knee pain discomfort

Knee pain and an active lifestyle

Knee pain affects the majority of people at some point in their lives. Moreover, 25% of adults experience knee pain frequently. An active lifestyle consisting of sports, exercise and other activities can cause serious injuries such as muscle strains, tendinitis and others which cause damage to ligaments and cartilage. 

There really is no way of knowing exactly how many people suffer from knee pain, but we do have data that shows who had knee pain severe enough to receive surgery for it. Approximately over 700,000 people get knee replacement surgery each year in the United States. In 2017, over 966,000 people received the operation. 

The pain experienced with knee problems and injuries is dependent on the original cause and age. In extreme cases, the pain can be debilitating and interfere with daily activities. In more common cases knee pain is an annoyance and causes discomfort when engaging in physical activity. 

Knee pain located in the middle region of the knee is very common. This is where the joint connects the thigh bone to the shinbone. Another common area people experience knee pain is in the kneecap area. It is also not uncommon for people to experience the pain in both.

Here we will discuss the most common causes of knee pain that we have seen over the years at Arizona Pain Relief.

Knee ligament injuries

Suffering a ligament injury in your knee will in many cases cause knee pain. The femur is connected to your tibia and fibula through the ligaments. The ligaments keep the knee stable by holding the bones together.

Knee ligament sprains and tears are unfortunately very common in sports. If you played sports or are a sports fan you are very familiar with the dreaded ACL, PCL, and MCL injuries. 

Knee ligament type injuries may also occur from other reasons such as a car crash.

The reason that the ACL injury is the most detrimental because it is the main ligament that runs in the middle of the joint between the thigh bone and shinbone. That being said, ACL injuries are the most common ligament injury in sports.

Symptoms of a knee ligament injury can include:

  • Sore or red knees
  • Pain or difficulty walking
  • Popping or crunching noises
  • Knee feeling like it’s giving out

Any ligament injury has the potential to cause a significant amount of pain and eventually require surgery.

athlete knee pain

Meniscus tears

Tears can occur in the cartilage of the knee.

Cartilage can be described as a semi-hard tissue that covers the end of your bones. Knee cartilage consists of two menisci on both sides of the joint: the medial meniscus which is fibrocartilage a semicircular band that spans in the middle of the knee joint, and the lateral meniscus which is contained on the outside of the knee.

A common cartilage tear is in the meniscus. It is a serious tear as it usually requires surgery. A meniscus tear occurs with a single movement, whereas an ACL tear can happen in a variety of ways. Someone can tear their meniscus with a single twist or turn.

The older a person gets the higher the risk they run of tearing their Meniscus. As a person ages their cartilage gets weaker and thins out, so it is in a more vulnerable position to tear. Symptoms of a cartilage tear are similar to knee ligament injury symptoms with a couple exceptions: The pain tends to get worsening stiffness days after an injury, and the knee locks out occasionally. 

Arthritis of the knee

We have all heard of arthritis, but what exactly is it. Arthritis occurs when joints in the body become inflamed, most commonly occurring in the knee. Arthritis only gets worse as time goes on. It causes chronic pain and inevitably requires surgery.

There are three types of arthritis that are extremely common which are: rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic arthritis, and osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of arthritis in the knee include:

  • stiffness and swelling in the knee
  • difficulty bending the knee fully
  • knee pain

Rheumatoid arthritis of the knee

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that inflames and thickens the tissue that surrounds the joint. The inflammation caused by Rheumatoid arthritis many times leads to damage and worse loss of cartilage.

Fortunately Rheumatoid arthritis is not very common. It occurs in an estimated .6 percent of the US population but it is two to three times more common for females than males.

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include

  • stiffness
  • knee pain
  • knee swelling
  • difficult bending the knee fully

Post-traumatic arthritis

One of the leading causes of Post-traumatic arthritis is a serious knee injury. Broken bones and injuries to that magnitude wears down the surface of the joint and causes worsening arthritis.

Knee injuries often damage the cartilage in your knee even morso as you age.

Osteoarthritis of the knee

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and it is also progressive. To make matters worse it continually wears down the cartilage in the knee joint. Osteoarthritis is most common in people who are over the age of 50.

