Over 100 million Americans are affected by Knee pain every single day and it is the second leading cause of chronic pain in today’s society. It can present itself if you have experienced trauma to your knee joints or from general wear and tear. Both of which can wreak havoc on your overall quality of life. The knee is comprised of several different muscles, ligaments, and tendons, which makes it one of our more complex joints. Injury’s and repetitive stresses can affect the knee’s normal range of motion, restrict movement, affect muscle control, reduce stability and strength, and prevent mobility. Knee injuries can happen in sports, recreational activities, slips, trips, falls, auto accidents, or some other freak accident. Damage to the ligaments or cartilage in the knee are quite common and can take years to heal if not properly treated. Here are some of the most common causes of knee pain:
- Ligament strains and sprains: The ligaments in the knee connect the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shin bone), and include the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL), Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL), and Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL). Each one of these ligaments is responsible for stabilizing the knee and preventing excess movement in a given direction and therefore can be strained or even torn if their threshold is reached from an injury or accident.
- Osteoarthritis (OA): OA is commonly referred to as “wear and tear” of the joints which accelerates with age and is a disease of the entire joint, involving the cartilage, joint lining, ligaments, and bone. OA is the wearing down of these protective tissues at the ends of bones (cartilage) which causes a painful “Bone on Bone” grinding feeling of the knee joint, especially when walking up or down stairs.
- Bursitis: A painful condition that affects the small, fluid-filled sacs called bursae that cushion the bones, tendons, and muscles near your joints. Bursitis occurs when the bursae become inflamed and swell to abnormal sizes usually due to repetitive stresses and poor joint stability.
- Patellar Tendonitis: Common injury or inflammation of the tendon that connects your kneecap (patella) to your shinbone (tibia). Your pain may be mild or severe and typically is a result of overuse especially in athletes who frequently jump, such as when playing basketball and volleyball.
- Fractures around the knee: A knee fracture is a break or crack in 1 or more of the bones in the knee joint. It may be just a bend or small crack in the bone, or the bone may break into pieces or shatter. Some fractures may stick out through the skin. The bones in the knee include the upper leg bone (also called the thighbone or femur), the 2 lower leg bones (the tibia and the fibula), and the kneecap (patella).
- Gout: A form of inflammatory arthritis that develops in some people who have high levels of uric acid in their blood. The acid can form needle-like crystals in a joint and cause sudden, severe episodes of pain, tenderness, redness, warmth, and swelling. This is usually an issue that occurs through dietary habits, such as a diet high in red meat, cheese, and wine.
Symptoms of Knee Pain
The location and severity of knee pain may vary, depending on the cause of the problem. Signs and symptoms that sometimes accompany knee pain include:
- Swelling and stiffness
- Redness and warmth to the touch
- Weakness or instability
- Painful popping or crunching noises
- Inability to fully straighten or bend the knee
Knee Pain Statistics and Risk Factors
Statistics pertaining to knee pain in the United States:
- Over 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain
- Knee pain is the second most common cause of chronic pain
- One-third of all Americans report experiencing knee pain at some time or another
- Between 15% and 20% of all men are afflicted with knee pain
- More women than men report knee pain, with the overall prevalence of knee pain in women roughly 20%
Risk factors that can increase your chances of having knee problems include:
- Excess weight. Being overweight or obese increases stress on your knee joints, even during ordinary activities such as walking or going up and down stairs. It also puts you at an increased risk of osteoarthritis by accelerating the breakdown of joint cartilage.
- Lack of muscle flexibility or strength. A lack of strength and flexibility can increase the risk of knee injuries. Strong muscles help to stabilize and protect your joints, and muscle flexibility can help you achieve full range of motion.
- Certain sports or occupations. Some sports put greater stress on your knees than do others. Alpine skiing with its rigid ski boots and potential for falls, basketball’s jumps, and pivots, and the repeated pounding your knees take when you run or jog all increase your risk of a knee injury. Jobs that require repetitive stress on the knees such as construction or farming also can increase your risk.
- Previous injury. Having a previous knee injury makes it more likely that you’ll injure your knee again due to weakening of the muscles and ligaments surrounding your knee.
How can Advanced Health help with Knee Pain?
It will begin with a detailed goal orientated health history, followed by an orthopedic examination and functional movement screening to pin point the issue. Knee pain unless due to direct trauma, such as a sports injury, or a car accident is often due to repetitive stresses or compensatory patterns. The average American now sits for more than 9 hours every single day, this creates weakness and stability in our posterior chain and stabilizing structures within our knee, that over time break the joint and tissue down, causing pain and weakness. It is important to evaluate both above and below the knee to find the root cause of what is actually causing the issue. In cases of acute trauma or past history of knee pain, digital X-rays will be taken to ensure that conservative care is right for you.
Self-care measures for an injured knee include:
- Rest. Take a break from your normal activities to reduce repetitive strain on your knee, give the injury time to heal and help prevent further damage. A day or two of rest may be all you need for a minor injury. More severe damage is likely to need longer recovery time.
- Ice. Ice reduces both pain and inflammation. A bag of frozen peas works well because it covers your whole knee. You also can use an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel to protect your skin. Although ice therapy is generally safe and effective, don’t use ice for longer than 20 minutes at a time because of the risk of damage to your nerves and skin.
- Heat. You may experience temporary pain relief by applying a heat pack or hot-water bottle to the painful area on your knee. Heat is especially useful in conditions that are chronic as the warm temperature brings blood flow to the injured area and speeds up the healing process. Heat should not be applied within the first 72 hours after an acute injury to the knee as it would increase the amount of swelling to the affected joint.
- Compression. This helps prevent fluid buildup in damaged tissues and maintains knee alignment and stability. Look for a compression bandage that’s lightweight, breathable and self-adhesive. It should be tight enough to support your knee without interfering with circulation.
- Elevation. To help reduce swelling, try propping your injured leg on pillows or sitting in a recliner. This helps the blood and fluid that has been trapped in your lower extremities drain and decreases swelling.
If you are suffering from knee pain and have been for a while, trying the self-care measures mentioned above then it is time to have the issue evaluated by a qualified health care professional. At advanced health, we pride ourselves on finding the root cause of your issue through state of the art examinations and imaging, followed by cutting edge treatment. Treatment includes a blend of chiropractic care to make sure the spine, pelvis, and knee are in alignment allowing for health ROM and joint load. Soft tissue therapy will be performed to reduce scar tissue and improve ROM. This will all be combined with physical therapy to address stability and strength issues. When all three types of therapy are combined is offers effective results and long term positive outcomes.
The longer we leave an issue the more we compensate, which leads to the soft tissue within the joint and the joint its self breaking down further, which only means a longer course of treatment, expending valuable resources like time, energy and obviously money. If you have been suffering from knee pain and have tried and failed to get it corrected, we encourage you to give us a call to get this problem corrected without the use of drugs and surgery.