The constant use of the lower extremities makes them an easy target for injury and pain, specifically in the knees. Walking, sitting and standing all put pressure on our knees, while most athletic activities rely on them as well. Knee pain is a common ailment that affect thousands of people in the US each year. These symptoms may be a result of the same condition or can be completely separate. It is important to determine the source of the pain in order to successfully treat these conditions.
The knee is a hinge joint that connects the thigh bone (femur) to the lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) and the kneecap (patella). Like other joints in the body, the knee is made up of tendons and ligaments, as well as cartilage structures like menisci and bursae. The tendons and ligaments provide strength and stability and allow the knee to evenly carry the weight of the body, while the cartilage structures allow for smooth, fluid movements.
Causes of Knee Pain
Any of these structures can be damaged by injury, disease or other conditions that may result in knee pain. Knee pain is often a result of:
- Sudden turning movements
- Awkward landings from falls
Injury is one of the most common causes of knee pain and can sprain, strain or bruise any of the joint structures. Bones can fracture as a result of major trauma. Degenerative diseases like arthritis are also a common cause of knee pain, as they cause the cartilage between the bones to wear away. Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursae.
Because of the different structures involved, amount of use and wide range of diseases and injuries, knee pain can greatly vary. Pain may be severe and constant, or may be more of a dull ache that comes and goes. You may have difficulty walking or standing, experience stiffness or loss of motion. A fever can also be present if the pain is caused by an infection. Injury to the knee is likely to cause sudden, severe pain, while pain caused by disease may be more gradual and mild.
Knee pain is more likely to affect people who:
- Are overweight or obese
- Exert excessive use of the knee
- Play high-risk sports
- Are older
- Lack muscle strength and flexibility