Experiencing occasional knee pain or stiffness is quite common with age. However, if it becomes a frequent issue accompanied by swelling, it could be the beginning of some potential knee joint conditions.
It could limit your movement over time and result in permanent damage if left untreated. Various factors can contribute to knee pain, and seeking medical guidance is crucial to determine the exact cause and receive appropriate treatment.
So, without further ado, let’s discover more about the symptoms and causes of knee pain and effective treatment approaches to relieve your pain and improve your quality of life.
Causes of Knee Pain and Stiffness
The knee is the largest and most weight-bearing joint in the human body, with a complex structure of ligaments, tendons, bones, cartilage, and muscles. Injuries or diseases to the structure will predominantly affect the movement. Below are some primary causes of knee pain and stiffness
Research shows that Arthritis causes painful inflammation and stiffness of the bones and joints in the knees. It affects the bones and fluid-filled sacs of the knee, resulting in chronic stiffness, discomfort, and irritation.
- Ligament Injuries
Injuries in ligaments, be it anterior cruciate or posterior cruciate ligaments, typically occur due to sudden twisting motion. It will cause severe pain and chronic inflammation in your knee joints.
Tendinitis results from tendon inflammation due to tears, mostly due to the impact of accidents or overuse of joints due to sports activities.
- Meniscus Tears
The Meniscus, the two pieces of cartilage, serves as the cushion and shock absorbed between the joints. A torn meniscus happens due to an injury to the knee, especially of any forceful, twisting motion or a direct, impactful hit such as a tackle. It will cause swelling, stiffness, instability, and pain in the knee.
Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa often happens due to repetitive movements of overuse of knee joints. People will experience pain, tenderness, and swelling, especially when climbing stairs or performing strenuous exercises.
- Patellar Tendinitis
Patellar tendonitis, or Jumper’s knee, is an inflammatory condition of the patellar tendon often seen in athletes. Vigorous physical exercise without proper form will cause tightness and inflexibility in the joints, exerting excess stress on the tendon and causing pain.
Symptoms of Knee Pain and Stiffness
Knee pain and stiffness are typically accompanied by other symptoms that might vary depending on the underlying disease or other conditions. Here are some common knee stiffness symptoms
- Pain and Swelling
Swelling in the knee joints occurs due to the increased accumulation of synovial fluid in the area due to injury. The compression of nerves and the release of prostaglandins will cause pain in the knee.
Stiffness in the knee usually happens due to cartilage tears of damaged ligaments. It can also occur due to certain medical conditions such as tendonitis, gout, etc.
- Reduced Range of Motion
Infections or damage in the cartilage of the knee joints and weakened bone structure around the joints is the most common cause of limited/ lack of range of motion in people.
- Warmth and Redness
A warm feeling and redness in the knee joints indicate inflammation. Generally, the symptom is associated with injuries and certain medical conditions like arthritis, gout, and Lyme disease.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Knee Pain and Stiffness
There are many causes behind your knee pain. Hence consultation with an orthopaedic specialist will help you determine the best treatment for your personalised situation. Here are some of the best non-invasive treatment options to help effectively heal knee pain and stiffness.
- Rest and Ice
Treatment for knee pain and stiffness is often implemented at home with simple measures. Rest your affected joint and restrict yourself from doing activities that will hurt the joint until the inflamed tissues heal naturally.
Ice therapy is another conservative stiff knee treatment that will reduce stiffness and swelling. Apply the cold packs or place your knee in cold water every 15 minutes.
- Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is a common method to relieve stress and stiffness in the knee. The physiotherapy expert will help you in easing knee pain and decrease swelling. Additionally, the therapy will rehabilitate your knee joints to restore the range of motion, endurance, strength, agility, and coordination.
If you are suffering from severe knee pain due to a potential inflammatory knee disorder, your physician will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. On the other hand, you will be prescribed NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like naproxen, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen to treat the inflammation that happens due to arthritis.
Corticosteroid Injections: These injections are directly injected into the affected area of joints to heal pain and swelling. It will take a week to show results, and it will last for a few weeks. It closely resembles the action of cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands to tackle inflammation.
Hyaluronic Acid Injections: Hyaluronic acid injections are usually suggested to treat pain and improve the functionality of your knee joints in arthritis. Patients will show relief for at least 6 months and must opt for the injection once every six months.
- Assistive Devices
Using assistive devices like braces, canes, and walkers can help you remove the pressure from the painful knee joints and make it easy to move independently. Shoe inserts lessen the impact of force travelling to the knee from the foot to reduce strain on the joints.
While the braces will keep your bone in its original place and relieve severe pain, canes can help take the weight off your knee joints, decreasing the pain and making you more comfortable.
Individuals who experience knee stiffness with increased pain severity have difficulty moving their knee joint or experience loss of range of motion. It can be detrimental to the flexibility and stability of the entire leg. The inability to straighten or bend weekend muscles in your knee can negatively impact your daily life.
Knee pain is a common symptom of several orthopaedic disorders and injuries. Therefore if you are experiencing knee pain and stiffness, consult an orthopaedic specialist immediately for an accurate diagnosis and timely treatment plan. They will help you create an individualized plan to alleviate the condition’s symptoms and guide you in getting back to leading your active lifestyle.