Knee pain can result from an injury, like a ruptured ligament or torn cartilage; or a medical condition, such as arthritis or gout. The discomfort may progress to the point that it becomes difficult to walk and engage in other simple, everyday activities.
The best type of treatment or knee surgery depends upon the cause of the pain and the degree to which function is limited. The staff at Orthopedic Surgery San Diego conducts a range of diagnostic tests to determine the most effective ways to relieve the symptoms.
Many patients find relief by taking anti-inflammatory medication and receiving physical therapy. For others, surgical repair of the knee is necessary to regain full function.
Left untreated, conditions like osteoarthritis can cause pain that increases with age. Joint damage and disability also may result from failing to address the problem.
Symptoms of a knee ailment include swelling and stiffness, redness and a knee that is warm to the touch, weakness or instability, popping or crunching noises, and inability to fully straighten the knee. Experts advise seeking the services of a doctor when putting weight on the knee becomes too painful, inflammation increases, the joint is hard to flex, the knee or leg looks deformed, or the knee “gives out”.
Some patients, especially athletes and those who regularly engage in other activities that put excessive strain on their knees, are vulnerable to injuries. Damage may be inflicted on the joint’s ligaments, tendons, bones, cartilage, or bursa (liquid-filled sacs that cushion the bones and soft tissues).Skiers and people who play soccer or basketball are prone to tears and other injuries of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). It is one of four ligaments that connect the shin bone to the thigh bone. Meniscus, a type of cartilage between the shine bone and thigh bone, can tear when the knee is twisted.
Knee injuries sometimes inflame the bursa, which leads to bursitis. Another common condition, tendonitis, entails irritation and swelling of one or more of the tendons that hold bones and muscles together. Patellar tendonitis, which happens to athletes whose sports require running or jumping, affects a tendon that extends from the thigh to the shin bone.
An injury or long-term deterioration sometimes causes a bone or cartilage fragment to chip away and float within the knee. These fragments are called “loose bodies,” which are often harmless. In some cases, they adversely affect knee movements and cause pain. A dislocated kneecap features the patella, a bone in the front of the knee, being forced out of its proper location.
Osteoarthritis results from cartilage wearing away over the years. Rheumatoid arthritis produces varying degrees of pain that may come and go. Gout, another type of arthritis that can affect the knee, results from a buildup of uric acid.
Other afflictions include pseudogout, caused by calcium-laden crystals forming in the knee; septic arthritis, which results from infections; and patellofemoral pain syndrome, which produces pain between the patella and thigh bone. Some patients suffer discomfort in the knees due to one leg being longer than the other, or having improperly aligned knees or flat feet.
Overweight and obese people are most at risk of sustaining injuries or developing conditions that cause knee pain. The more weight that the joint bears, the faster the cartilage deteriorates. It is important to get sufficient exercise, to maintain knee strength and flexibility. When muscles tighten or weaken, they fail to properly support the knees when strain is placed on them.
To pinpoint the cause of a patient’s knee pain, a doctor performs a physical examination and conducts a range of medical tests, such as X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds and MRIs.
While the optimal treatment depends upon the type and severity of the problem, patients usually first try to relieve their symptoms with drugs and exercise therapy. In some cases, doctors prescribe arch supports or knee braces. Another approach is to inject into the knee corticosteroids, or a thick fluid that lubricates the joint.
Surgical options include minimally invasive arthroscopic methods, in which tiny tools and a fiber-optic camera are inserted into the knee through small incisions. Open surgery is necessary for partial or total knee replacements using prosthetic devices. In these surgical endeavors, knee arthritis is eliminated when metal implants are used to perform a total knee arthroplasty. This surgery is performed by an orthopedic surgeon.
If you are experiencing knee pain, it is necessary to identify the cause to determine the appropriate treatment or surgery. Schedule an appointment for an evaluation by the nationally renowned sports medicine surgeons at Orthopedic Surgery San Diego to learn about ways to relieve the discomfort and regain full use of your knee.