Even before we learn to walk, from the moment we start to crawl, our knees become an integral part of how we get around.
Watch the video below about one of our patients who suffered daily but now lives a full life!
Even before we learn to walk, from the moment we start to crawl, our knees become an integral part of how we get around. From that day, and every day thereafter, we ask a lot of the hinge joints (synovial joints) we know as our knees.
In fact, when walking on level ground, the force on our knees is the equivalent of 1.5 times our body weight. That means a 200-pound man is placing 300 pounds of pressure on his knees with each step. When walking on an incline or climbing stairs, that amount of pressure increases, as it does when running, biking or carrying heavy loads. Simply kneeling to tie your shoes or picking up something off the ground, the force on your knees is nearly five times your bodyweight.
Now, think about that amount of force relative to how we use our knees. Bending down to pick up our kids or grandkids, putting in miles on the treadmill or bicycle, our favorite athletic activities, even just a walk on the beach or a stroll through the park… All of these activities that bring us so much joy, health and life enrichment, are hard on our knees. But, the older we get, the more we feel the effects of that repetitive joint stress.
What happens then? Our knees let us know something’s not right. Unfortunately, we tend to shrug off the early signs of knee disease or injury, chalking it up to “age” or “a minor ache.” While, in some cases, minor knee pain will go away on its own, a lot of the symptoms we try to ignore are indicators of something more than “age” … and many of these symptoms will not simply heal on their own.
Symptoms of Knee Disease or Injury
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), knee pain is, reportedly, one of the most common causes of chronic pain. But what are the warning signs that your knees may be in trouble? Here are some of the most common symptoms to watch for:
Pain, which may begin as an occasional, minor ache or sharp pain, may radiate up or down the leg and into the hip
Popping or scraping when walking, kneeling or climbing stairs (crepitus), is indicative of joint degeneration
What conditions or medical issues cause these symptoms? Before we answer that question, we need to take a closer look at the knee, so you can better understand what is being affected by any diseases or injuries that may be causing your symptoms.
Anatomy of the Knee
The knee is a strong and complex hinge joint tasked with offering both support and flexibility. As a hinge joint, the knee allows the leg to bend and flex, while limiting lateral (side-to-side) or rotating movement. A system of bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles and other soft tissue makes this movement possible:
Bones – the femur (thigh), tibia (shin) and patella (kneecap)
Ligaments – Elastic tissue that connects bones: medial collateral, lateral collateral, anterior cruciate and posterior cruciate
Tendons – The quadriceps and patellar connect leg muscles to the bones of the knee joint
Meniscus – Cartilage between the femur and the tibia that protects the joint
Articular Cartilage – Allows the knee bones to move smoothly as the joint works
Risk Factors For Knee Pain or Disease
Damage or disease in any of these components of the knee joint can result in pain, weakness and loss of function. In addition to traumatic injuries that cause pain and weakness in the knee — sprains, strains, joint dislocation, torn cartilage or torn ligaments — there are several common medical conditions that cause knee pain, weakness or function loss.
Baker’s Cyst – a cyst that causes bulging or tightness behind the knee
Bursitis – inflammation of the bursa, a fluid-filled sac near the knee joint, can be caused by injury, bacterial infection, or repetitive stress on the joint
Chondromalacia Patella – the breakdown of cartilage on the underside of the patella (kneecap), especially common in women
Osteoarthritis – a progressive, degenerative condition in which the deterioration of cartilage, growth of bone spurs, and increased bone density cause pain and limit joint function
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome – also called “runner’s knee,” this condition is common in people who participate in athletics including running, tennis, basketball and other sports requiring repetitive stopping, starting, bending and flexing
Tendonitis – strain in the patellar tendon causes pain, sometimes referred to as “jumper’s knee,” because it is a common condition in athletes
If you are beginning to experience occasional knee pain, or you believe you may have experienced a minor injury or strain on your knee joint, there are a few treatments you can try to reduce pain and prevent further injury:
Rest the joint
Apply ice to reduce swelling
Treat pain and inflammation with over-the-counter drugs
Careful stretching to keep the ligaments and tendons healthy
Low-impact exercise to strengthen the muscles around the joint
Choose footwear with better support and cushioning
And, if overweight, lose weight to decrease pressure on your knees
If these preventative measures fail and your pain continues to worsen, Dr. Skaliy may suggest Epidural Steroid Injections for temporary pain relief. This mix of anti-inflammatory corticosteroid and anesthetic medication can relieve pain and reduce the inflammation causing the pain.
Diagnosing Chronic Knee Pain
Because the cause of your knee pain and other symptoms may be one of many things, and many of these conditions have similar symptoms, there are several tests necessary to accurately diagnose the cause.
Diagnostics begins with a physical examination to determine the extent and location of the pain, tenderness or other symptoms as well as to determine how well the knee is functioning. From there, medical imaging such as X-rays, a CT scan or an MRI may be recommended to enable the doctor to get a betting look at the joint.
Conditions Associated With Knee Pain
Traditional treatments for knee pain
If the condition causing your knrr pain is relatively minor or in the early stages, Dr. Skaliy may suggest treatments including over-the-counter pain medication or preventative treatments such as weight reduction, regular stretching, correct posture, physical therapy and low-impact aerobic exercise.
However, if the condition is sufficiently advanced, the traditionally suggested treatment involves spinal fusion surgery. This highly-invasive surgical procedure involves “fusing” two vertebrae together, stopping any motion at the degenerated disc. Due to the invasive nature of spinal fusion surgery, long recovery times, including lengthy hospital stays, as well as painful physical therapy, are typical.
This highly-invasive surgery involves removing the roof of bone overlying the spinal canal, placing screws and bars within the spine to stabilize the spine. Additional risk factors for spinal fusion surgery include significant pain, limited physical activity for an extended period, and, in some cases, minimal to negligible pain reduction.
Dr. Skaliy says:
“Even successful fusion surgery results in permanent changes to quality of life. Movement is limited at the fused joint, flexibility is diminished and stress to other joints is increased. Approximately one-in-three fusion surgery recipients develop disc degenerations at other points along the spine.”
While fusion surgery is often billed as a “permanent” solution to spinal stenosis, this is not the outcome for far too many patients. If you opt for spinal fusion surgery, there is a risk that you could undergo painful, permanent fusion surgery, followed by painful, lengthy therapy and still see little or no real reduction in pain.
When you see all these symptoms and conditions, I know it can be a lot to take in all at once. You just want the pain to stop, so you can feel better and live life like you once did … but there’s so much information out there, so much advice, it can feel overwhelming. Don’t be discouraged.
Remember this: The goal of all of us here at Atlanta Spine Specialists is to see you totally pain free. I’ve been successfully treating patients in pain for more than 30 years, and I am confident we have a solution that can help you too. Please take some time to review the symptoms, conditions and solutions pages on this site, as well as the wealth of articles, that will provide you with knowledge and affirm your hope that there is help out there for you. We would love to be part of your personal pain solution.
I encourage you to click here or fill out the form below to schedule an appointment, so we can personally discuss your situation and the best solutions to your lower back pain.
Facet Joint Pain
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Medial Branch Inflammation
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Degenerative Disk Disease
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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
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Better Solutions for Knee Pain
At Atlanta Spine Specialist we are dedicated to helping people live a pain free life. In addition to these treatments we offer other minimally invasive treatments to heal your body.
Please call our office to learn more about these options (770) 844-3242.