What is Chronic Knee Pain and How to Deal with it
Chronic knee pain is prolonged pain in one or both knees. The knee may swell or develop sensitivity. Injury and medical conditions such as gout are some of the causes of chronic knee pain. The cause of the disease determines the symptoms. Self-care, physical therapy, and knee surgery are some ways that help to relieve knee pain.
What Causes Chronic Knee Pain?
Knee pain can be chronic or temporary. Chronic knee pain does not go away until you seek treatment, while temporary knee pain can disappear without treatment. In most cases, temporary pain arises due to an accident or injury, while chronic knee pain most often occurs due to more than one condition or causes.
Conditions that Lead to Prolonged Knee Pain
- Gout – It arises due to a build-up of uric acid.
- Loose body – Sometimes, a piece of cartilage or bone breaks off then hangs in the joint space. However, the loose body causes problems if it interferes with the knee joint movement.
- Chondromalacia patella – A condition whereby the cartilage under the kneecap suffers some damages.
- Dislocation of the kneecap.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – A chronic autoimmune inflammatory condition that causes painful swelling and leads to bone erosion and joint deformity in the end.
- Tendinitis – Pain concentrated on the front side of the knee. The pain increases when patients walk up an incline, take the stairs or climb.
- Baker’s cyst – Takes place when synovial fluid builds-up behind the knee.
- Iliotibial band syndrome – It is a common condition among cyclists and runners. The disease occurs when the iliotibial band (the tough band that runs from the outside of your knee to hip) rubs against the femur when the band tightens up.
- Bursitis – This is an inflammation that develops due to repeated injury or overuse of the knee.
- Osteoarthritis – Joint destruction, inflammation, and pain due to deterioration or degeneration of the joint.
- Bone tumors – It is the second most prevalent bone cancer, and it occurs in the knee.
- Meniscus tear – Arises when you twist your knee hastily when bearing some weight on it, then one or more knee cartilage breaks.
- Torn ligament – It happens when one of the four knee ligaments tears.
- ACL injury – It is common among people who play soccer, basketball, or any sport that you need to change your direction suddenly when playing. The damage takes place when the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears.
- A bacterial infection causes sudden chronic knee pain. Conditions such as cellulitis occur when the bacteria found on the surface of the skin penetrate the skin’s surface, thus causing infections. If cellulitis is not treated immediately, it leads to joint disease, leading to stiffness, swelling, pain, and redness.
Risk Factors for Prolonged Knee Pain
- Specific occupations or sports – Some sports or occupations that require sudden movement, or exposes your knee to consistent injury, or increases pressure on your knees, thus increasing the risk of chronic knee pain. Farming, playing soccer, running, playing basketball, amongst others, are high-risk sports and occupation for chronic knee pain.
- Excess weight – Being overweight exerts excess pressure on your knee when walking, exercising, or engaging in ordinary everyday life. When you are overweight, your knee takes in an extra 4 pounds for every one pound that you are overweight. Overweight people are also at an elevated risk of osteoarthritis as it hastens the breakdown of the joint cartilage.
- Previous knee injury – If you have an existing knee injury, the knee is prone to more damage.
- Lack of muscle strength or flexibility – Strong muscles guarantee joint stability and protection. If your muscles are flexible, it is easy to stretch without injury.
Symptoms of Chronic Knee Pain
The cause of chronic knee pain determines the severity of the condition, location, and symptoms that present. However, some of the common symptoms include:
- Crunching noises
- Constant knee pain
- Weakness or instability
- Redness around the knee area
- Inflammation and stiffness
- Irritation around the knee
- Difficulty in straightening your knee
- Sharp knee pain when walking, climbing, standing, or when the knee is in use
Is it Time to Visit a Doctor for Chronic Knee Pain Relief?
Visit the doctor if you:
- Experience a knee injury, but the pain persists
- Have difficulties stretching or flexing your knee
- See marked knee swelling
- Recognize a deformity in your knee or leg
- Feel like your knee is not strong enough to support your weight
- Have a swelled, painful, and red knee
Diagnosing Chronic Knee Pain
The doctor examines your condition to determine the most likely cause of the pain. The source of the problem determines the diagnostic test to carry out.
Physicians depend on X-rays, physical examinations, MRIs, or CT Scan to diagnose the condition.
Chronic Knee Pain Treatment
The cause of prolonged knee pain influences its symptoms and treatment options. For example, if excess weight is responsible for chronic knee pain, you need to lose weight. Some of the standard treatment regimens include:
- Physical therapy
The following are ways you can rely on as you deal with chronic knee pain:
Obesity is, directly and indirectly, the cause of chronic problems. Extra weight exerts unnecessary pressure on the knee, leading to chronic knee pain.
Other lifestyle changes include a reduction in alcohol consumption and quitting smoking.
The way you sleep influences whether some knee pain worsens at night. To ensure that you enjoy better sleep at night, consider the following tips:
- Avoid taking caffeine and alcohol just before sleep time as they disrupt sleep
- Identify low-impact exercises to help manage the pain and to enhance your sleep
- Create a sleep schedule and observe it. Ensure your beddings are clean
- Use an anti-inflammatory that lasts for long (such as 12 hours)
- Sleeping aids are addictive, and so you must keep increasing their dose for them to be effective. Avoid using sleeping aids
- Identify a comfortable position for sleeping
- Use a foam mattress that distributes your weight evenly
Exercises strengthen the knee, thus reducing the risk of a knee injury. However, you must warm-up before exercising to enhance the flexibility and stability of your body before exercises.
Examples of low-impact exercises with a lower risk of chronic knee injury include swimming, walking, and cycling.
If you are not sure about the exercise to engage in and the intensity, consult your doctor.
How to Prevent Chronic Knee Pain
Prevention is always better, cheaper, and safer than treating a condition, including chronic knee pain. Unfortunately, you cannot protect yourself from chronic knee pain because some causes of the disease are beyond your control. However, here are actionable tips you can protect yourself from the condition:
- Try exercise activities that have low impact or combine low and high impact exercises.
- Walk on smooth or paved surfaces. Rough surfaces are a risk factor as they increase the chances of falling and injuring your knee.
- If you enjoy running, change the shoes frequently to ensure they have good cushioning and support.
- Stretch your hamstrings and quadriceps before you begin and after finishing your physical exercises. Stability and balance training strengthens the muscles around your knees. Combine the exercises with flexibility training to avoid knee injuries.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Walk down hills instead of running downhill.
- Make sure your shoes have shoe inserts. They absorb any discomfort that could be contributing to knee pain.
- For athletes and sports persons, practice your moves before participating in the sport. Work with a professional to perfect your skills and ensure they are safe.
If you feel pain in your knee, seek medical help to prevent the problem from escalating into chronic knee pain. Since the cause of the knee pain determines the symptoms and treatment, the doctor will want to understand how you feel before recommending a diagnostic test.
Apart from medicine, there are other ways to relieve knee pain. Your physician will guide you on what to do about chronic knee pain, but you need to seek timely help.