In a 2 part series, we will be looking at the causes and management of knee pain.
The knee is a complicated joint with two components:
- the knee cap attachment to the femur (thigh bone)
- The joint space between the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia ( lower leg bone)
It has only two movements which are:
- Either bending of knee or straightening of the knee & hence called a Hinge Joint.
- But it serves as an important attachment joint for large muscle groups of the lower limb.
Knee pain is very common & can affect all age groups.
It can occur due to a major direct injury to the knee/ torn ligament / torn cartilage. Minor pain can respond to self-care pain relief home measures.
Some other major causes for knee pain are as follows:
faulty alignment at birth like knocked knees or bow legs which causes muscle weakness around knee and faulty biomechanics while walking or performing daily tasks.
Dislocation of the knee cap or inability of the patella (knee cap) to sit in it’s place during movement thereby causing excessive movement. This called patellar mal tracking. The IT band or iliotibial band is a sheath or fascia which runs along the side of the thigh which can sometimes be tight causing the mal tracking.
Inflammation in the fluid filled sacs in the knee called bursitis. These sacs contribute to friction and easy gliding movements in knee which can be inflamed due to overuse (excessive standing in jobs, rigorous workouts, exertion or faulty form of running/exercise).
Ligament injuries in knee are very common. The main ligaments are : Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) which is most commonly injured in sports or in non-exercising people as well.
Other ligamentous injuries like: posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), lateral collateral ligament (LCL).
Patellar Tendinitis called runner’s knee (inflammation of the ligament below the knee cap).
Torn meniscus in the knee is a common contributor of knee pain. It is commonly referred to as the cushion between the knee that gets injured due to any kind of sports trauma or accident. It is a major shock absorber in knee and knee joint functioning is highly dependent on meniscal integrity.
Prolonged weakness of the thigh muscles (major muscles supporting the knee) called the Quadriceps (front of thigh) and Hamstring (back of thigh) muscle groups.
Other lesser common causes of knee pain include:
-loose bodies in knee joint called osteophytes due to osteoarthritis.
-existing hip or foot pain which adds on to overuse of knee and leads to knee pain. This can be caused due to flat foot or high arches.
-sedentary lifestyle and prolonged sitting posture on chair during work/desk job, thereby lack of movements.
-over-exertion of knee joint (standing, stairs climbing, running without proper shoes).
-age related degenerative knee pain.
Check the next blog for management of these conditions!
Authored by Dr. Janhvi Vayada, Sports Physiotherapist, Mind Your Fitness!