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5 Most Common Knee Problems

How common are ‘most common’ knee problems?

For a lot of people, knee problems are something they associate with issues older people have to deal with. In some cases, one might think it’s not something that could bother younger generations unless they suffered some sport injury or were involved in an accident. However, knee problems are more common than it seems. In fact, ever since the pandemic started, Google searches for knee pain have increased 471% and it influenced people to search for home remedies as lockdown injuries mount. Living in these uncertain times also means many are at risk of experiencing flare-ups of their pain and reduced wellbeing due to social isolation.

It’s crucial to understand knee pain is a common ailment that affects people of all ages. Knee problems may be the result of an injury, but some medical conditions, such as arthritis, gout or infections, can also cause knee pain. It is imperative to consult your doctor if you experience constant, long-term pain which makes your usual everyday life harder.

Symptoms and causes of knee pain

The first problem that indicates to people they are experiencing some knee problems is usually the pain, but symptoms may vary and include any of these:

  • Swelling and stiffness
  • Redness and warmth to the touch
  • Weakness or instability
  • Popping or crunching noises
  • Inability to fully straighten the knee.

Knee problems causes could be injuries, mechanical problems, types of arthritis or other health issues, such as obesity. People who are taller and heavier may have a greater risk of developing knee problems, as more weight can increase the pressure on the knees.

When experiencing such knee problems, many people turn to currently available remedies for joint pain such as oral pain killers, topical analgesics, oral supplements or supporting tapes and braces. Even though these may help some, it’s essential to consult with the medical professionals if the problems persist.

Too many rely on Google search to find an appropriate remedy or recommendations by friends, family, and online influencers to make a decision regarding knee pain remedy. It is understandable that pain is a strong motivating force since it limits mobility and affects mood. People want quick and easy solution for their knee problems, without going to the doctor or physical therapy. Many are simply driven by the desire to participate, to feel independent and keep doing things that bring pleasure, such as exercise and other physical activities.

So let’s explore together the most common knee problems and injuries.

Five main types of knee problems

Most common knee problems could be grouped into 5 main types:

  1. ACL
  2. Fractures
  3. Torn meniscus
  4. Knee bursitis
  5. Patellar tendinitis, also known as jumper’s knee.

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of four major ligaments of the knee. Injuries to the ACL are relatively common among athletes, especially in those who play sports involving pivoting (e.g. rugby, basketball, netball, football, handball, gymnastics, skiing).

Fractures can occur in many different ways. The bones of the knee, including the kneecap, can be broken during motor vehicle collisions or by plain falls on the ground. People whose bones have been weakened by osteoporosis can sometimes sustain a knee fracture simply by stepping wrong.

The meniscus is a c-shaped pad of cartilage in the knee that acts as a shock absorber. Think of it as a cushion between your femur (thighbone) and tibia (shinbone). It can get damaged or torn during activities that put pressure on or rotate the knee joint. Rugby, basketball, football or even tennis are some of the sports that put you at higher risk for meniscus tears.

Knee bursitis happens when the fluid-filled sacs (bursa) that cushion your joints become inflamed. It can usually be treated at home and should go away in a few weeks. However, in critical cases, surgery is required. Treatment of non-infectious bursitis includes rest, ice, and medications for inflammation and pain. On the other hand, infectious bursitis is usually treated with antibiotics and aspiration.

Tendinitis is irritation and inflammation of one or more tendons — the thick, fibrous tissues that attach muscles to bones. It is known as jumper’s knee because it is quite common among jumping sports. Still, other activities may develop inflammation in the patellar tendon, which connects the quadriceps muscle on the front of the thigh to the shinbone.

Alright, now that you have the overview, let’s break it down in detail.

1.     ACL

Perhaps the most important ligament in the knee is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). It runs through the middle of the joint between the thighbone and shinbone. ACL provides stability to the knee when twisting or turning, it prevents the tibia from moving forward relative to the femur and it is crucial to activities that require quick cutting and pivoting.

ACL tears can occur because of an injury from movements that occur in sports or other physical activities, such as:

  • starting or stopping suddenly
  • shifting directions quickly
  • jumping and landing incorrectly
  • colliding with another person.

However, any ligament injury can result in severe knee pain and could require surgery. That’s why it is so important to consult with your doctor if you experience sudden and severe pain in the knee, hear a “popping” noise in the knee or it the knee is abruptly “giving out,” causing you to fall down.

New data shows that people are increasingly willing to tell their doctors when they disagree with them. It seems the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed consumer behaviours along with their anxiety and comfort levels about health care globally. However, if your knee problems aren’t going away by themselves after you’ve tried to cure it by yourself, don’t hesitate to reach out to medical professionals. ACL tears can lead to long and excruciating pain which can potentially downgrade your quality of life, movement and even endanger health. If you think your doctor hasn’t set up the right diagnosis, look for a second opinion.

In the meantime, there are several precautions you can take to prevent ACL tear. For example, performing a proper warm-up regimen before exercising or participating in sporting events can reduce the chance of injury to the ACL. Don’t forget to strengthen the muscles around the hip, knee, and entire lower extremities. Also, don’t push yourself too much and work out withing your own limits and boundaries.

