Knee Pain

Knee pain is one of the most common problems affecting millions of people living across the United States. It is safe to say that most individuals have experienced knee pain at some point or the other, by the time they reach adulthood. The severity of the ache depends on aspects such as the cause of the pain as well as the affected person’s age and overall health status. There are numerous factors that could lead to knee pain in a person, some of which include injuries, medical diseases, age, obesity, structural abnormalities, lack of strength and limited muscle flexibility, to name a few. Knee pain could either be acute or chronic. Acute knee pain, usually caused by a fall or an injury, comes on rather suddenly and lasts for a shorter period of time. On the other hand, chronic knee pain, usually caused by medical problems or obesity, refers to the pain that takes longer to become evident and lasts for a much longer duration. Bouts of knee pain that come and go, such as recurrent knee pain, are also usually referred to as chronic knee pain.

Contrary to what many people believe, knee pain is not only prevalent in the elderly, though it may be more common in them. This could be due to the fact that there are several knee pain causing diseases that mainly affect seniors, such as arthritis, gout, osteoporosis, patellar tendinitis and Osgood-Schlatter disease, to name a few. Nevertheless, many young men, women, teenagers and perhaps even children have been known to complain of mild to severe knee pain from time to time.

Since knee pain is so common, most of us tend to ignore it, at least in the initial stages or until such a time that it gets unbearable and interferes with our ability to walk properly. While some causes of knee pain are relatively mild and get resolved on their own, others could be fairly complicated and may require medical intervention. In some, the knee pain is short-lived and goes away after a few days or perhaps weeks. However, it is also possible for the knee pain to get worse, if left unchecked and untreated. This also applies to an injury; even a minor knee injury increases your chances of incurring other similar injuries in the future.

In order to know if the knee pain can be treated or not, it is important to consult a doctor and identify the exact cause.

Symptoms of Knee Pain

Knee pain on its own can be referred to as a symptom for other underlying health conditions. Based on the causes of the pain, the location and the severity of the knee pain are likely to change. At times, you may also notice accompanying symptoms along with the knee pain, which include:

  • Inability to straighten the knee completely, which is usually referred to as “locking” of the knee
  • Instability or weakness in the legs, especially the knee area
  • Stiffness and swelling around the knees
  • Crunching or popping noises that accompany knee movement
  • Redness around the knees, especially if the area feels warm to the touch

These symptoms are fairly common in case of knee pain and while they should be treated appropriately, they are hardly a cause for concern. However, at times there may be more severe symptoms that accompany knee pain, which require immediate medical attention, as they are a sign of serious knee trouble. You need to visit your doctor right away, in case:

  • You suffer from high or moderate fever that is accompanied by severe pain, redness and tenderness in the knee
  • You cannot extend your knee completely or even flex it properly or as normal
  • You can’t bear to apply any pressure to the affected knee, which makes it difficult for you to walk
  • You fall while walking or even standing, because your knee just “gives out”
  • You notice an obvious structural deformity in your leg or your knee
  • You see a significant amount of swelling in one or both knees.

Causes of Knee Pain

There are many different factors that could lead to mild, moderate or even severe knee pain. Given below are some of the most common causes for knee pain:

  • Injuries: In case you incur a knee injury while playing sports or engaging in any other form of physical activity, your tendons, ligaments, bursae (fluid filled sacs), bones, muscles and cartilage could all get affected. Some of the most common types of injuries that are known to affect the knee include Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), knee bursitis, torn meniscus and patellar tendinitis.
  • Mechanical Problems: This mainly refers to any type of dislocation in either the bones or cartilage, which could lead to a lot of pain and could interfere with your day to day activities. Some of the common mechanical knee problems include dislocated kneecaps, knee locking and pain in the hips. At times, a bone or cartilage may get degenerated, break off and float about in the joint space, causing excruciating pain in the knees.
  • Arthritis: There are different types of arthritis that have been known to affect the elderly. This condition leads to a considerable about of pain in the joints, not surprisingly in the knees. Some of the knee pain-causing arthritic conditions include gout, pseudo-gout, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and septic arthritis.
  • Obesity: You are at a much higher risk of suffering from knee problems, in case you are overweight. Excess weight increases the amount of pressure applied on to knee joints, even if you only engage in normal day to day activities such as walking, climbing a flight of stairs, descending and so on.
  • Other Health Conditions: There are many other health problems because of which you may be prone to severe knee pain. Some of the most common conditions include Osteochondritis dissecans, chondromalacia patellae and Osgood-Schlatter disease, to name a few.

