Knee pain is a common complaint in older people, but some young adults also suffer from it. This article explains the various conditions that can cause knee pain.
Knee pain is a problem that can affect the young and the old alike. In the elderly, the knee pain is most likely due to wear and tear also called osteoarthritis or due to other chronic problems of the knee.
In the younger more active age groups, knee pain is more commonly secondary to increased activity, injury or contact sports. There are numerous underlying causes why an adolescent or a young adult could have knee pain.
To understand the problems of the knee, one has to know about the structures in the knee. The knee joint consists of the joint between the thigh bone (femur) and the leg bone(tibia), in addition to the knee cap. The articulation is covered in all directions by a tense tissue named the capsule. Inside the capsule, in between the bones there are a few tense soft tissue structures namely the menisci and the cruciate ligaments.
The major function of the meniscus is cushion effect and guiding in smooth movement of the joint while the main function of the cruciate ligaments is stability of the joint. There are another set of strong tissues outside the capsule that also help in the stability of the joint. These are called the collateral ligaments.
Adolescents, especially females have a tendency to have pain in the front of the knee. The pain worsens when climbing up or down the stairs or while sitting on the floor or standing up from this position. This problem commonly occurs due to softening of the cartilage under the knee cap and is usually temporary. The treatment usually consists of anti-inflammatory medicines and a specific group of exercises. This condition almost always improves with exercises.
Most commonly children or young adults present with pain in the knee following a twist in the knee while playing. The swelling may start immediately after the injury or 12 hours after the injury. This usually signifies an injury to the menisci and/or the cruciate ligament. In addition to pain killers, an X-ray is needed to make sure there is no bone fracture and then an MRI scan has to be taken to assess which ligament is injured and to study the severity of the injury.
Depending on the severity of injury, you either needphysiotherapy or need to undergo surgery to rectify the injury to the ligament. With the current advances in joint care, such injuries can be managed with state of the art keyhole surgeries (arthroscopy). With such procedures, the patient can get discharged from the hospital the same day or the next day of the surgery.
Sometimes while playing contact sports you get hurt in the knee due to a hit from the side. If you are not able to walk normally after this injury, it means that your collateral ligaments are injured. These ligaments are needed for side to side stability. An initial X-ray has to be taken to rule out a fracture. After this, an MRI scan will show the severity of the collateral ligament injury. Only the highest severity of collateral ligament injury needs surgical treatment while the lesser grades can me managed with braces and the person has to walk with support for a few days.
The causes for chondromalacia are:
- Sprains and strains.
The common symptom of chondromalacia is pain around the patella. This pain can radiate to the inner part of the knee cap. Some patients also experience sharp pain in the surrounding areas of the patella.
Yes, it is possible to cure chondromalacia. It is not a life-threatening condition. Initially, rest is recommended for the patients. Physical therapy can relieve the symptoms of the individual. Reducing the inflammation caused by chondromalacia can pave the way for the treatment.
If the patient undergoes physical treatment, then they can heal within four to six weeks. Some patients might take up to one or two months also. A non-surgical method is the most recommended treatment option for this condition.
Chondromalacia patella is a condition in which there are alterations in the region of the patella. If chondromalacia is not treated well, then it can result in a condition called osteoarthritis, where the knee joints are affected.
The exercises that are recommended for chondromalacia patella are:
- Straight leg lift.
- Wall slide.
- External hip rotation.
- Dumbbell deadlift.
- Quadricep contraction.
Yes, you can exercise with chondromalacia patella. Exercising can help you relieve the stress in the involved site. Exercises can help in providing support to the muscles so that the overall symptoms in the knees due to chondromalacia patella can be improved.
The risk factors for chondromalacia are:
- Female gender.
- Flat foot.
- Aged people.
- Increased level of activity.
In chondromalacia patella, a crackling sound will be heard due to the accumulation of fluid in the joints. It is referred to as water on the knees. This sound can be heard whenever there is irritation in the joints.
Chondromalacia is not a very serious problem but the damages caused by chondromalacia can cause permanent damage. During the initial stages, the doctor tries to perform treatment with the help of non-surgical treatment options. If they are unsuccessful, then the irreparable damage can be treated by surgical procedures.
Yes, physical therapy is very useful for treating the condition of chondromalacia patella. The symptoms can be relieved with the help of this condition. Physical therapy is the most conservative method for treating patients. You should consult your doctor and ask for tips in preventing and handling chondromalacia patella.
MRI can indicate the cracking of the cartilage that could be seen on the undersurface of the patella. If the condition of chondromalacia is in a more severe stage, then it can be easily visualized in an MRI.
The diagnosis of chondromalacia requires a physical examination by the doctor. X-ray of the joints might be necessary to see the damage in the joints. The arthroscopic examination will be helpful to detect the internal structures of the joints. In some cases, MRI might also be necessary to see the wear and tear of the cartilage.
The patient should avoid using the stairs for a while. They can also choose to go for ice and heat therapy. Braces are available that can stabilize the knee joints. In addition to this, they can also go for the strengthening of the joints with the help of exercises.
The following tips can help in preventing chondromalacia.
- Avoid stress while playing sports. Choose to wear a knee cap always.
- It is necessary to strengthen the quadriceps muscles along with the hamstring.
- If you have flat feet, wear suitable shoes.
Last reviewed at:
19 Feb 2020 - 2 min read
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