Knee problems – What are the causes?

Tired of hobbling around in pain? Knee pain is common – it affects many people of different ages, and can have a number of causes. Let’s have a look at what could be causing your niggling knee pain…

1. What are some of the common causes of knee pain?

A. Injuries:

  • Broken bones
  • Ligament injuries
  • injury to ligaments at the side of the knee may cause pain at rest or on weight-bearing and knee bending
  • injury to the ligament at the front of the knee may cause a pop and a feeling of “giving way”.
  • Knee cap dislocation
  • Meniscus injuries- these shock-absorbing pads can be injured after a sudden twisting of the knee.
  • Bursitis- where there is a build-up of fluid over the knee.

B. Medical Conditions:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis: an auto-immune condition that can affect a wide variety of joints.
  • Gout: due to uric acid crystal build-up in joints, commonly the big toe, but can affect the knee
  • Pseudo-gout: due to calcium pyrophosphate crystal build up in joints.
  • Infectious (septic) arthritis: a painful, warm, red swollen knee associated with a fever and being unwell – a medical emergency.

C. Overuse, Strain/ Chronic Conditions:

  • Osteoarthritis: a “wear-and-tear arthritis” where cartilage wears away, eventually causing bones of the knee joint to rub against each other.
  • Patella tendonitis: common in runners and cyclists
  • Osgood Schlatter’s disease: causes a painful lump below the kneecap, common in adolescents during puberty growth spurts.

D. Biomechanical Conditions:

  • “Flat feet”: some people don’t have the natural arch at the bottom of their feet. This can create problems with walking, and lead to knee-pain.
  • Difference in leg length
  • Hip or foot pain, causing altered weight-bearing through the knee joint
  • Changes in walking style due to an underlying back condition
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2. When is it time to call your doctor?

If you have any of the following signs or symptoms, you should rather let your doctor take a good look at your knee:

  • limping/difficulty walking
  • inability to weight bear
  • swelling
  • redness
  • warmth
  • fever
  • night sweats
  • weight loss
  • stiffness
  • inability to properly straighten or bend the knee
  • feeling of instability/knee “giving way”
  • feeling of one’s knee locking
  • an obvious deformity

3. Wondering what your treatment options might be?

After your doctor has examined your knee, specific treatment will depend on the underlying cause.

Minor injuries can be treated with “R.I.C.E” : (rest, ice, compression, elevation)

  • Physiotherapy- used to strengthen muscles around the knee
  • Medication- anti-inflammatories, or medication directed at the specific underlying cause
  • Injections- cortisone or lubricants
  • Surgery- arthroscopic surgery, partial or total knee replacement
  • Supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin