Your knees do a lot of moving and have a lot of moving parts. So when injuries happen, they can lead to pain, weakness in the joint and limited activity. In fact, knee pain is the second most common cause of chronic pain among American adults, and a third of all Americans have reported having knee pain at some point in life.
Most common knee injuries
Knee injuries can happen to the bones, cartilage, ligaments, muscles or tendons, so the key to eliminating knee pain is to identify the source. Here’s a look at some of the most common knee injuries, how they’re caused and treatment options.
ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) Injury: This common knee injury happens when the ACL is either sprained or torn. It happens most often while playing sports that have sudden starts, stops, and movement changes. If you injure your ACL, you might feel — or even hear — a popping sound. It can also cause immediate swelling, instability and a lot of pain.
Patellar Tendinitis: The patellar tendon attaches the quadriceps (thigh) muscle to the shin bone, and activities like running, skiing, cycling, and jumping can cause it to become inflamed and irritated. Also known as Jumper’s Knee, this type of tendinitis will cause pain on the top of the knee that may get worse with jumping, landing, running or even prolonged sitting. A related injury, called Runner’s Knee, can also affect the patellar area.
Bursitis: Your knees contain small sacs of fluid called bursae that act like a cushion on the outside of your knee joint. Their job is to help the tendons and ligaments move smoothly, but they can become filled with blood after injury or overuse, and possibly even infected in rare instances. With bursitis, you’ll likely experience localized swelling, redness, tenderness and warmth that can get worse when you kneel.
Torn Meniscus: The knee has two minisci, which are pieces of cartilage that act like pillows between the shin bone and the thigh bone. An extreme twisting motion to the knee can cause one or both of them to tear. Like a torn ACL, a meniscus injury can include a popping sensation, selling, stiffness and pain. It also can lead to difficulty rotating the knee, extending it, or feeling like it’s locked in place.
Fracture: If you fracture your knee, it’s most likely to be the patella that’s broken. However, the ends of both the thigh bone and shin bone can break as well. A break in the knee area is usually due to a trauma at high force, like a fall or car accident. If you think you may have broken your knee, look for swelling, immobility and intense pain.
Treatments for Knee Injuries
With the exception of an obvious fracture or severe tear that requires surgery, knee injuries are often treated conservatively first with rest, compression, elevation, or anti-inflammatory medications. If those don’t provide enough pain relief or progress, you may be a candidate for knee arthroscopy, a minimally invasive procedure that uses a camera to repair the injury. If knee problems become chronic, you may consider a total knee replacement.
No matter your injury or course of treatment, the sports medicine experts at Alexander Orthopaedics can help. If your knee has been bothering you, come see us today.