Knee Pain Treatment
What Causes Knee Pain?
Knee pain is common, especially as we age or put on weight. Since the knees bear the body’s weight during any activity that uses the legs, including standing, walking, and running, these parts of our body are prone to chronic pain. The higher the body weight, the more pressure is put on the knees. Similarly, knee pain tends to increase over time if activity is not reduced and other measures for healing are not implemented. Common knee pain causes and conditions include inflammation, injury, repetitive stress, and mechanical problems.
Arthritic Conditions of the Knee
Arthritis of the knee breaks down the cartilage in the knee joints, causing pain, stiffness, swelling, and weakness. Also known as degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common type, and is most prevalent among older people, as well as in women, people who work on their feet, and people who are overweight.
Rheumatoid arthritis and post-traumatic arthritis also both cause stiffness, swelling and pain in the knees. With rheumatoid arthritis, the knee joint becomes inflamed, while post-traumatic arthritis results from cartilage damage caused by a serious trauma or injury to the knee.
Gout is another arthritic condition that most commonly affects the big toe, but it can also affect the knee. This condition causes uric acid crystals to accumulate in the knee joint, causing pain. Gout attacks tend to come on suddenly, often at night, and can come and go over a period of months or even years.
Injuries and Repetitive Stress
Staying physically active is important to overall health, and weight-bearing exercises like walking or running play a significant role in keeping the bones strong. But when knee pain develops from an injury or stress from repetitive motion, rest is essential to recovery. Muscle strains are one common type of knee injury that causes pain in the knee, along with several more serious types of injury to the bones, cartilage, or ligaments of the knee.
Falls, bike accidents, and automobile collisions can cause fractures to the knee bones, while tears and strains to the knee’s cartilage or ligaments are common sports injuries. This is especially true in sports like soccer, football, and basketball, that involve quick movement and sudden shifts in direction. The ligaments of the knee connect the thigh bone to the bones of the lower leg, keeping the knee stable. Cartilage is the tough yet flexible tissue that cushions the ends of the bones within the knee. When these tissues are damaged, the resulting pain and loss of motion can be quite serious.
Bursitis and Tendinitis
Tendinitis and bursitis are two other conditions that cause knee pain, both of which can be attributed to sports or repetitive stress injuries. The bursae are small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the knee joint and reduce friction as ligaments and tendons move over the joint. When the bursae become inflamed after a knee injury, bursitis pain results. Tendons attach muscles to bones throughout the body; when the tendons in the knee become irritated and inflamed, tendinitis causes pain that is often quite severe.
Knee pain can also be caused by mechanical problems of the knee, leg, or foot. Distance runners, for example, are especially prone to iliotibial (IT) band syndrome. Running along the outside of the hip to the outside of the knee, the IT band can tighten from repetitive motion or overuse. When this occurs, the tendon rubs against the femur, causing significant pain.
Dislocated kneecaps occur when the patella—the bone covering the front of the knee—slips out of place, causing significant pain and discomfort. Even pain that does not originate in the knee, such as hip or foot pain, can cause someone to “favor” those joints by changing the way they walk. The resulting added stress on the knee joint causes pain.
Seeking Relief from Knee Pain
Knee pain is always an indication that something related to the knee has gone wrong. Whether the problem is an acute or chronic condition, or something less serious, a medical professional can assess the problem to determine the correct diagnosis and treatment. Whatever the cause of the knee pain, if activity is not reduced, the pain can worsen over time. Bone spurs can develop with certain conditions, causing further pain in the joints, along with stiffness and swelling. The knee might lock in place, making it difficult to bend the knee or walk.
The compassionate professionals at Balcones Pain Consultants can help you find the source of your knee pain and recommend a course of action to reduce the limitations you may experience as a result of this condition.
How is Knee Pain Treated?
Since the causes of knee pain vary, treatments for knee pain depend on proper diagnosis of the underlying cause or condition. The experts at Balcones Pain Consultants take a compassionate, individualized approach to getting to the bottom of knee pain conditions and developing an effective treatment plan. Rest and weight management are essential to treating knee pain. Further treatment options for knee pain include braces, oral or topical medications, injections, or surgeries.
Treating Knee Pain with Rest and Weight Management
Reduced activity and rest are always an important part of treating knee pain to prevent further damage to the joint, muscles, bones, tendons, or ligaments. Similarly, proper diet and weight control are an essential component of treatment, as a higher body weight puts more pressure on the knees, compounding damage to the muscles and joints. Gentle stretches to increase range of motion and exercises to strengthen the knee as well as the core, hip, buttock and leg muscles all play an important role in treating knee pain.
Acupuncture to Treat Knee Pain
Acupuncture, an ancient healing technique of traditional Chinese medicine, involves stimulating specific points on the body with extremely fine, sterile needles to promote the natural healing process. This noninvasive technique can be effective at treating knee pain due to conditions such as arthritis and bursitis.
Treating Knee Pain Due to Inflammatory Conditions
Treatment options for arthritic conditions of the knee, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout, include NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) and other pain and anti-inflammatory medications. Steroid injections can help treat knee pain by reducing swelling and inflammation. Arthritic knee pain can also be successfully treated with less invasive therapies like acupuncture, massage, and physical therapy.
Treatment for Knee Pain Due to Repetitive Motion and Other Injuries
When treating knee pain due to an injury or stress from repetitive motion, rest is essential to recovery. Though bursitis and tendinitis are inflammatory conditions, when affecting the knee, they are often caused by repetitive motion injuries. Thus, treating muscle strains, bursitis, and tendinitis in the knee requires time away from the sport or activity that caused the injury. Treatment might also involve NSAIDs or other pain medication, cold or heat therapy, compression bandaging and gentle stretches and exercises designed to increase strength and range of motion.
Treating knee pain due to a fall, accident, or another injury that resulted in a bone fracture might include pain medications along with casting or bracing, electronic bone stimulation and physical therapy. Surgery may be required, depending on the nature and severity of the injury.
Strains and tears to the knee ligaments are a common type of sports injury. When there is damage to the ACL, PCL or MCL—three different ligaments in the knee—surgery may be a necessary part of treatment to correct the problem and thereby reduce knee pain. Other treatments for knee pain from ligament injuries include NSAIDs or other pain medications along with cold and heat therapy, wearing a brace or compression bandage, and elevating the knee as much as possible to promote recovery.
Pain from a dislocated kneecap can be treated with ice packs to reduce swelling, along with reduced activity and pain medication. Physical therapy exercises to gradually increase strength and range of motion will also play an important part in reducing knee pain and promoting recovery. In rare cases, surgery may be required to treat pain and damage from a dislocated kneecap.
Treating Knee Pain Due to Mechanical Problems
Knee pain from iliotibial (IT) band syndrome can be treated with rest, NSAIDs, topical anti-inflammatory medications, massage and special stretching techniques. Exercises designed to strengthen the core, hip and buttock muscles are also helpful in reducing knee pain from IT band syndrome.
Advanced Treatments for Knee Pain Management
Severe or chronic knee pain which does not respond to other treatments, or which significantly impacts your life or activity level, may be treated with more advanced methods. It’s important to let your healthcare provider at Balcones Pain Consultants know about all your symptoms, so that we can help you to return to living life as smoothly and quickly as possible. We will be happy to answer any questions you have about the many treatment options available, including:
- Fluoroscopic Guided Steroid Injections
- Intrathecal Pump Implant
- PRP for Chronic Back Pain
- Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant (Includes Trial Procedure)
- Trigger Point Injections