Osteoarthritis has a bigger impact on people who are over 50 because the cartilage becomes extremely worn from the years of use.

When cartilage wears down your bones rub together which causes Osteoarthritis. Other common causes are age, weight, genes, past injuries, illness and how one treats their body over the years. A construction worker will use and abuse their knees more than someone working a desk job. 

Osteoarthritis of the knee symptoms include:

  • knee pain
  • limited range of motion
  • stiffness of the knee
  • swelling of the joint
  • knee tenderness
  • deformity and weakness
  • pain that worsens over time

According to a 2018 study in Arthritis Research & Therapy, knee pain that recurs for longer than one year is likely a result of osteoarthritis.

Diagnosing knee pain

How does someone get diagnosed with arthritis? Medical Professionals will give their patients an examination then X-rays to confirm the condition. During an examination the physician will ask how the patient feels as far as pain level, flexibility, overall movement, injury history, family history, and potential underlying conditions. 

Furthermore, medical professionals not only check with you and the x-rays, they also have other tests to take a deeper dive. Tests can include:

Bloodwork

A common test for diagnosing arthritis is blood work. When a doctor takes a patient’s blood they can verify that they do in-fact have rheumatoid arthritis when they check for an anti-CCP antibody. Other antibodies found can diagnose more serious disorders such as lupus. 

Fluid tests

Doctors can now extract fluid directly from the knee joint to take a deeper look. If there are uric acid crystals contained in the fluid, gout could be the culprit of pain and inflammation. If there is bacteria present it is a sign of infection causing the pain and discomfort.

knee pain mri

Imaging tests

While X-Rays are great, CAT scans and MRI’s produce the images in greater detail. Making differences in the bones and soft tissues more clear. So they are more commonly used to diagnose injuries and explain why discomfort is occuring. If the doctor suspects serious injuries such as a tear in the ligament or cartilage the patient will undergo an MRI.

Treating knee pain from arthritis

As arthritis continually worsens the pain also worsens. Oftentimes people settle with surgery when they are experiencing severe pain. They are willing to do anything to make it go away, not realizing that there are alternatives with far less risk.

Surgery isn’t right for everyone, and in-fact is wrong for many people. There are very effective methods for treating pain that do not require surgery such as chiropractic care, physical therapy, exercise and pain reducing injections.

The type of treatment plan depends on the patient. When someone comes into an alternative medical clinic they typically create a personalized treatment plan which depends on the patient’s age, level of pain, and other underlying conditions.

Physical Therapists and Chiropractors take the most effective natural treatment plans which are also the least invasive. Treatments such as chiropractic adjustments, rehabilitation and trigger point injections (if necessary). It’s important that you talk to people who deliver natural remedies before immediately resorting to surgery.

knee stretch

At-home treatments

Weight loss. Weight loss may help improve your knee pain because it lessens the amount of pressure applied to the knee joint.

Movement. If you have osteoarthritis, performing exercises that strengthen and stretch your knee helps improve your function and mobility. The better mobility is, the more relieved the pain and stiffness is. Both land-based exercise, such as yoga, and water-based movements, such as aquatic aerobics, can be helpful while not putting too much pressure on the joints.

Heat and cold therapy. A physical therapist can train and teach you how to administer hot/cold therapy at home to relieve pain and stiffness.

Natural remedies. Natural remedies are very available now, you can buy more supplements then can fit in your house at the local drug store. Remedies also include essential oils, and acupuncture. 

Pain relievers. Over-the-counter pain meds such as ibuprofen are recommended to keep inflammation and pain at bay. We can discuss the appropriate amount to take so you don’t overdo it.

The takeaway

Causes of knee pain range from injury to natural wear and tear to genetic conditions. If you are experiencing frequent knee pain you should have it evaluated. Knee pain while common usually signals a serious condition that needs to be treated. 

It’s important to treat a condition or injury before it gets worse. We want to stress the importance of listening to your body. If you are in a significant amount of pain and it’s getting in the way of the life you love, you don’t need to keep dealing with it. There are treatment plans out there for you, WITHOUT SURGERY! If you are in the Phoenix Arizona Area, contact or visit Arizona Pain Relief today and we will get you out of pain.

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