Are you having problems walking, driving or working? Are your knees giving you endless spells of aches? Well, if so, and you would like to find out more about the various causes for knee pain, do read on.
This is definitely an extremely common problem for many of us. Quite simply put, it’s a real pain in the…knees. Just what causes it? There are of course many probable causes for it but we shall list only some of the more prominent ones below. However, do not solely depend on our guidelines to give you an accurate explanation of your condition. It is of utmost importance you seek the professional opinion of a reliable physician as appropriate treatment can only come with accurate diagnosis. Gentle reminder: Early intervention may save lives and greatly minimize required treatment, costs.
Wear-and-Tear Arthritis, or Osteoarthritis, is the most common type of arthritis on your joints. The name comes from its effect of gradually eroding the cartilage off the joint, exposing the bare bone to direct tensions in the joints. If you are over 50 years of age, overweight, and your work requires extensive stress put upon joints, the unbearable pain in your knees could be due to arthritis. There is normally also swelling in the joints, thus rendering limited motion of the legs. In addition, arthritis is predisposed to being passed down genetically, that it normally runs in the family.
Knees are very prone to sustaining injuries from sporting activities, especially in popular ones such as basketball and soccer where the rigorous and rough demands of the game could damage the ligaments. A ligament is made of durable fibrous material, and acts as a crucial support system within joints. Some of these ligament-related injuries include anterior cruciate ligament injuries (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament injuries (PCL), and medial collateral ligament injuries (MCL).
Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury, or ACL, is a common condition which many athletes suffer from. It is one of the four critical ligaments that dictate joint stability. Basically, its function is to check forward motions of the shin. When ACL is damaged, pivotal movements and even standing could become excruciating. Athletes suffer mostly from these due to the incredible amount of stress they subject their limbs to. Often, they become hampered by the painful sensations and feel that their legs are about to “give way”, as the joints are sliding too much.
PCL, or Posterior Cruciate Ligament, on the other hand is the ligament that prevents the shin from sliding too much backwards. When the joint is bent, and external pressure hits the shinbone backwards, this can force the shinbone back, thus resulting in a PCL tear. Symptoms of it are similar to ACL injuries, therefore making it difficult to deduce from superficial checks.
Medial Collateral Ligament, or MCL, is between the thigh bone and the shinbone, and is found within the joint itself. Its primary function is to resist widening of the inside of the joint. Therefore, when the inside of the joints are forced too wide, by a force striking the external of the joint area, injury can be sustained. MCL injuries are assessed upon a scale of I to III. A Grade I injury is a small tear within the ligament, and a Grade III is a complete tear of the MCL. It is difficult to tell that there is MCL injury as patients may still be able to walk or even exercise. However, there may be swelling directly over the ligament.
A meniscus tear refers to damage on either or both of the menisci found in each knee. Their job is to distribute your weight equally across both joints. Therefore, uneven weight distribution could cause pressure in specific regions of the joint bones, leading to the onset of arthritis. Excessive physical demands of athletes and degenerative processes in the elderly could lead to too much bending, or twisting, of the knees. These could then introduce a tear in your menisci. Individuals who tear their menisci experience pain and swelling, and more specifically, find difficulty in straightening their joints, otherwise known as joint-locking.
A less common cause of pain found in your joints could be gout. Gout is a result of excessive uric acid. Uric acid is a waste product found in many of the foods we consume. When the level of uric acid becomes too high, the individual may suffer painful bouts of gouty arthritis. Other symptoms can include kidney stones, and, ultimately, kidney failure.
If you suspect yourself, or someone close to you, having the conditions above, here are some recommended courses of action. In the short run, cold compress, such as knee ice packs, would be an apt consideration to reduce any possible swelling and minimize pain. There have been extensive research and publications on the efficacy and usefulness of cold therapy on swells and injuries. However, in the long run, it may be wise to complement cold therapy with other treatment plans. Weight loss would significantly avoid adding physical trauma to your lower body, thus relieving the limbs of their burden. In addition, physical therapy could be sought to enhance your movements in order not to affect your daily routine too much. If you are an athlete, do not attempt to return to your exercises once swelling or pain has subsided. This is due to the fact that ligament complications could hit you irregularly, that you could experience a few weeks of swelling, a few weeks of “recovered” state, and it may be back again. In such cases, it is recommended you request for an MRI scan performed through your family doctor. Knee pains and swelling may look less threatening than a dislocated joint, but their effects can be equally devastating. Do not simply assume a swell would heal and go away by itself.
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"I know I’ve found a new key to my post-ride recovery. After each ride, I take a recovery drink with me into the shower, clean off and then put the ice wraps on while I cook and eat."-- Phil Gaimon, 24, rides for Kenda Pro Cycling