Knee pain is not the kind of pain that goes away after a while on its own, as it hurts when you stand, sit, walk, or squat and while climbing stairs. The pain varies with the severity of the condition and the patient’s age. With age comes a lot of stigma and opinion attached to it. One of the best-heard facts about knee pain is that it only affects older adults, but this can be said to be equally valid as the fact that the earth is flat. Several researches have proven the fact that age is just a number when it comes to suffering from knee pain.
A research done in 2020 shows that globally, 16% of individuals aged 15 and above and 22% individuals aged 40 and above suffer from knee pain. If percentages confuse you, then there are 654.1 million people aged 40 and above and 86.7 million people aged 20 and above that suffer from knee osteoarthritis. After reading the facts above, you must have been reassured that you are not the only one suffering, but this won’t help to ease the pain. A piece of basic and detailed information about the disease might help.
Starting with the basics is learning about the knee joint anatomy. Two bones meet at the joint, one descending from the pelvic, that is, the thigh bone or femur, and the other bone is the shin bone or the tibia. Now, these two bones are joined with a knee cap held firmly in place with several tissues like tendons, muscles and ligaments, around the knee joint.
Next up, you must have the knowledge of what is causing the knee pain, what symptoms you should look out for, and when to visit a doctor. To know this and much more, keep reading.
Causes of knee pain
“Why do I get knee pain?” is one of the most asked questions by people with the slightest knee pain. The cause of the pain might differ from person to person and their lifestyle.
Many risk factors contribute to the cause and make them even more severe. Some of the most common risk factors could be the following:
Here we list the most prevalent causes of knee pain in adults.
Arthritis literally means joint pain. Arthritis makes the joints swell and tender to touch. Arthritis can get triggered by several reasons; sometimes, it is due to age and degeneration of tendons and ligaments at the knee joint. Arthritis in the knee can be difficult to manage as it restricts one’s daily routine and activity levels.
With arthritis in the knee, you might feel much pain while actively working, which lowers as the activity level decreases. There is no well defined cure for arthritis, but it can be managed by several treatments designed to curb its symptoms. So, depending on the type and severity, a combination of medicine and therapy can be utilised.
This has nothing related to the bakery or the bakers you get your bread from. It is also known as the Popliteal. The formation of an abnormal cyst filled with fluid, usually behind the knee, causes one to feel tight in the back of the knee. This cyst in the back of the knee may result from arthritis or tendon/cartilage tear. The baker’s cyst may cause inflammation and pain when the knee is straightened. In general, this condition reduces the body’s movement.
The meniscus is the small cartilage that acts as a cushion between the femur and tibia at the knee joint. Each knee joint has two menisci. These can be damaged during any activity that provides direct pressure on the knee, causing the knee to twist or turn. This usually happens while playing a high-intensity game like football, basketball, or tennis.
According to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information report, 61 people in 100,000 suffer from a meniscus tear. People with meniscus tears are prone to developing Osteoarthritis.
IT band Syndrome
The iliotibial band is a thickest tendon that starts from the top of the pelvic bone to the knee. A tendon is a flexible fibrous tissue whose primary function is to join a muscle to a bone.
The IT band rubs against the bones when they are too tight or tense, and this tightness creates friction in the knee. When this tendon is irritated and swells up by rubbing the thigh or the knee, it causes one to suffer from IT band syndrome.
It happens to those who run a lot or are physically active, like an athlete but not limited to them. It can be triggered if you skip the warm-up, try to push too hard, or do not take enough rest between workouts. Certain physical conditions, like bowed knees, foot pronation, and weak glutes, could also lead to this.
In this condition, one may feel pain, tenderness, and redness outside the knee, and movement may cause a clicking sound.
Post-traumatic Knee Pain
The trauma could be originating from any past injury suffered by you. It could be a fracture or any other knee injury. Our knees are one the most vulnerable joints to get injured in our body. Knee injuries involve wear and tear of any tissue in the knee like tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and muscles. Damages could be due to falls, any accident, or twist of the foot and can also happen due to weak muscles and tendons.
Dislocation of the kneecap
This basically means the displacement of your kneecap from its natural location in the body. When the patella that rests over in the groove comes out of it. This can cause overstretching and tearing of ligaments in the knee. This dislocation of the patella leads to zero movements in the knee as one can neither flex nor fold their leg, causing immense pain. This may take up to a few weeks to cure.
It is the condition in which the cartilage in our knee joints, whose primary function is to act as a shock absorber, is damaged. This happens due to overuse of the tissue. Pain starts in the knee cap region and increases with an increasing level of activity.