Remedies for Knee Pain

Fortunately, there are many ways by which you can gain relief from knee pain. While there are quite a few over the counter and prescription painkillers easily available in the market, many individuals choose to opt for home remedies for knee pain, mainly because they want to avoid the adverse side effects associated with most medications. There are many home remedies too, through which knee pain can be alleviated for a while. Given below are some of the most common remedies for knee pain:

  • Ice: This is a common remedy used to alleviate pain and swelling in most instances. Ice can be very effective in relieving the pain, soothing the inflammation and bringing down the swelling in the knee. For best results, you need to place a huge ice pack on your knee in such a way that the entire knee is covered. This is probably why most people use a bag of frozen peas. Alternately, you could also wrap a couple of ice cubes in a towel and apply it on to your knee for around 15 minutes or so. However never apply ice to a particular spot for more than 20 minutes, as it could damage the skin and the nerves in that area
  • Steam: Heat therapy is as effective in dealing with pain, as cold therapy is. Therefore, you could sit in a steamy bathtub so that your knee soaks up the warmth from the water, which is excellent for alleviating the pain. Alternately, you could apply a hot water bag on your knee too.
  • Massage Therapy: This technique is very effective in soothing aches and pains all over the body. Gently massage your knee area with some warm olive oil around two or three times a day. Make sure that the massage lasts for at least 5 to 10 minutes at each time.

  • Resting: When it comes to the treatment of many ailments and afflictions, this is one of the most important, yet commonly overlooked factors. However, it is absolutely essential that you refrain from putting too much pressure on your knees at all times. Giving your knee to heal from an injury or an inflammation will prevent a relapse.
  • Elevation: You could reduce the swelling in your knee by keeping it raised. Prop your affected leg on a couple of pillows, or sit on a recliner chair, which allows you to keep your legs elevated.

Diet for Knee Pain

While research suggests that minor dietary changes can have a highly beneficial effect on knee pain, there are no substantial clinical studies to back that claim up. Nevertheless, following a well-balanced and nutritious diet is good for your body at all times and it may just help you in getting over knee pain at a faster rate. Since obesity is one of the causes of knee pain, the effectiveness of following a healthy diet for knee pain cannot be ruled out. Moreover, as some foods are believed to have pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, they have been recommended by nutritionists for managing knee pain. Some of the foods that should be included in a diet for knee pain include:

  • Fish like tuna, salmon, herring, sardine, mackerel and cod
  • Oranges and orange juice as they are high in Vitamin C
  • Sources of a flavonoid known as quercetin, which include onions, red grapes and apples
  • Leafy greens, especially spinach
  • Soybean and other soy products
  • Spices and herbs like ginger, garlic, rosemary, coriander and oregano.

Suggestion for Knee Pain

While it is a good idea to ensure that your knee gets sufficient rest, it is also important to exercise the knee at regular intervals, or else the pain can worsen. However, it is important to consult a proper fitness instructor to know which exercises are beneficial and which should be avoided. Moreover, these exercises should be performed correctly, or else they could have an adverse effect on your body. Therefore, it is best to practice them under the guidance and supervision of the instructor the first few times.

Knee pain can be quite serious and could lead to complications if it is not controlled in time. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor as soon as the pain or any of the symptoms become evident.

Knee Pain Treatments - more information
Knee Pain - Frequently asked questions