In case you do experience nagging knee pain, you can always try to relieve it by yourself with rest, putting the ice on the swelling or applying Lubricen® patch to the knee.

2.     Fractures

Patellar tendonitis is a knee injury affecting the patella tendon which occurs when the patella tendon is overstressed, which can happen when jumping or landing heavily. Fractures such as this one are common in athletes who jump and land with force. Still, patellar tendonitis develops gradually which means the condition could become more severe if not taken care of in time. Interestingly, this condition is most common in people in their teens, 20s, and 30s, which proves once more no one is immune to knee problems and they aren’t something reserved just for “old people”.

With fractures, treatment will depend on the injury, a person’s age, and how active they are. One person may need to rest the affected leg, apply ice to the area, and take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, while the other person will have to visit the doctor who could suggest wearing a knee brace to keep the knee straight and help the tendon to heal. In some cases, physical therapy may be needed to gradually restore movement as the tendon heals. There are many strengthening and stretching exercises to do at home that can help you with knee problems, but none without listening to your physical therapist.

3.     Torn meniscus

Cartilage is a very strong, smooth, elastic, fibrous structure found in joints and at the end of long bones. Our knee has two types of cartilage; articular cartilage and the menisci cartilage. A torn meniscus occurs from a damage is done in the cartilage that is positioned on top of the tibia to allows the femur to glide when the knee joint moves. Meniscus tears can range from minor to severe, depending on the extent of the damage, and they can make it difficult for the knee to function properly. As we age, normal degenerative changes can occur to the meniscus. That’s why it’s crucial that the physician distinguish normal age-related changes from a torn meniscus as the cause of the symptoms. The cartilage gets weaker and thins out, so it’s more likely to tear as we age, but that doesn’t mean this condition won’t be diagnosed to people in their teens, 20s or 30s.

Actually, acute meniscal tears usually happen in younger people, under 40 years old and they are usually associated with a twisting injury. Acute meniscal tears cause localised knee pain and a person has a feeling of the knee being stuck in a certain position from which they are physically unable to release it from.

Degenerative meniscal tears are the ones usually occurring in middle-aged or older people where there is no specific injury or incident. The cartilage gets weaker which makes degenerative meniscal tears gradually come on and get worse. There is no one specific cause of degenerative meniscal tears. They are probably an early sign of osteoarthritis (the normal aging process of joints), rather than a completely separate diagnosis. A lot of middle-aged and older people have degenerative meniscal tears without knee pain.

4.     Knee bursitis

Bursitis is a painful condition that affects the small, fluid-filled sacs, called bursae, that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near your joints. The condition occurs when bursae become inflamed and it’s a relatively common condition, but many people treat it at home and do not see a doctor, so it is hard to know how common it is.

Bursitis can result from an injury, an infection, or a pre-existing condition. The good thing is most cases of bursitis cases can be treated at home, with the help of a pharmacist and some self-care techniques.

Here is the interesting thing about knee bursitis. The bursae are lined with synovial cells which produce a lubricant that reduces friction between tissues. This cushioning and lubrication allows our joints to move easily. So, if you ever experience knee bursitis, try Lubricen® knee patch as one of the home remedies for the pain relief.

The key ingredients of Lubricen® are contained in a drug-free formulation, comprising of Glucosamine Sulfate, Chondroitin Sulfate, and Menthol acting as a sensory agent. These ingredients are known to be precursor aggrecans required by the body to produce synovial fluid – the body’s natural joint lubricant.

By delivering these ingredients in their in-tact form, they are more easily absorbed into the joint. This allows the Lubricen® patch to address joint inflammation at its core rather than just mask the downstream pain.

You can use the following 3 steps to help bring down swelling and pain:

  • Rest – try not to move the joint too much, and avoid activities that’ll put pressure on it.
  • Ice – gently hold an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas) wrapped in a tea towel on the area for around 10 minutes at a time and repeat every few hours during the day.
  • Elevate – keep the area raised to the level of your heart as much as possible.

5.     Patellar tendinitis

Anyone can get patellar tendonitis. But it’s such a frequent injury of athletes, especially those who play volleyball and basketball, that it’s called jumper’s knee. Still, it’s important to distinguish it from “the runner’s knee”. That is another popular term to describe patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). This syndrome is caused by pain from abnormal contact and movement patterns of the patella (kneecap) on the femur (thigh bone), causing pain in front or beneath the kneecap. While the treatments for runner’s knee and jumper’s knee are similar, several differences do exist.

One of the most common methods to reduce the pain and swelling caused by patellar tendinitis is the R.I.C.E. method. This acronym stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Still, it’s better to prevent than to heal, so if you want to make sure this condition doesn’t happen to you, it’s important to warm up before and cool down after exercising. Gradually increase the intensity of your workouts to reduce your risk of injury and be mindful of the shoes you wear while performing physical activity. Yes, they really are that important. Your shoes should support your arch and be comfortable so it doesn’t irritate your feet. Honestly, trust us on this.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational purposes only and does not substitute professional medical advice. Readers should consult their healthcare provider for professional advice, diagnoses or treatment relating to their ongoing knee pain.