Knee Pain: Causes, Risk Factors, Diagnosis and Treatments

Knee pain is a really common problem among older adults and younger athletes. It describes any form of sensitivity affecting the knees. The pain can originate from the knee joint, the kneecap, or the cartilage and ligaments of the knee. The exact location of the pain varies depending on the structure that is involved.

The intensity of the pain can vary from a minor ache to a severe and chronic ache. Understanding the underlying cause of your pain is the first step to being able to treat it and get relief for knee pain.

Knee pain is often accompanied by physical restriction. Other signs and symptoms of knee pain include discomfort that causes limping, difficulty walking, inability to bend or extend the knee, unusual sounds when moving the knee, weakness in the affected leg that makes it hard to bear one’s own weight, redness, stiffness, significant pain, fever, and swelling around the knee.

What are the common causes of knee pain?

Knee pain has many causes ranging from infections to injuries, and complications of medical conditions. Knee pain can develop gradually over time or happen suddenly due to impact.

The most common cause of knee pain is knee injury. However, this does not necessarily mean that you have to get into an accident in order to have an injury. Some potential causes of knee injury are exercises involving repetitive movements such as running that can rupture ligaments or tear cartilage.

Other common causes of knee pain are rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, fat pad irritation, deformities that cause the kneecap to fall off, dislocation of the knee joint, bone break off, and infections that cause fluid retention and swelling.

What are the risk factors for knee pain?

The knee joint is frequently used throughout the day; any abrupt change in movement can result in injuries and pain.

Knee pain can be aggravated by physical activity and obesity. Certain exercises such as skiing or jogging may lead to overuse of the joint which causes pain. Excess weight puts too much pressure on the knee joint and causes the cartilage to break down more rapidly.

Other lifestyle habits that put one at risk of knee pain include engaging in risky sports such as rugby, being an endurance cyclist, weight lifting that involves poor posture, and workouts that have inadequate rests in-between.

What is the diagnosis of knee pain?

Normally, knee pain occurs for short periods and then resolves. If you have knee pain that doesn’t disappear in a couple of days or that which does not respond to rest, you need to see a doctor. Talk to him about all the symptoms that you experience and answer any questions that you’re asked.

A thorough physical examination by your doctor is necessary to establish the type and cause of the pain. The exam will help him see how your leg responds to different movements.

When the doctor needs to do further tests, a blood test, CT scan, X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI may be required to confirm a diagnosis.

The treatment for knee pain

Regardless of what causes knee pain, there are many treatments that work. The treatment varies depending on the cause of the pain. Doctors first look at the patients’ symptoms, lifestyle, and exercise habits then they can know how to treat knee pain. Some of the recommended treatments for knee pain include:

  1. Medication

Patients can either take over-the-counter or prescribed medications for pain relief and treat underlying medical conditions respectively. It’s, however, not advisable to take OTC drugs for prolonged periods. One ought to visit a doctor for proper diagnosis and to avoid the potential side effects associated with chronic medication use.

In some situations, there are some medicines that are injected directly into the knee to help with arthritis and other inflammations of the knee.

  1. Massage

Massage relieves knee pain; it works by relaxing the muscles around the knee and thigh areas. It also boosts the flow of blood and helps ease inflammation.

Massaging should be done for at least 5 minutes, twice a day. The patient should be seated with his/her feet flat on the floor and the knees pointing forward.

  1. Exercise and Physical Therapy

Physical activity helps strengthen the muscles around the knee making it more stable. This prevents further worsening of the injury and guarantees easy movements.

Ideal exercises include swimming and water aerobics, elliptical training, yoga, and cycling. Avoid activities like jumping and intensive biking that may negatively impact your knees.

It’s highly recommended to work with a professional physical therapist; he’ll help you build strength in your lower body. You should also take breaks to allow your body enough time to rest and heal.

  1. Foam Rolling

This technique is really helpful in breaking up adhesions that cause knee pain. Patients who have discovered the magic of foam rolling have reported significant improvement and relief for knee pain.

Foam rolling helps increase flexibility and loosen tight muscles around the knee joint. Foam rolling is recommended for the quadriceps, hamstring, and the IT band.

  1. PRICE

The abbreviation stands for protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

Protection and rest prevent your knee from any further injury while ice, compression, and elevation help relieve pain and treat knee pain that results from soft tissue injury.

The Specialty of Sports Podiatry and Treatment Methodologies

Sports Podiatry is a specialty which deals with the treatment of leg, ankle, knee, and feet injuries by altering the function of the lower limb by using a variety of treatment methods. The methods can include changing footwear, using insoles and different types of exercises. A skilled sports podiatrist will assess the pattern of an individual's foot strikes the ground to understand its impact on the corresponding joints.

On sustaining any types of sports injury to the lower limbs, sports podiatrist will conduct a thorough biomechanical assessment and tests to determine if the leg alignment and stability of the patient is competent to perform the activities in the particular sport. They will also look for any mechanical reasons which contribute to the injury and pain and administer necessary treatments.

For whom?

You should think of visiting a sports podiatry clinic if you experience repeated injuries of the lower limb while playing any sports or doing repeated activities. Mechanical problems or body imbalance can cause problems involving your lower limbs, which needs to be corrected. The most common podiatry injuries for which patients consult Sports Podiatry are knee pain, Achilles tendon, Shin splints, etc.

Sports podiatry is inevitable for professional athletes and sportsmen. It is also advisable for recreational sports enthusiasts too who want to avoid any injury and ensure maximum performance and output. Sports Podiatry Adelaide may work closely with expert sports physiotherapists (PT) as many of the lower limb problems are closely associated with the lower back and pelvis problems.

General podiatry vs. sports podiatry vs. orthopaedics

How to decide whether to visit a sports podiatry or general podiatry or an orthopaedic clinic?

As the name suggests, sports podiatry is for people who are active in professional or recreational sports. It is also used by sportsmen for training to prevent injury during a sports event. Sports podiatrist can also help people who injure their feet or legs repeatedly during sports, which may be indicative of a mechanical issue.

Treatment methodology

While consulting a sports podiatrist, the first thing they may do is to analyse the person’s gait. They use tools like gait scanner for this which is a pressure-sensitive pad to check the feet-ground contact, a force of the steps, pressure points, and the pressure shifts while one walks. A podiatrist will also check the walking style to understand the chain of motion as to how energy flows through the body, from feet, through knees, hip, and to the back while walking. Combining objective and visual assessments of the gait, an expert podiatrist will be able to identify any imbalance or improper movements as the underlying reason for injury.

After diagnosing the problem, the podiatrist may make a personalised treatment plan to address it. It may typically include different forms of stretches and muscle-strengthening exercises. There can also be some custom orthotics insertions to correct the movements. The podiatrist may also prescribe to use proper footwear or sports shoe to ensure feet health.

However, sports podiatry is not just limited to sports and feet but can help anyone seeking for preventative help or troubled with an existing foot or lower limb issue. With non-invasive and straightforward examinations, sports podiatry is nothing to be afraid of.