What You Need to Know
About Chronic Knee Pain.
About a quarter of U.S. adults experience regular spells of knee pain due to the amount of stress the knee joint handles daily. People with knee pain may experience a sudden acute onset pain or slowly progressing chronic knee pain. Here is an extensive insight into the different elements of knee pain and what you need to know about chronic knee pain.
What Is Knee Pain?
Knee pain is a common musculoskeletal problem that affects the different parts of the knee joint. The knee joint is one of the body’s largest joints, comprised of bones, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons.
The femur, patella, and tibia are the main bony components of the knee joint. The cruciate ligaments and collateral ligaments occur in pairs, holding the bony components together. The knee joint’s articular cartilage offers a smooth surface for the knee bones to glide over.
The tough and rubbery meniscal cartilage functions to stabilize and cushion the joint. Tendons surrounding the knee joint are points of insertion and origin of different muscles. The contraction and relaxation of these muscles brings about movement of up to 180 degrees in the knee joint. Problems affecting these different knee components give rise to different types of knee pain. Identifying the source of the discomfort is an important part of learning what to do for knee pain.
What Are the Types and Causes of Knee Pain?
Knee pain may arise from traumatic injury, medical conditions, overuse, and chronic use. These different causes present as different types of knee pain.
Traumatic Knee Injuries
Fractures resulting from a direct blow to the bony structures in the knee often cause sudden and obvious knee pain. The pain is worse when bearing weight, and there is a disruption in proper knee function. All fractures require urgent medical intervention to regain normal function.
Ligament injuries give rise to acute pain that is felt inside the knee. Anterior cruciate ligament tears are the most common sports-related injury and arise when there is a sudden change in the direction of movement. Surgical repair is key to regaining a normal range of knee motion. A sudden twist to the knee joint can also cause meniscus injuries.
Knee dislocations also cause acute knee pain and are a serious medical emergency as they limit blood flow to the leg. Less traumatic injuries like superficial bruises are usually painful but heal quickly.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an acute autoimmune disease that can affect any joint in the body. It is characterized by early morning stiffness that improves with joint use. Rheumatoid arthritis is a cause of severe disability if left untreated.
Gouty arthritis more commonly affects the big toe but may also spread to the knee joint. Gout attacks tend to flare up when uric acid levels in the blood increase following a meaty diet and alcohol use. These flare-ups present as painful acute episodes. Infectious or septic arthritis classically presents following a systemic infection and resolves with antibiotic use.
Degenerative Joint Disease
Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of gradual and chronic knee pain that results in long-term disability in older people. It arises from the wearing out of the knee cartilage. One may also develop bony spurs that reduce joint mobility and cause stiffness. People with osteoarthritis experience constant pain when performing weight-bearing activities and find relief during rest.
Patellar tendinitis is a common cause of chronic knee pain in people engaging in activities with repeated motion like cycling. Inflammation develops in the tendon joining the kneecap to the tibia presents as pain in the front of the knee. The pain worsens on bending the knee, squatting, and kneeling while there is relief on knee extension.
Runner’s knee presents as pain on the lateral or outside aspect of the knee and, as the name suggests, is common in runners. Nagging pain behind the knee may be due to the constant irritation of the popliteal muscle or meniscus.
What Are the Common Signs and Symptoms of Knee Pain?
Different causes of knee pain have varying signs and symptoms. If there is an infection or ongoing inflammatory process, the entire knee may be painful and swollen. In traumatic injuries like fractures and meniscus tears, pain and swelling are present at specific locations. In some unique conditions like a Baker’s cyst, the patient presents with pain in the back of the knee.
Chronic knee pain often presents a constant, dull, burning discomfort or ache. The pain can be sharp shooting in nature when the knee joint is in use. People with chronic knee pain may also experience chronic swelling that is painful to touch.
What Are the Common Treatment Methods for Knee Pain?
The remedies for knee pain often depend on the underlying cause. The following treatment options can help with most types of knee pain.
Physical Activity and Strengthening Exercise
Exercising your knee joint can be key to slowing the development of osteoarthritis. Physical activities like walking, swimming, and yoga can help reinforce the supportive structures around joints. Strengthening exercise for your upper thigh muscles can also help protect the knee joint.
Weight Loss and Diet
Being overweight increases the risk of developing knee pain as the joint has to bear extra weight constantly. Eating a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, and roughage with low meat and animal fat intake can help maintain appropriate body weight. A low meat diet and reduced alcohol consumption can help in avoiding gouty arthritis.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help in managing the pain and swelling of inflammatory arthritis. NSAIDs are available as oral drugs, topical drugs, and steroidal injections. Some are available as over-the-counter drugs, while others, like opioids, require a doctor’s prescription.
Cannabinoids (CBD) play a role in managing chronic knee pain due to arthritis. CBD acts by interacting with the receptors influencing inflammation and pain in the body, thereby relieving arthritis symptoms
CBD comes as powder or oil that we use at Muscle MX to create CBD balms for topical application in areas affected by arthritis. The CBD balms are mess-free, smell amazing, and offer quick and long-lasting knee pain relief. We also offer a CBD lotion that relieves chronic pain, moisturizes skin, and enhances repair of damaged skin. For more info, contact us and stay tuned to our series about the knee and other forms of chronic pain.