By Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)
Knee pain is often caused by either a one-time acute injury or repetitive motions that stress the knee, particularly as we age. Included below are some of the conditions that commonly cause knee pain:
· Osteoarthritis results from the protective layers of cartilage in the knee becoming worn over a period of time, leading to change in the composition of the bone underneath the cartilage. This may result in a number of symptoms including: joint pain and stiffness, decreased ranges of motion, weakness, swelling, inflammation, and instability.
· Patellofemoral pain syndrome refers to knee conditions that involve the kneecap and/or the structures around it. Pain can be generated by breakdown of the cartilage under the kneecap, tight or weak tissues around the kneecap, or misalignment of the kneecap.
· Meniscal injuries directly involve tearing/damage to the cartilage cushioning in the knee. This type of injury can result from a sporting event or fall where the knee undergoes a sudden twisting motion or impact. It can also occur in older individuals who develop a chronic tear in a worn meniscus.
· Ligaments are tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect one bone to another. They help stabilize joints, preventing excessive movement. Ligament injuries can occur when these structures become over-stretched or torn, often during activities where there is a direct blow to the knee or there is an awkward fall or twisting motion involving the knee.
· Tendons are strong tissues that anchor muscles to bones, and these structures can become torn or inflamed around the knee joint leading to tendonitis and muscular strains.
· Bursitis can involve several fluid-filled structures in your knee that help provide more cushioning in the joint. Certain activities, such as kneeling on the floor, can cause a bursa to become irritated.
Below are some useful tips that can help individuals avoid or minimize the chance of knee pain and injury:
1. Maintain a healthy bodyweight to decrease the overall stress on your knees.
2. Wear appropriate footwear that supports your activities and helps maintain proper leg alignment and balance.
3. Prepare your knees for physical activity by stimulating the joints and muscles, and increasing circulation. This can be accomplished with a quick cardiovascular warm-up and gentle stretching of the muscles in the thighs and lower legs.
4. Choose activities that are knee friendly for you. This may include low impact activities such as walking or cycling. Remember to start slowly and build up the intensity gradually.
5. Strength, balance and flexibility exercises can train your leg muscles to better support your knees and avoid injuries.
In the event that you suffer a knee injury that does not subside, you should contact a licensed health professional who deals in the diagnosis and treatment of knee pain. For additional information on knee pain and treatment of muscle and joint injuries, visit www.nhwc.ca.
This article is a basic summary for educational purposes only. It is not intended, and should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.