which serve the internal organs such as the heart, lungs, and brain. There are several conditions that are particularly likely to trigger knee pain.
You have knee pain.
Suddenly increase the amount of exercise you do when you normally do not exercise much. For example, one who usually does not exercise, but suddenly decided to run three to five kilometers today.
People who have just started to lose weight. People who have just started to lose weight. People who are very heavy and their joints are heavily burdened, and then suddenly start exercising without gradual progress, exceeding the load on their knees.
Women over 40 years old and men over 50 years old who do not have long-term exercise habits, go for high-intensity outdoor sports such as hiking, mountain climbing, and travel.
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How Patients With A Terrible Mri Had Less Pain And Patients With Better Mris Had More Pain
Lets go further into the complex MRI discussion.
Doctors from the Benha University School of Medicine in Egypt wrote in the European Journal of Rheumatology of how depression may make knee pain significantly worse than it should be, at least significantly worse than an MRI suggests.
In the research we cited above, the MRI suggested that the patients pain should be worse, in this research the MRI is suggesting that the patients pain should be less. The patients in the above study had worse MRIs and less pain, the patients as we will see in this study, had better MRIs and more pain. This is, of course, the inherent problem of MRIs: they do not always tell the true story.
These are the learning points from the Egyptian research:
- Knee osteoarthritis can lead to psychosocial deterioration in addition to physical inability, which makes it difficult to interpret the source of the patients complaints. It is becoming increasingly evident that structural changes alone do not account for all musculoskeletal pain.
- In other words, depression makes the knee diagnosis much more challenging.
Running & Jumping Pain
If your knee hurts after run training and you find climbing stairs especially painful, you could be suffering patella tendinitis, a.k.a. runners knee. With each step, the pain comes from the front of the knee below the knee cap. The patella tendon covers the patella and connects to the top of the tibia. Any tendinitis is the micro-tearing of a tendon that leads to inflammation and pain. Patella tendinitis is usually the result of overuse , muscle strength misalignment, or a combination of both. A weak quad and strong hamstring are the most common muscle misalignments associated with patella tendinitis.
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Prevention Tips For Knee Injuries
- Warm up joints and muscles by gently going through the motions of your sport or activity and stretching muscles.
- Wear appropriate footwear.
- Avoid sudden jarring motions.
- Try to turn on the balls of your feet when youre changing direction, rather than twisting through your knees.
- Cool down after exercise by performing light, easy and sustained stretches
- Build up an exercise program slowly over time.
Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injury
The posterior cruciate ligament is the ACLs partner. Its another band of tissue that connects your thighbone to your shinbone and supports your knee. However, the PCL isnt as likely to get injured as the ACL.
You can injure the PCL if you take a hard blow to the front of your knee, such as in a car accident. Sometimes injuries occur from twisting the knee or missing a step while walking.
Stretching the ligament too far causes a strain. With enough pressure, the ligament can tear into two parts.
Along with pain, a PCL injury causes:
- swelling of the knee
- trouble walking
- weakness of the knee
Rest, ice, and elevation can help a PCL injury heal faster. You might need surgery if youve injured more than one ligament in your knee, have symptoms of instability, or you also have cartilage damage.
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What Are Knee Pain Symptoms And Signs
- Chronic use/overuse conditions: osteoarthritis, chondromalacia, IT band syndrome, 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: A direct blow 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 or make it very painful to bear weight . 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 injury. An ACL injury is often a sports-related injury due to a sudden stop and change in directions. The remaining ligaments are injured less frequently.
Meniscus injuries: The menisci 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.
When Should I Get My Teens Knee Pain Evaluated By A Healthcare Provider
Make an appointment to see your healthcare provider if:
- Your teens pain has lasted longer than two weeks or anytime theres an increase in pain level.
- Your teens knee is red, swollen or warm to the touch.
- Your teen cant put weight on their leg they limp.
- Your teens knee locks and cant move.
- Your teens kneecap feels like it slides out of place or the knee looks twisted.
- Your teen has knee pain during or after activity.
- Theres painful popping or clicking sound in your teens knee.
- Your teens knee doesnt have strength or full range of motion.
- Your teens pain wakes them up at night.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/30/2021.
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