Your knees are subject to a lot of wear and tear. The joints of your knee provide the flexibility needed for walking, running, bending, and lifting. Knees are easy to take for granted until they start aching, creaking, or giving out on you. You may notice sudden knee pain due to an accident, injury, or sudden twisting motion. You may also notice a gradual onset of pain in response to overuse, friction, or disease. Read on for 11 reasons your knees may be causing you pain.
11. Growth Spurt
Sometimes sudden or intense growth spurts in adolescence can trigger knee pain. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, a period of rapid growth can create stress on the changing bones, muscles, and tendons of the knee. This can result in a painful inflammatory condition called Osgood-Schlatter disease. Treatment for this condition generally consists of NSAID medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve the pain and inflammation. Additionally, stretching the leg muscles can relieve pain and prevent agonizing episodes of this disease. Osgood-Schlatter disease typically resolves when the growth spurt ends.
10. Runner’s Knee
The term runner’s knee refers to pain that occurs around the kneecap after strenuous exercise or after sitting for a long period of time with bent knees. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, runner’s knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome, may be accompanied by sounds of grinding or clicking within the kneecap. Runner’s knee may be caused by deformities within the knee joint, weak muscles, tight hamstrings, injury, or running with an improper gait. Runner’s knee can be prevented by wearing supportive shoes, using a proper running technique, and engaging in exercises to stretch and strengthen your leg muscles.
9. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy joints and tissues. When rheumatoid arthritis invades the knee, it causes pain and inflammation within the joint and in the membrane that covers the knee joint. Signs of rheumatoid arthritis in the knee include pain, weakness, swelling, and redness. Not all risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis are within your control. However, the Arthritis Foundation states that you can decrease your risk of this disease by avoiding smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.
This form of arthritis differs from rheumatoid arthritis in that it is caused by wear and tear or friction on the joint rather than by an autoimmune disease. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition in which the cartilage between the bones in the knee joint begins to erode away. This causes painful friction between the bones of the knee. You can help prevent the risk of wear and tear on your knees by keeping a healthy body weight and strengthening the muscles of your legs through exercise. Furthermore, avoid repetitive movements that can wear away the cartilage between your joints.
Patellar tendinitis, or jumper’s knee, occurs when you injure the tendon that connects your kneecap to your shinbone. This injury most frequently occurs in athletes who engage in sports like basketball that require a lot of jumping. According to the Mayo Clinic, jumper’s knee can be prevented by engaging in exercises that strengthen your leg muscles to decrease strain on the knee joint. If you experience patellar tendinitis, allow your joint time to recover by resting and applying ice. Learning and using proper jumping techniques can also decrease your risk of this painful condition.
A dislocated knee refers to a kneecap that slips off the joint. This can happen due to trauma from a sudden force against the knee. It can also occur during sports if your foot is planted on the ground and you make a sudden, forceful, twisting motion of the knee. A dislocated knee may be relieved through rest, ice, compression, and elevation. In some cases, physical therapy or even surgery may be required, especially if the dislocation is accompanied by damage to surrounding ligaments or tendons.
Gout is a type of arthritis in which uric acid crystallizes in the joints, causing pain and inflammation. Although the joint of the big toe is a common spot for gout to strike, the joint of the knee may also be susceptible to this condition. Risk factors for this condition include a family history of gout, obesity, and the use of certain medications. A diet heavy in purine-rich meats and seafood can trigger an attack of gout. Additionally, sugary foods and beverages such as sodas or fruit juices can contribute to the accumulation of uric acid in the joints.
4. Baker’s Cyst
A Baker’s cyst is a swollen area that may develop behind the knee in response to trauma or injury. Following diagnosis, your physician may treat a Baker’s cyst by prescribing rest, ice, and elevation of the area. In addition, physical therapy, draining fluid from the cyst with a needle, or steroid injections may help treat this condition. According to the Cleveland Clinic, surgery is sometimes necessary in order to remove this fluid-filled sac.
3. Torn Meniscus
A meniscus is a piece of cartilage that prevents the bones of your knee joint from rubbing against each other. A forceful, twisting motion of the knee may result in rips to this cartilage. Symptoms may include a popping sound from the knee, pain when rotating the joint, and difficulty straightening your leg. Treatment for a torn meniscus ranges from rest for minor tears to surgery for more severe injuries. Meniscus tears can be prevented by keeping your leg muscles strong. Additionally, warming up before and cooling down after exercise can help decrease stress on the joint.
2. Torn Ligament
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there are four ligaments that aid in the mobility and function of the knee joint. They include the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the medial collateral ligament (MCL), and lateral collateral ligament (LCL). These tough bands of tissue surround the joint of your knee as they connect your thighbone to your shinbone. They lend support to your knee and allow it to move. If any of these ligaments become damaged through an injury, they can cause pain and difficulty in bending or straightening your knee.
In some cases, a tumor may cause knee pain. Cysts occur when cells begin rapidly and chaotically dividing. Most tumors are benign or non-cancerous. Osteosarcoma is a rare form of bone cancer that may develop in the knee. This tumor most frequently affects children and young adults. Physicians use a variety of tests to diagnose the cause of a tumor and determine the course of treatment. These tests may include a physical exam, imaging, bloodwork, and biopsies.