It’s these two joints that appear to just be sticking out (sometimes unattractive from falls), but they’re a major function, they help to take us around. It’s the joint that bends for you to stoop or sit. So due to the fact that they are the support between the upper body and the legs (which is our vehicle), it’s extremely important to protect them. It isn’t just athletes who suffer, anyone can suffer; and it’s just that persons involved in high impact activities (especially sports) are more susceptible to knee problems.
Approximately six times as many women are prone to knee problems. We are the ones doing most of the kneeling, stooping and running to keep the home together, and naturally it takes its toll on the body. So we eventually start suffering with creaking, aching or weakened knees.
The knees are the most easily injured part of the body. They are the largest and most complicated joint used to do everything – standing, sitting, walking and running. It’s a weight-bearing joint that straightens, bends, twists and rotates. All this motion increases your risk of acute or overused knee injuries.
What Causes Knee Problems?
The main conditions that bring about knee problems are knee injuries, arthritis, cartilage injuries, injuries to the meniscus, ligament injuries, tendon injuries and a few other disorders.
Acute Knee Injuries
These injuries include torn ligaments and torn cartilage, and are often caused by a direct blow to the knee or from abnormal twisting, bending the knee, or falling on the knee. Pain, bruising, or swelling may be severe and develop within minutes of the injury. Nerves or blood vessels may be pinched or damaged during the injury. The knee or lower leg may feel numb, weak, or cold; tingle; or look pale or blue.
Sports that involve running, jumping, and sudden stopping and turning, such as soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis, and baseball; as well as contact sports such as football, wrestling, and hockey increase the risk of an acute knee injury. But more common than sudden knee injuries are injuries caused by overuse.
Examples of acute injuries are:
• Sprains, strains, or other injuries to the ligaments and tendons that connect and support the kneecap.
• A tear in the meniscus (the rubbery cushions of the knee joint).
• Ligament tears. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is the most commonly injured ligament of the knee.
• Breaks (fracture) of the kneecap, lower portion of the femur, or upper part of the tibia or fibula. Knee fractures are most commonly caused by abnormal force, like a fall on the knee, a severe twisting motion, severe force that bends the knee, or when the knee forcefully hits an object.
• Kneecap dislocation. Pieces of bone or tissue from a fracture or dislocation may get caught in the joint and interfere with movement.
• Knee joint dislocation. This is a rare injury that requires great force. It is a serious injury and requires immediate medical care.
Overuse Knee Injuries
Overuse injuries occur with repetitive activities or repeated or prolonged pressure on the knee. Activities such as stair climbing, bicycle riding, jogging, or jumping stress joints and other tissues, and can lead to irritation and inflammation. It includes muscle strain, tendonitis and bursitis, and may develop gradually over days or weeks. Pain is often mild and intermittent in the beginning, and worsens over time.
When muscles and tendons are stretched even slightly beyond their capabilities, microscopic tears occur. Inflammation, which is part of the healing process, is what causes the pain. These tears must be given a chance to heal before being subjected to the same activity to avoid overuse injury. Treat overuse injuries early to prevent chronic problems.
These injuries include:
• Inflammation of the small sacs of fluid that cushion and lubricate the knee (bursitis).
• Inflammation of the tendons (tendinitis) or small tears in the tendons (tendinosis).
• Thickening or folding of the knee ligaments (Plica syndrome).
• Pain in the front of the knee from overuse, injury, excess weight, or problems in the kneecap.
• Irritation and inflammation of the band of fibrous tissue that runs down the outside of the thigh.
Mechanical Knee Problems
Some knee problems result from injury, such as a direct blow or sudden movements that strain the knee beyond its normal range of movement. Other problems, such as osteoarthritis in the knee, result from wear and tear.
Inflammatory Knee Problems
Inflammation that occurs in certain rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis can damage the knee.
Problems not directly related to an injury or overuse may also occur in or around the knee. These include:
• Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) may cause knee pain that is worse in the morning and improves during the day. It often develops at the site of a previous injury. Other types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and lupus, also can cause knee pain, swelling, and stiffness.
• Infection in the skin (cellulitis), joint (infectious arthritis), bone (osteomyelitis), or bursa (septic bursitis) can cause pain and decreased knee movement.
• A problem elsewhere in the body, such as a pinched nerve or a problem in the hip can sometimes cause knee pain.
How Are Knee Problems Diagnosed?
Diagnosis could include any of the following:
• Medical history
• Physical examination
• Diagnostic tests
• X -ray
• CAT scan
• Bone scan
Treatment for a knee problem or injury may consist of first aid measures, rest, bracing, physical therapy, medicine, and in some cases surgery. Age, health condition, and activity level (such as work, sports, or hobbies) are contributory factors, in addition to the location, type, and severity of the injury.
Conservative treatment tends to be the preferred approach; however, surgery may be required in some cases. Athletes for example are a high risk group for surgery, due to sudden injuries such as torn ligaments in the center of the knee, or certain types of fractures. Advanced knee osteoarthritis sufferers who may be severely limited in their daily activities may need knee replacement surgery, but it should be a last resort.
Most conditions respond to combination treatments such as applying heat or cold, temporary restraint of activities that aggravate pain, as well as pain and inflammation reducing medications.. Exercises to strengthen the muscles which support the knee also help reduce stress on the knee joint and prevent re-injury.
How Can Knee Problems be Prevented?
Those resulting from an accident can’t be foreseen or prevented; but the following suggestions can aid with prevention:
• Before exercising or participating in sports, warm up by walking or riding a stationary bicycle, and then do stretches.
• Strengthen the leg muscles by doing specific exercises (for example, by walking up stairs or hills, or by riding a stationary bicycle).
• Avoiding sudden changes in exercise intensity.
• Wearing appropriate shoes both in fit and condition. This helps maintain balance and leg alignment when walking or running.
• Using Orthotics or arch supports.
• Maintaining a healthy weight to reduce stress on the knee.
Knee problems are not fun. Seek help and abide by the advice given.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!