If you are suffering from knee pain, see a doctor / orthopedic surgeon who can determine the cause and prescribe an appropriate treatment and pain management plan.
This article covers only the more common types of knee pain. It will familiarize you with various causes, treatments, and prevention of knee pain, but please do not attempt to diagnose yourself.
The knees are the most easily injured part of the body. The largest and most complicated joint, the knee is used for everything from standing up, sitting, to walking, running, etc. It's a weight-bearing joint that straightens, bends, twists and rotates. All this motion increases your risk of acute or overuse knee injuries.
Acute knee injuries (including torn ligaments and torn cartilage) are often caused by twisting the knee or falling. Sports that involve running and 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.
Overuse knee injuries (including muscle strain, tendonitis and bursitis) 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 stressed 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 subjected to the same activity to avoid overuse injury. Treat overuse injuries early to prevent chronic problems.
Knee pain is commonly caused by doing too much too soon when you haven't exercised for a long period of time - especially high-impact aerobics; walking, running or jumping on hard surfaces or uneven ground; excessive running up and down stairs (When you walk upstairs you are putting pressure on your knees that is equivalent to four times your body weight, when running up the stairs it can be eight times your body weight).
Knee osteoarthritis is a common cause of knee pain. The risk increases with age. Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis involving degeneration of the cartilage. Exercise is vital to maintain strength and flexibility of muscles supporting the knee, which reduces the stress on the knee joint.
People with knee osteoarthritis may also need to take pain medications and/or other complementary pain treatments.
Runners knee (also called patellofemoral pain or anterior knee pain) is a common cause of knee pain in young people (not just in runners). The pain is usually diffuse pain behind the kneecap. Symptoms often worsen after climbing stairs, jumping, running, or after a period of sitting. Caused by poor tracking of the kneecap, appropriate exercises prescribed by a doctor or physical therapist is the main treatment in correcting runners knee. Stay away from high-impact activity if you have this condition.
Prevent knee pain by keeping the muscles that support your knees strong and flexible. Start out slowly. Walk before you run - before you engage in a strenuous high impact activity such as jogging or running, try walking for a week. If walking causes knee pain, you shouldn't be running. Warm up and stretch before working out. Give your body a chance to recover from exercise. If you do high impact activities take every other day off. Avoid running up and down stairs and full squats. Doing knee exercises to strengthen and stretch the muscles that support the knee are vital for knee pain and injury prevention. Proper footwear is also important, especially if walking or running on hard surfaces. Keep your weight under control. Reducing one's weight reduces stress upon the knee.
Most knee pain is treated conservatively, but there are situations in which surgery is required. Athletes are at an elevated risk for sudden injuries that may require surgery, such as torn ligaments in the center of the knee or certain types of fractures. People with advanced knee osteoarthritis may need knee replacement surgery if they are severely limited in day-to- day activities because of their condition. This is optional surgery and is a last resort.
Most knee conditions respond to a combination of non-invasive treatments such as applying heat or cold, temporarily restraining from activities that aggravate pain, and medications that target pain and inflammation. Exercises to strengthen the muscles that support the knee help reduce stress on the knee joint and prevent re-injury.