Did you know that knee pain is the most common musculoskeletal problem that causes people to see their doctor?
Along with the increase in physical activity, knee pain is increasing as well. There are lots of different causes and treatments for knee pain.
It is very important that you get an accurate diagnosis of what is causing your knee pain so that you can get the appropriate treatment.
Causes of Knee Pain
As mentioned, there are many different causes of knee pain. Following are some of the most common causes:
Arthritis in the Knee
This is one of the most common causes of knee pain, and there are lots of different treatments available.
Injuries to the Ligaments
These typically occur during athletic/physical activities and can result in instability and discomfort. Ligament injuries include:
- MCL (medial collateral ligament)
- ACL (anterior cruciate ligament)
- LCL (lateral collateral ligament)
- PCL (posterior cruciate ligament)
Injuries to the Cartilage
This is also referred to as a Meniscal Tear. These types of injuries to the cartilage are seen in patients of all ages and are one of the most common causes of knee pain.
Tendonitis in the Patellar Tendon
Tendonitis that is located around the joint is usually the patellar tendon, which is the tendon that wraps around the front of the knee. This is referred to as patellar tendonitis.
Knee Pain under Kneecap
This is called chondromalacia patella and is one of the causes of knee pain under the kneecap. This is a result of the softening of cartilage and is most common in the younger patients- 15 to 35 years old.
Dislocation of Kneecap
This can cause some acute symptoms while the kneecap is dislocated and can also cause chronic knee pain later on.
This is swelling that is located in the back of the joint. This is typically a sign of another issue such as a meniscus tear.
Most commonly, the bursa just above the kneecap is affected in this condition. This is a common condition for those who kneel in their work such as carpet layers or gardeners.
This is one of the more uncommon causes of knee pain and can be quite difficult to actually diagnose. Usually, this diagnosis is made at the time of arthroscopic surgery.
This is a condition that is seen in adolescents. It is a result of irritation of the growth plates located at the front of the joint.
This is another condition that is seen in adolescents and is a result of the bone around the joint growing.
This is another cause of knee pain that is rather uncommon. However, individuals who have been diagnosed with gout must consider this as a cause for any new knee pain they experience.
Natural Treatments for Knee Pain
Your knees take the brunt of physical activity, so it is very important that you do things that will keep them healthy and keep you upright. Following are some natural, home remedies that can help you to save your knees.
Stay slim & trim
Being overweight causes stress on all of your joints. However, carrying those extra pounds puts extra stress on your knees because when you walk, you’re putting a force that is equal to one and 1/2 times your body weight.
When you’re running, the force is equal to five times your body weight. So, an extra 20 pounds or more can result in significant stress on your knees.
Do what you can to get your weight to a healthy range and keep it there by consuming a diet that is lower in fat and calories and make sure to get regular exercise.
Pay attention to your feet
One of the most common causes of knee pain is when your foot is rolled inward- referred to as “overpronation.”
A certain amount of pronation is normal, however if there is too much, it throws your knee out of alignment and can cause significant knee problems.
You can correct this problem by wearing supportive shoes that are designed to prevent the problem or even with orthotics, which are special inserts for your shoes.
You can purchase orthotics over the counter, or you can see a physician to order some custom-made ones.
Wear the right shoes
You should wear the lowest heel possible. Your body can handle a heel of around one inch- anything higher will throw your body forward and place unnecessary stress on your knees.
If you tend to pronate, you should wear shoes with antipronation devices or high density materials and cushioning materials on the inner side and sole of the shoe.
Additionally, you should wear shoes with a stiff heel counter- that is the part of the shoe that cups your heel- as it helps to keep your heel stable.
For sports, make sure you’re wearing shoes that are made for that particular activity. Finally, make sure to replace your shoes every six months or 400-600 miles.
Check out your alignment
You’re at a much greater risk for knee pain if you’re knock-kneed or bowlegged. In order to check your alignment yourself, stand with your ankles touching.
If you’re in perfect alignment, your ankle bones and your knees will touch.
However, if you’re ankles touch but your knees do not, you’re bowlegged and if your knees touch but your ankles do not, you’re knock-kneed.
OTC braces will not correct the problem
You will often see people with knee braces or bandages on their knee that they’ve purchased at the local pharmacy.
While this will help to remind you of your knee injury/pain and keep you from overtraining, it doesn’t correct or prevent problems. In fact, it can actually provide you with a false sense of security and you may end up being less cautious than you should be.
If you must use an OTC brace, choose a one-piece elastic or neoprene instead of the elastic wrap. Remember that if your knee is bothering you so much that you need a brace, you should visit your doctor.
Avoid activities that strain your knees
You may think that squats and deep knee bends are great fitness boosters. However, they’re actually too hard on your knees.
Kneeling, especially on surfaces that are hard, is also hard on your knees. If you’re kneeling, you should use a foam kneeling pad or knee pads and frequently rest.
Also, if you’re a weight lifter, you should make sure you don’t “lock” your knees when standing and make sure you limit the amount of weight you put on your knees.
Don’t power through the pain
There are many people that believe its best to “power through” the knee pain. This could actually end up doing more harm than good on your knees.
Pain is an indication that there is something wrong- maybe you made a wrong move- and pushing through it will end up causing more damage.
If you’re walking/jogging on a road, you should do it on the flattest part. Roads tend to slant downward on the edges so that water drains off.
If the side of the road is your only option, switch sides frequently. Additionally, hard surfaces can cause damage to your knees.
If possible, run/walk on a forest pathway, grass, or even a running track. However, do not run/walk on shifting sand as that can cause damage to your knees.
Treating Knee Pain
Even with all the above good advice to prevent knee pain, you’ve done too much and you’re in pain.
Now, give it RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). First of all, take the weight off your knee.
In order to keep swelling down, for the first 24-48 hours, use an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel- 20 mins on/20 mins off.
Then, you’ll want to wrap your knee with a bandage to reduce swelling and also keep it elevated.
Ice works to prevent the buildup of fluid, but heat can actually cause it. So, for the first 48-72 hours after injuring your knee, you should avoid using hot tubs or hot packs.
Of course, massage isn’t going to affect the bones of the knee, it will increase circulation and can serve to loosen hamstrings and other tissues that could be pulling. If you’re already experiencing knee pain, you should see a physical therapist or massage therapist for a professional massage.