Knee pain is a common problem related to the musculoskeletal system that affects people of all ages. It may be due to an injury, such as a torn cartilage or ruptured ligament. Medical conditions, such as arthritis, infections, and gout, can also cause pain in the knee joint.
Many types of knee pain respond well to over the counter medicines and self-care measures. Knee braces and physical therapy are also effective at relieving knee pain and associated symptoms. In some severe cases, however, your knee condition may require surgical intervention.
The intensity and location of knee pain may vary depending on the underlying cause of the problem. The common signs and symptoms that usually accompany knee pain include:
- Redness and warmth to the touch
- Swelling and stiffness
- Popping or crunching noises
- Weakness or instability
- Reduced range of motion or an inability to fully straighten the knee
A majority of people experience temporary pain in the knee joint as a result of an injury or trauma that usually subside with certain home remedies. Chronic knee pain occurs in fewer people; however, it rarely goes away without definitive treatment. In most cases, it is not always attributed to one incident. Injuries and other physical conditions that can cause knee pain include:
- Osteoarthritis: It occurs secondary to inflammation and joint destruction caused by bone degeneration
- Tendinitis: It develops due to the inflammation of the tendons surrounding the knee joint. It causes pain in the front of the knee that usually gets worse when walking up an incline, climbing, or taking stairs.
- Chondromalacia patella: Knee pain due to damaged cartilage under the kneecap
- Bursitis: Inflammation of the bursae (soft tissue around the joint) caused by injury or repetitive overuse of the knee joint
- Gout: A type of arthritis that develops due to the buildup of excess uric acid
- Baker’s cyst: An accumulation of synovial fluid (the fluid that lubricates the joint)
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): This causes knee pain due to a chronic autoimmune inflammation that can eventually lead to bone erosion and joint deformity
- Meniscus tear: A rupture in the cartilage in the knee. It most commonly occurs in athletes.
- Dislocation: Any trauma of blunt injury can cause dislocation of the kneecap
- Torn ligament: tear in one of the ligaments in the knee. Anterior cruciate ligament is the most commonly injured ligament.
Each underlying cause of acute and chronic knee pain requires different diagnostic tests. These may include physical examination, blood work, X-rays, CT scan, bone scan, and MRI. The condition your physician thinks you have will define the types of imaging or blood tests you will undergo to see what’s causing your knee pain.
The treatment for any joint pain will depend, to some extent, on the underlying cause of the problem. However, the following remedies can help with reducing pain and associated symptoms of knee pain.
Cardio exercises increase flexibility and strengthen the muscles that support your knee. Stretching and weight training do, too. For cardio, some great choices include walking, stationary cycling, swimming, elliptical machines, and water aerobics.
Rest, ice massage, compression (e.g., wearing a compressive bandage), and elevation of the affected knee is good for knee pain. It is most helpful in knee pain caused by a minor injury or arthritis.
Heat and cold
Heat and cold application can be effective in treating pain in the knee, and it has been recommended to reduce joint inflammation that results from arthritis.
- Ice, in the form of cold packs or wrapped in a cloth, can reduce pain and swelling.
- Heat improves lubrication and relaxes muscles, leading to a reduction in joint stiffness. Use a warm pad or warm water bottle.
Research suggests that alternative therapies like acupuncture and chiropractic care may help relieve chronic knee pain caused by osteoarthritis and other degenerative joint conditions.