Knee pain can be triggered by a number of different factors, from injuries to structural problems. Knee pain can make simple activities, such as climbing stairs, difficult and painful. Without the correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment, knee pain may get worse over time.
The Knee Joint
The knee joint consists of three main bones – the thighbone (femur), shinbone (tibia), and the knee cap (patella). Ligaments, muscles, and tendons help to support and stabilize the knee and allow for a variety of movements. Cartilage in the knee joint helps keep it in position, as well as cushion and lubricate the joint to allow for smooth, pain-free movement. The knee joint not only supports the weight of your body, but is responsible for all kinds of movement, allowing us to walk, run, climb stairs, bend, and play sports.
Different issues, including inflammation, injury, repetitive stress, and mechanical problems, can affect the knee, causing pain and limiting function. A sudden knee injury such as a fracture, dislocation, direct blow, or a twist to the knee can damage bones or other tissues in the knee. These injuries can sometimes cause immediate pain, followed by bruising and swelling, making it painful and more difficult to carry out normal everyday activities. Overuse or repetitive stress injuries (such as tendinitis and bursitis) are often attributed to particular sports and occupations that place increased stress on the knee joint and cause pain, which may get gradually worse over time.
Chondromalacia patella, often linked to “runner’s knee”, is a common condition that causes a dull aching pain and tenderness around the knee cap. It occurs more frequently in adolescents, young adults, women, and people who engage in sports and occupations that put extra stress on the knee.
The condition causes the cartilage behind the kneecap to gradually soften and break down, losing its ability to protect the bones properly as the joint moves. This can lead to eventual bone-on-bone rubbing as areas of cartilage deteriorate. In addition to this, small pieces of cartilage can break off and float inside the joint, further irritating the joint lining. Chondromalacia can also make the knee joint catch, making it difficult or uncomfortable to move the knee past a certain point.
Knee pain can often increase when you go up and downstairs, kneel or squat, or run. These types of motions subject the knee to extra stress, and if the cartilage in the knee is damaged, it can cause the kneecap to slip out of position. Knee pain may also increase after sitting for long periods of time.
Many conditions and injuries can cause chondromalacia, but it is mainly thought to be associated with:
- Overuse, particularly during sports that involve running and jumping, which can put added stress on the knee joint
- Weak or imbalanced muscles that do not support the knee correctly
- Poor knee alignment due to structural problems, poor posture, or technique
- Trauma to the knee, such as a fracture or dislocation, which can damage cartilage and cause an imbalance in the knee
- Knee surgery, which can increase the chances of knee pain in the future
Although symptoms of chondromalacia can be treated with simple treatments such as rest and ice, physical therapy and other treatments may also be recommended, particularly for persistent pain. If chondromalacia patella is not effectively treated, it can lead to osteoarthritis in the knee joint.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis to affect the knee. It is caused by degeneration and general wear-and-tear as we age, leading to joint damage. As the protective cartilage wears away, it can cause painful bone-on-bone rubbing in the knee joint and may produce painful bone spurs. Bone spurs are bony protrusions that develop on the ends of bones. They can make it difficult to extend and bend the knee. The main symptoms of osteoarthritis are pain, swelling, and stiffness within the joint that worsens over time, making day-to-day activities increasingly difficult.
Knee Pain Treatments
Depending on the cause of your knee pain, there are a number of treatments available. These can vary depending on factors such as the cause, age, level of pain and discomfort, overall health, and personal preferences. Treatments can include:
- Rest, ice, and elevation
- Physical therapy
- Medications and injections
- Weight management (to reduce pressure on knee)
- Supportive knee braces or taping
Surgery may be recommended when conservative treatments don’t work successfully, to remove fragments of damaged cartilage that may be causing knee pain, or to realign the knee.
Treatment for Knee Pain in Austin, Cedar Park, and Marble Falls, TX
If you are experiencing knee pain, talk to the compassionate and experienced providers at Balcones Pain Consultants. We will diagnose the cause of your symptoms and develop a customized treatment plan to help relieve your pain.