By Matthew Nugent, MD
Q. My knees have been hurting lately. What causes knee pain, and how can I find relief?
A. Healthy knees are important to an active lifestyle. Whether you bend, walk, run, or kneel, your knees are a major player in the body’s ability to move. That’s why knee pain can quickly cramp your fun—literally. Here are the top three causes of knee pain, and what to do about them.
Arthritis pain is a constant dull ache of the whole knee. It develops slowly over time and is most noticeable during periods of activity. The majority of arthritis cases I see are osteoarthritis, or degenerative. That means the arthritis is not hereditary, but rather caused by cumulative wear and tear on the joints.
Arthritis pain can be managed with exercise, physical therapy, or injections to relieve inflammation and lubricate the joints. When all else fails, joint replacement may be the answer.
Torn meniscus cartilage
Meniscus tears produce sharp, intermittent pain, typically focused on one side of the knee. Contrary to popular belief, a torn meniscus is not usually caused by a single injury. It’s actually the result of many years of wear. Weak spots make the meniscus vulnerable to tearing, and a single wrong move can cause it to give out. A meniscus tear may require arthroscopic surgery to remove the torn fragment. This surgery is a common procedure at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center.
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear
The ACL is a major ligament connecting the top and bottom leg bones. When your ACL tears, not only will the pain be immediate and intense, but your knee will give out. ACL injuries are nearly always sports-related.
An ACL tear requires arthroscopic reconstruction of the ligament, followed by nine months of rehabilitation before returning to sports or gym exercise.
Knee pain can’t always be prevented, but you can hedge your bets by staying fit. When your body is in good athletic condition, it’s less likely you’ll wear out a joint or tear a meniscus or ligament. If you suspect your knee pain needs help, talk to your doctor.