Tri-Cities Knee Pain
” Tri-Cities Knee Pain ” might be a phrase you are looking up if your knees are causing you discomfort. Up to 33% of Americans are affected by some type of knee pain. It’s the second most common reason for chronic pain. No matter how it occurs, knee pain can really slow you down and restrict your lifestyle.
Pain is always a sign that something is wrong. There are two kinds of pain: Acute and Chronic. Acute pain happens with a sudden event, such as a broken bone or a fall. Usually the pain is immediate and severe. It goes away as healing takes place. Chronic pain is a continuous condition that develops over time and lasts more than 3-6 months, even with treatment. Sometimes the cause may not be known. Examples are arthritis or nerve damage from a previous injury.
The knee is the largest joint in the body, connecting the thigh bone (femur) and the shin bone (tibia) to the kneecap (patella) with four ligaments and two pads of protective cushioning, called the menisci. Knees work hard; they carry 1.5 times your weight simply walking on a flat surface. They support three times your body weight when you go upstairs—and five times your weight when you come down. Imagine the increased load when you run or carry a heavy object—the burden can be up to 10 times your weight! Knees are essential in movement, yet are susceptible to injury and natural degeneration over time.
Never ignore knee pain. Besides any discomfort, there are other important signs to be aware of:
- Swelling or stiffness
- Redness or tenderness
- Popping or crunching sounds
- Warmth when touched
- Inability to fully extend the knee
What can cause knee pain? The answer is easy: Anything that interferes with normal function or alignment of the joint. However, the list of likely suspects is long. Let’s look at some of the common reasons.
Injuries: Injuries produce instant acute pain and swelling. Often the person will not be able to stand or walk. Sports and traumatic injuries belong in this category. Treatments such as surgery, physical therapy, and rest can lead to successful recovery.
- ACL: The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is one of the four ligaments that attach the thighbone to the shinbone. It can be torn when the knee suddenly changes direction. Athletes are prone to ACL injuries, especially in basketball, soccer, and football. Females are more susceptible than males.
- Fractures: The kneecap protects the ligaments and cartilage of the joint. It can be broken during a fall, car accident, or athletic activity. A fracture can be serious and requires immediate attention to prevent deformities and complications.
- Torn Meniscus: The meniscus is a cushion between the thighbone and shinbone; it keeps the ends of the bones from rubbing against each other and it distributes weight across the joint. There are two of these rubbery C-shaped pads in each knee. If the knee is forced to turn or twist quickly, a meniscus can tear. Athletes playing basketball, soccer, football, and tennis are at a higher risk, although anyone who squats or does heavy lifting can also get this injury.
Patellar Tendonitis: This pain is also called “jumper’s knee.” When the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shinbone is overused or injured, there is a sharp pain in the front of the lower knee. If the thigh muscles are weak, running or jumping puts extra stress on the patellar tendon. Any sport that involves constant jumping, such as volleyball and basketball, can lead to swelling, stiffness, and pain.
Arthritis: Arthritis is an inflammation of a joint, causing stiffness and pain; it usually develops over time. There are over 100 forms of arthritis, each with a specific, individualized treatment. Common types that affect the knee are:
- Osteoarthritis: Also called degenerative arthritis, this kind of arthritis is usually the result of getting older. About 34% of people over age 65 report symptoms. The knee joint naturally wears out over time; after age 45, many people first notice stiffness in the morning or discomfort when using stairs. Women have a higher risk than men, especially after age 50.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: A chronic autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis happens when the body mistakenly attacks its own joints. All joints can become swollen and painful. Over time, joints can stop functioning. This type of arthritis requires specialized medical management.
- Gout: One of the most painful forms of arthritis, gout is a metabolic condition which results when needle-shaped crystals get deposited into the joints. It usually affects the big toe, but the knees are also susceptible. The pain may come and go. Proper treatment can prevent complications.
- Pseudogout: When a knee becomes suddenly painful, with redness and swelling, pseudogout may be the cause. Mimicking gout, crystals are formed, but they are made of a different substance, and the pain gradually goes away over a few weeks. Usually occurring in one joint, half of pseudogout attacks happen in knees.
Like many medical disorders, there are factors that increase the chance of developing a painful knee condition. Here’s what you can do to avoid or minimize knee pain or complications:
- Weight Control: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists body weight as the best way to prevent or reduce knee pain. With 40% of patients with knee osteoarthritis reporting a life quality of “poor” or “fair,” maintaining a reasonable body weight reduces stress on knees and slows their wear-and-tear. Weight loss and maintenance can give knees many more healthy years.
- Poor Muscle Strength: The leg muscles around the knee are meant to provide support for the joint and help absorb shocks from all types of movement. When the muscles are out of balance, the strain on the kneecap and joint can lead to knee pain and complications. For example, when leg muscles are not used evenly, the kneecap can shift, causing pain. Exercise that works all leg muscle groups is important.
- Various Sports: As mentioned above, sports that include sudden stops, turns, or twists can lead to knee injuries. Basketball, football, soccer, tennis, and golf are the leading causes. If involved in a sport, training to strengthen all muscle groups can prevent injury. Proper techniques and protective gear can also protect the knees.
- Post-Traumatic: Any event that damages the knee joint can cause pain and osteoarthritis; in fact, the risk increases by seven times. Young people may have a sports injury or be involved in an accident; the knee seems to heal, but an inflammation process begins that leads to early arthritis. A fall or fracture at any age can contribute to its development. So can a serious infection in the knee, called septic arthritis. It’s important to be aware of pain symptoms and see an orthopaedist when necessary.
If you are experiencing knee pain that persists or gets worse, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your orthopaedist. Besides pain, other warning signs include:
- Inability to walk or bear weight on one or both knees
- Swelling at the knee joint
- Being unable to either fully bend or straighten the knee
- Feeling as if the knee is unstable or about to “give out”
At your appointment, the orthopaedist will do a physical examination and possibly order some tests before determining the diagnosis. Blood tests can indicate if there is an infection, gout, pseudogout, or Rheumatoid arthritis. Depending on your symptoms, the doctor may also use a needle to remove a small amount of fluid from the knee joint for analysis.
To look for common conditions, the orthopaedist can order X-rays to check for a fracture or osteoarthritis. A computerized tomography (CT) scan uses X-rays to get a 3-D image which can detect bone injuries. If the doctor suspects that soft tissues (tendons, ligaments, menisci, or muscles) are involved, an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help distinguished between normal or damaged tissue.
Once all tests are completed, you and your orthopaedist can discuss the diagnosis and treatment options. Prompt attention to the source of the pain can slow the progression of the condition, and maintain the best possible function. If you’re experiencing knee discomfort, call Tri-City Orthopaedics for a consultation appointment. Tri-Cities Knee Pain
UEL D. HANSEN MD
Board Certified & Fellowship Trained in Adult Joint Reconstruction
(Joint Replacement) Surgery and Joint Revision. Knee Pain Tri-Cities