Your knees play an essential role in the maintenance of your quality of life. Regardless of whether you are an athlete or someone who just needs to get from one room to the next, knee pain can be debilitating and hindrance on your day-to-day life.
The knee, the largest joint in your body, is a complex joint that is uniquely designed to bend straighten, and tolerate rotational movement all while bearing the weight of your body and the extra stress of impact during activities like walking, running, and dancing. If your knee joint is damaged, you will experience pain while standing, walking, and running. However, if your knee joint is damaged severely, it may even be painful when you are sitting or lying down. The ligaments, muscles, and tendons in your knee all play a role in the health of your knee.
How the Knee Works
The knee is a hinge joint, formed where the thighbone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia) meet. It is the largest joint in the body. The joint is covered with smooth tissue and powered by large muscles. When all the parts listed below are healthy, a knee should move easily:
- Cartilage is a layer of smooth tissue. It covers the ends of the thighbone and shinbone. It also lines the back side of the kneecap. Healthy cartilage absorbs stress and allows the knee to bend easily.
- Muscles power the knee and leg for movement.
- Tendons attach the muscles to the bones.
- Ligaments are bands of tissue that connect bones and brace the joint.
- Bones that make up your knee joint include your thighbone (femur), shinbone (tibia), and kneecap (patella).
- Menisci are 2 wedge shaped pieces of cartilage that absorb shock between the thighbone and shinbone.
Common Causes of Knee Pain
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and is often called the “wear-and-tear” arthritis. When you have osteoarthritis, the cartilage in your joint wears down, causing inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an auto-immune disease that attacks your joints and causes inflammation of the synovial membrane. Swelling caused by rheumatoid arthritis can cause pain because it damages the cartilage and eventually the bone.
Arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid
This is the pain you feel in the front (or patella) of the knee that is made worse when climbing, taking stairs, or walking up an incline.
Inflammation caused by repeated overuse or injury of the knee
Damaged cartilage under the kneecap
A buildup of synovial fluid (fluid that lubricates the joint) behind the knee
An Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear usually occurs after a direct blow to the knee or the sudden stop or change in movement. After hearing a pop, you will gradually feel more pain and swelling your knee. While surgery is not always necessary, if you wish to return to your pre-injured state of functionality, surgery is often suggested.
Meniscus tears are relatively common injuries. This cartilage is often torn by twisting, and it generally only occurs in adults. Meniscus tears often require arthroscopic surgery.
Osteosarcoma (second most prevalent bone cancer), most commonly occurs in the knee.
- Cartilage Tear
- ACL Tear
- Meniscus Tear
- Patellofemoral Syndrome
- Chondromalacia (“Runner’s Knee”)
- Osteocartilaginous Defects
for Knee Pain:
- Steroid (Cortisone) Injections
- Anti-Inflammatory Medication
- Physical Therapy
- Platelet Rich Plasma Treatment (PRP)
- Visco Supplementation (Synvisc, hylagan, Monovisc)
for Knee Pain:
- Total Joint Replacement
- Unicompartmental (partial) knee replacement
- Kneecap replacement (patellofemoral arthroplasty)
- ACL Reconstruction
- Arthroscopic Surgery
- Meniscal Tear/Repair
- Patella Realignment
- Cartilage Transplantation
Importance of diagnosing & treating chronic knee pain
Each possible cause of chronic knee pain requires different diagnostic tests. These include blood work, physical examination, X-rays, CT scan or MRI, and other imaging tests. The condition your doctor thinks you have will determine the types of tests you will undergo to see what’s causing your chronic knee pain.
When persistent knee pain disrupts your quality of life, our medical team at Elmhurst Orthopaedics is here to provide you with high-quality personalized care to ensure your long-term health. Our expert orthopaedic surgeons and pain specialists will provide you with an accurate diagnosis and a personalized comprehensive treatment plan, using surgical treatment as a last-resort option.