Knee Pain and Arthritis
Symptoms of knee pain include swelling, clicking or popping, limping and limited range of motion. Knee pain and arthritis pain can radiate down the leg from the knee. Clicking, popping or the knee joint locking in position are signs of cartilage damage. Arthritis develops over time, therefore knee arthritis symptoms progress slowly over years.
Causes of knee pain range from gradual wear and tear of cartilage, to injuries of ligaments or tendons. Pain can develop from faulty mechanics or weakened structures of the feet such as pes planus (flat feet) or ankle eversion (ankles turn out). A traumatic event (falling on the knee, planting the leg and twisting rapidly) can cause immediate, intense knee pain, sometimes due to ligament or cartilage injury. Knee pain can also be the result of overuse (e.g., long distance running). In the case of overuse, the pain usually comes on gradually, progressing from mild to moderate or severe over the course of several weeks, months or even years.
The knee joint is the meeting place of the femur (upper leg bone), tibia (larger, weight-bearing bone of the lower leg), and the fibula (smaller, non-weight-bearing bone of the outer lower leg). The quadriceps and hamstring muscles cross over the knee and attach to the lower leg, providing support and stability to the knee, while allowing a hinge-like motion to occur. Within and around the knee joint are several ligaments, including the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL). These ligaments provide added support and stability to the knee. Cartilage covers the end of the leg bones inside the joint to provide a smooth surface on which the bones glide. Damage to any of these structures can result in knee pain. Knee arthritis occurs when the cartilage surface wears and thins, causing pressure and decreased knee mobility. Pain can become severe and inhibit walking. When this occurs, other structures, such as your hips and lower back become stressed and may be subject to damage as well.
Aligned Medical Group’s Approach
It is important to have a thorough examination to determine what is causing the knee pain and arthritis, and often times we have x-rays performed. If symptoms and the exam are suggestive of severe tearing of the soft tissues, an MRI may be ordered. Manipulation or mobilization of the knee joint, soft tissue therapy (massage-like techniques) to the surrounding musculature, stretching exercises to increase mobility, and strengthening exercises to improve stability and support of the knee are often prescribed. Supportive therapies, such as muscle stimulation, ultrasound, cold laser therapy, or ice therapy may be prescribed to accelerate the healing process. Long axis traction (gentle pulling on the lower leg) stimulates healing and improves circulation.