The Facts on Knee Pain:
What is Knee Pain?
At one time or another, some of us may experience some level of knee pain. The largest joint in your body, your knee takes quite a beating between the running, jumping, standing, bending, kicking, dancing … all the moving you do. Your knees are subject to a lot of force. For example, if you weigh 100 pounds, going up and down stairs feels like carrying 300-500 pounds to your knees. This can stress the tendons and ligaments that support your knees and kneecaps. So when knee pain strikes, it can quickly put the brakes on your life, either slowing you down or stopping you from moving altogether.
While the symptoms of knee pain may vary depending on the cause, common symptoms include knees that are red, warm and swollen, stiff with reduced mobility (may be unable to straighten), weak and unstable, or producing noises like popping or crunching sounds.
What Causes Knee Pain?
Many factors can contribute to achy knees. Weakness, instability or excess forces from exercise and other activity – and sometimes specific conditions or diseases – they all can be a cause of knee pain. Most commonly, however, knee pain comes from everyday exertions that put stress and strain on your knees.
Other common causes of knee pain include:
- Chondromalacia: Often caused by overuse, misalignment, muscular weakness, or injury, this condition results in the softening and breakdown of cartilage of the kneecap. This condition is common in young adults, runners, skiers, cyclists, and soccer players. Symptoms often include a dull pain that worsens when weight is placed on the knee as it straightens, such as while climbing down stairs or hills.
- Meniscal injuries: The menisci of the knee can become torn when you rotate your knee while putting weight on your leg (such as during sports like tennis or basketball). Often, meniscal damage can leave your knee feeling painful when straightened, and swollen. Your knee may also feel weak, lock, give-way, or making clicking sounds.
- Cruciate ligament injuries: Often referred to as a sprain, sudden twisting motions and direct impact can result in this kind of injury. Your knee may give-way when you stand on it and you may hear a popping sound.
- Medial and lateral collateral ligament: This kind of injury is common in contact sports, such as football or hockey. It is often the result of a blow to the outer side of the knee. Pain and swelling often occur with this injury. You may also find your knee makes a popping noise and buckles sideways when you put weight on it.
- Tendon injuries: Overusing a tendon, as can occur during repeated activities, such as cycling, running, or dancing, can stretch the tendon and cause it to become inflamed. The repeated force of hitting the ground can also stress the tendon, which can occur with sports like basketball. Tendonitis and tears are painful and will make walking, jumping, and running difficult. Tears in particular often cause severe limited mobility of the knee.
- Osgood-Schlatter disease: Common in young and active individuals, such as those involved in running and jumping activities, this disease is the result of tension or repetitive stress to the upper tibia. Often it results in pain below the knee that is made worse with activity, and resolves with rest. It may also result in a bump below the kneecap.
- Iliotibial band syndrome: This syndrome is often the result of long-term overuse and stress, such as in runners. It is an inflammatory condition. It can cause a burning pain in the side of the knee, that may radiate up the leg.
- Osteochondritis dissecans: This can result from a lack of blood flow to an area of bone beneath a joint surface. This is often a spontaneous condition that affects young, active adults or adolescents. It can cause sharp knee pain, weakness, and locking.
- Plica syndrome: This syndrome occurs when the plicae tissue of the knee become irritated, usually by injury or overuse. This leads to knee locking, clicking, weakness, pain, and swelling.
How to Help Prevent Knee Pain?
- Avoid repetitive stress on your knee joints, such as that sustained during running or jumping
- Lose weight if you need to. Every one pound you lose can reduce the burden on your knees
- Physical therapy and strengthening exercises for lower body muscles can often be helpful in promoting knee recovery and preventing future injury. Increasing the strength of the muscles on the front and back of your thighs can help to make your knee more stable. Improving your techniques and movement patterns can also be helpful in preventing a knee injury.
- Other prevention methods include muscle conditioning, and improving patterns of movement and technique for sports, practicing good technique, building muscle, and maintaining flexibility, and possibly switching to a low-impact sports, sport (such as swimming) to reduce undue stress on your knees
How to Relieve Knee Pain?
Your best knee pain treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the pain. Often, a combination of rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the affected knee can help to alleviate some symptoms. Over-the-counter pain medications can also help to provide some knee pain relief.
Unless you have a more serious, chronic condition, there are some simple tips that can help you get the knee pain relief you need:
- Use insoles or inserts that provide a combination of shock absorption, cushioning and support for your feet, which in turn can help relieve knee pain and move more comfortably. Dr. Scholl’s Orthotics for Knee Pain are clinically proven to relieve and help prevent general knee pain as well as Runner’s Knee and Knee Osteoarthritis.
- For those with flat feet, orthotics prescribed by healthcare professionals may provide relief for sore knees, by reducing the physical stress on the knee and improving foot and leg alignment. Braces may also be used to support and protect the knee.
- It is best to contact your doctor if you are:
- Having difficulty putting weight on your knee.
- Unable to flex or extend your knee to its full extent.
- Experiencing significant swelling.
- Experiencing a fever alongside knee swelling, redness, and pain.
- Finding your knee gives-way or can’t support your weight.