Your knee is a complex joint within the body due to its vast anatomy of ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and other structures. The knee is one of the largest joints, and therefore it is commonly injured.
The knee joins the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). The smaller bone that runs alongside the tibia (fibula) and the kneecap (patella) are the other bones that make the knee joint. Cartilage, tendons, and meniscus also make up the knee joint.
Knee pain can affect people of all ages. The pain may be a result of injury, such as ruptured ligament or torn cartilage. Pain can also derive from medical conditions like arthritis, infection, and gout. Minor knee pain responds well to self-treatment or physical therapy. Knee braces or compression sleeves can also can help relieve knee pain. In some cases, however, your knee may require surgical repair.
Common injuries to the knee include:
ACL injury. An ACL injury is the tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) — one of the four ligaments that connect your shinbone to your thighbone. An ACL injury is common for people who play sports that require sudden changes in direction.
Torn meniscus. The meniscus is formed of tough cartilage and acts as a shock absorber between your shinbone and thighbone. It can be torn if you suddenly twist your knee while bearing weight on it.
Patellar tendinitis. Tendinitis is irritation and inflammation of one or more tendons — the thick, fibrous tissues that attach muscles to bones. Runners, skiers, cyclists, and those involved in jumping sports and activities are prone to develop inflammation in the patellar tendon.
Some examples of mechanical problems that can cause knee pain include:
Loose body. Sometimes injury or degeneration of bone or cartilage can cause a piece of bone or cartilage to break off and float in the joint space. This may not create any problems unless the loose body interferes with knee joint movement, in which case the effect is something like a pencil caught in a door hinge.
Iliotibial band syndrome. This occurs when the tough band of tissue that extends from the outside of your hip to the outside of your knee (iliotibial band) becomes so tight that it rubs against the outer portion of your femur. Distance runners are especially susceptible to iliotibial band syndrome.
How to ease your pain
Excess weight can be a risk factor for knee pain. Every pound gained adds roughly three pounds of force to your knee. Lack of flexibility or strength are among the leading causes of pain through the knee joint. Certain sports, as mentioned previously, put you at more of a risk to injury. Finally, there is just some underlying pain caused from a previous knee injury that may have never fully healed.
Treatment can help minor knee pain that does not require surgery, or it can help with recovery or preparation for surgery. Consult your doctor with any questions or concerns regarding your knee pain. Once your doctor allows your to begin treatment or when you decide to begin, treatment will vary depending on the cause of the pain. Strengthening the knee is recommended for all knee pain. Muscle training that focuses on the quadriceps, hamstrings, and lower leg is needed to develop stabilization muscles around your knee.
Single-leg work may be especially important in the rehabilitation and/or prevention of knee problems. Research has shown a strong correlation between knee pain and weak hips. Single leg exercises are huge for knee pain! Exercise that uses one limb at a time or unilateral exercise, may also help build the stabilizing muscles to increase strength and health.
Exercises to improve strength
Single leg squats (remember to use a support stick if you have bad balance)
Stand in front of a bench, box or other low object and reach one leg straight out and into the air. Now sit back onto the object as slowly as you can. You'll likely lose control on the way down so remember to use your support stick if needed.
Single leg knee extension
Seat yourself in the machine and adjust it so that you are positioned properly. The pad should be against the lower part of the shin but not in contact with the ankle. Adjust the seat so that the pivot point is in line with your knee. Select a weight appropriate for your abilities. Maintaining good posture, fully extend one leg, pausing at the top of the motion.
Return to the starting position without letting the weight stop, keeping tension on the muscle. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
If you don’t have access to a gym this can easily be done at home on the edge of a chair without weight or with ankle weights.
Exercises to improve balance should be incorporated for further increased stabilization.
Stabilization on unstable surface
Double leg, single leg, or eyes closed
Jump Squats (if pain free)
Squats on unstable surface
Some self-help therapeutic remedies beyond strengthening and stabilizing your knee include:
- Massaging the knee joint (above, below, the sides, and the back)
- NSAIDs such as ibuprofen
- Bracing or wearing a compression sleeve
- Elevating the knee when the pain is bad
If all else fails, consult your doctor for evaluation.
Tesa is new to blogging, but hopes to make a big impact with her vast knowledge of athletics and experience. Tesa recently earned her bachelor's degree at the Pennsylvania State University. While majoring in Athletic Training and minoring in psychology, she worked with various division one collegiate sports teams. Tesa is continuing her education by pursuing her Master's of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in sports pedagogy at The Louisiana State University. Tesa is a board certified Athletic Trainer and a Performance Enhancement Specialist. Outside of the training room, Tesa enjoys going on runs and working out for leisure.
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