Symptoms of Knee Pain
These are the most common signs you may notice when you experience knee pain.
Knee swelling, redness, or warm sensation
locking, grinding, or buckling sensation in your knee
A prickling or burning feeling in your knee
Muscle spasm in your knee
Aches in Calf, hip, shin, ankle, or thigh
If the pain is accompanied by fever
Inability to completely extend your leg or weakness in the muscles
When you straighten or bend your leg, you may hear popping or crackling sounds.
One must keep in mind that these symptoms differ from person to person depending on the cause of the pain.
When to visit a doctor?
One should first rush to the doctor when suffering from a chronic or acute ailment. Injury in the knee can be a chronic and painful condition. But it is pretty normal for us to see in the typical Indian household a delay in visiting the hospital and firstly try to manage it at home. Let’s see what the conditions are when you should visit a doctor.
If the pain prevails to be the same even after a week
If the knee pain is accompanied by swelling
Pain around and behind the knee cap
If standing or putting some weight on it causes excruciating pain
Movement in the knee is painful
If there is a clicking sound every time you bend or straighten your leg (painful and painless)
If you see any deformity in your knee
If the pain continues to grow, with any kind of activity
If you experience one or more of the above, then it is suggested that you call your doctor and make an appointment.
The doctors run some tests to check the root causes of the pain and then start the treatment.
X-ray: It is a very common test to analyze if there is any damage to the bone. This technology uses invisible electromagnetic energy to create an image of the body on the film.
MRI: MRI means magnetic resonance imaging. This test is similar to an X-ray, except it provides not only an image of the bone but also the ligaments, cartilages, blood vessels, and muscles and helps the doctor to look for any tears or damages.
Blood Test: The doctor may suggest you take a blood test if he suspects any kind of infection that the unusual swelling may accompany. A little blood is taken from your knee joint to perform this test.
These tests help the doctor understand the pain and any other underlying condition causing the pain.
Managing knee pain is a combination of preventive and curative measures. Some measures will help you with pain management, and others will help you prevent the pain from occurring.
Use of the RICE protocol
While in active pain, using RICE would help provide eventual pain relief. R, as in rest your knee by removing the pressure from it. I, as in, use ice to relieve the pain by reducing the swelling. C, for compression, you can use knee sleeves to compress the affected area. And finally, E to elevate the knee. Use a soft cushion or pillow to raise the knee.
Heat therapy can reduce muscle aches, stiffness, and spasms. Heat escalates the blood flow to the area that’s hurting, providing nutrients essential to the healing process. For this one can use heat pads and hot water bags.
Cold therapy helps to relieve sprains and strains after injuries. When cold therapy is applied, it causes blood vessels to contract, reducing the blood flow to the affected area and the inflammation in the affected area. One should apply ice to subside inflammation. At home one can use ice packs or cold gel packs.
A research report published by the Pakistan Journal of Biological Science proved that herbal ointments containing cinnamon, ginger, mastic, and sesame oil are analgesically more effective in relieving knee pain than salicylate ointments.
Acupuncture is known for its ability to relieve osteoarthritis pain in the knee. Acupuncture helps increase the range of motion, reducing stiffness and pain and decreasing inflammation in the knee. It promotes an anti-inflammatory effect.
Maintaining a healthy weight
Obesity alone invites more diseases than any other body condition. Constant pressure on the patella due to being overweight could be a reason for early degeneration of the meniscus in the knee. Irritation of the meniscus leads to inducing pain in the front of the knee. This also reduces the range of movement in the knee.
Taking rest and relaxing your body is essential, but resting can make your muscles lazy and less flexible. This makes the joints vulnerable to several injuries and makes them brittle. Cardio is usually suggested to strengthen the knee joint and make it more flexible.
Include some anti-inflammatory elements in your diet
As bizarre and unrelated as it sounds, the kind of diet you have matters a lot and affects what goes in your body. Adding ginger, tulsi, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, greens, seeds and nuts, and some whole grains. These ingredients help your body to heal in the long run and reduce damages caused by inflammation.
Exercises you can do to improve your knee health.
It is challenging to overlook the benefit of exercising regularly to our physical and mental health. But contrary to popular belief, exercising helps alleviate pain and stiffness.
Exercising regularly strengthens the muscles around your joints, strengthens bones, gives quality sleep and provides overall balance in life.
Here is a list of exercises one can perform to prevent knee pain.
Single straight leg raise
Knee to chest
Heel and calf stretch
Side leg raise