Find out more about what is causing your knee pain
So what’s behind your knee pain and what can you do about it?
Osteoarthritis is the most common culprit
Osteoarthritis is a common problem in the older population and refers to wear and tear of the joints, with cartilage, that covers the end of the bones, becoming thin and rough. It is a leading cause of pain, and limitations to daily functioning. Over half of people over the age of 65 and more than 80% of people over the age of 70 suffer from the disease. Before the age of 55 more men than women have osteoarthritis, once past age 55, osteoarthritis occurs more frequently in women. Aside from age, having a previous trauma or injury to the knee can increase your risk of Osteoarthritis (OA). In fact, only 30% of those who show signs of OA on an x-ray have any pain in the joint, so getting yourself checked for signs of wear and tear before you start to suffer pain could help you to make lifestyle changes now in order to slow the progression of OA and the possible onset of knee pain.
Biomechanics play a key role in the development of Osteoarthritis
New evidence has indicated that biomechanics plays a key role in osteoarthritis, which has previously been thought of only as a problem with the cartilage. It has been show that breakdown of cartilage places stress on the knee joint, leading to muscular imbalances as the joint rotates or bends, therefore accelerating the rate of degeneration.
A good attitude can decrease the severity of OA symptoms
There is evidence to suggest that the severity of Osteoarthritis can be increased with higher levels of depression and anxiety in patients and can even increase the rate of degeneration of the joint. Having a positive attitude towards the management of your condition has been shown to have a positive effect on symptoms such as pain in the joint.
Reducing your weight by just 5% can cause a threefold improvement in symptoms
The more you weigh, the greater the load that passes through your knee joint, which carries your body weight around day-to-day. One study found that a 5% reduction in weight over an 18 month period resulted in an 18% improvement in function and when coupled with dietary changes, the functional improvement rose to 24% which lead to significantly improved mobility. So, by losing just 5% of your weight you can have more than triple the effect on your ability to function and decrease the levels of chronic knee pain experienced.
Many conditions, aside from Osteoarthritis, could be causing your knee pain
Whilst Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of knee pain, there are many other issues that could be causing problems in the joint. Here are a few examples of what these are:
- Bursitis – This occurs when fluid filled sacs called bursae around the knee become inflamed. For example, the pes anserine bursa can become inflamed by excessive pressure from the tendons of other muscles nearby. These become strained as the body attempts to protect the injured knee. Reacting to the pain of bursitis, the body intensifies muscular activity, increasing the pressure on the bursa and thereby creating a vicious cycle.
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome – This is the most common cause of chronic anterior knee pain in young adults. These patients often complain of a feeling of instability due to muscle weakness or sudden pain.
- Iliotibial band syndrome – This is another cause of anterior knee pain and is almost exclusively seen in runners. The iliotibial band is the fibrous tract that runs along the outer leg from the hip to the knee and is attached to the thigh bone on the outside of the knee. Commonly patients suffering from illiotibial band syndrome complain of aching or burning pain.
- Structural deformity – Often seen in younger patients with knee pain, the most common examples are Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD), Osgood-Schlatter Disease, Plica Syndrome. OCD is caused by gradual separation of part of the cartilage from the bone. Typically athletes will complain of a gradual onset of pain, with swelling and locking of the knee that increases when bending. Osgood-Schlatter Disease is caused by repetitive stress at the insertion of the patellar tendon into the lower leg. In children with immature growth plates this causes minor fractures, severe pain and inflammation. Plica Syndrome is caused by excessive thickening of the lining of the knee joint causing pain, popping and/or locking of the joint.
Knee pain is a common problem, but there is a one-size-fits-all diagnosis. The knee is a complex joint affected by many types of injuries, conditions and diseases. The main aim of treatment is the prevention of pain and then to improve the function of the joint. Sometimes this will be through medications or surgery, but there are also some proven, non-surgical options to help reduce or even entirely cure knee pain. If you are suffering with chronic knee pain, don’t just put up with it. Seeking proper assessment, understanding the cause of your pain and then looking into the full range of treatment options could put an end to your suffering, helping you become pain free and mobile for many years to come.
Interested in learning more about coping with knee pain? Find out about Apostherapy’s free seminars here.
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