Everyone experiences knee pain at some point in their lives. Depending on the cause, knee pain may be caused by a ruptured ligament or torn cartilage. Knee pain can also be caused by medical conditions such as arthritis, gout, and infections.
Many minor knee pain cases can be alleviated by self-care measures, which include stretching and strengthening exercises. Physical therapy and knee braces are also possible ways to reduce knee pain. Surgical repair may, however, be required in some cases.
Knee pain can vary in location and severity depending on its cause. Symptoms associated with knee pain include:
- Inflammation and stiffness
- A feeling of warmth and redness
- Lack of stability or strength
- Sounds of popping or crunching
- Knees that cannot be fully straightened
There are many causes of knee pain, from injuries to mechanical problems to arthritis.
An injury to your knee joint can affect any of the ligaments, tendons, or fluid-filled sacs (bursae) surrounding and forming it, as well as the bones, cartilage, and ligaments that form it. Knee injuries include:
- ACL injury. Generally speaking, an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury is a tear of the ligament between your shinbone and thighbone. ACL injuries are common in people who play basketball, soccer, or any other sport that involves sudden changes in direction.
- Fractures. Falling or being involved in an auto accident can break the kneecap (patella). A step can also cause a knee fracture in people whose bones are weakened due to osteoporosis.
- Torn meniscus. Between your shinbone and your thighbone, the meniscus acts as a shock absorber. A twist in your knee while bearing weight may result in a tear.
Other factors that may increase your risk of having knee problems include:
- Overweight. It is important to note that obese or overweight people have more stress placed on their knee joints, even when doing everyday activities such as walking or climbing stairs. Furthermore, it accelerates the breakdown of joint cartilage, which puts you at greater risk of osteoarthritis.
- A lack of strength or flexibility in muscles. The risk of knee injuries increases when strength and flexibility are lacking. Flexible muscles can allow you to move freely, and strong muscles stabilize and protect your joints.
- Sporting activities or occupations. Depending on what sport you play, your knees will be under more stress than others. Your knees are at risk of injury when you ski, play basketball with its jumps and pivots, and run or jog constantly. Occupational hazards such as repetitive stress on the knees are also associated with certain jobs, such as construction and agriculture.
- Injuries previously sustained. You are more likely to injure your knee again if you have previously injured it.
Knee pain is not always serious. Nevertheless, some knee injuries and health conditions, such as osteoarthritis, can increase pain, joint damage and disability if left untreated. In addition, having a knee injury – even a minor one – makes it more likely that you’ll suffer another.
Although preventing knee pain is not always possible, following these suggestions may help prevent injuries and joint deterioration
- Maintain a healthy weight. It’s best to maintain a healthy weight when it comes to your knees. As you gain weight, you put more strain on your joints, increasing the risk of injury and osteoarthritis.
- Keep your body strong and flexible. It is common for knee injuries to be caused by weak muscles. Strengthening your quadriceps and hamstrings, the muscles on the front and back of your thighs that support your knees, will prove beneficial. Strengthening the muscles around your knees through balance and stability training helps them function more efficiently. Moreover, stretching is important since tight muscles can also lead to injury. Make sure your workouts include stretching.
- Practice perfect technique. It is important to ensure you are using the right technique and movement patterns during your exercises. You can benefit greatly from learning from a professional.