Knee pain is the most common musculoskeletal complaint that brings people to their doctor. With today’s increasingly active society, the number of knee problems is increasing. Knee and lower leg pain have a wide variety of specific causes, diseases and injuries.

Structure

The knee is the largest joint in our body. The knee is the combination of number of structures including bones, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage. This helps the activities like bending, straightening, twisting and rotating etc.

  • Bones – Your knee joint is formed where three bones meet:

Thighbone (femur), Shinbone (tibia), kneecap (patella).

  • Ligaments – There are four main ligaments in your knee. They act like strong ropes to hold your bones together and keep your knee in place.
  • Collateral ligaments – sides of knee which controls sideways movements.
  • Cruciate ligaments – These ligaments control how your knee moves backwards and forwards.
  • Cartilage

There are two types of cartilage in your knee:

  • Articular cartilage – This covers the ends of your thighbone and shinbone, and the back of the kneecap.
  • Meniscal cartilage (meniscus) – These are two wedge-shaped pieces that act as shock absorbers between your shinbone and thighbone.
  • Tendons

These connect muscles to your bones.

Symptoms

The location and severity of knee and lower leg pain may vary, depending on the cause of the problem. Signs and symptoms that sometimes accompany knee pain include:

  • Swelling and stiffness
  • Redness and warmth to the touch
  • Weakness or instability
  • Popping or crunching noises
  • Inability to fully straighten the knee

When to see a doctor

Call your doctor if you:

  • Have a fever, in addition to redness, pain and swelling in your knee or leg.
  • Can’t bear weight on your knee or feel as if your knee is unstable (gives out)
  • Are unable to fully extend or flex your knee
  • Have marked knee or leg swelling
  • See an obvious deformity in your leg or knee
  • Have severe knee pain that is associated with an injury

Common causes of knee pain

Knee and lower pain can be a symptom of many different conditions. A doctor will suggest treatment based on the condition causing your pain.

  • They might:
  • refer you to hospital for a scan or specialist treatment (for example, surgery)
  • prescribe medication or physiotherapy
  • Use these links to get an idea of what can be done about knee pain. But do not self-diagnose – see a General Practitioner if you’re worried.
  • Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins near the surface of the skin. They’re most common in the lower legs and ankles. They usually aren’t serious. But if it worsens it can cause damage to your knee or lower leg.

Diseases

Back pain that comes on suddenly and lasts no more than six weeks (acute) can be caused by a fall or heavy lifting. Back pain that lasts more than three months (chronic) is less common than acute pain.

Bursitis

Overuse, falls, or repeated bending and kneeling can irritate the bursa on top of your kneecap. That leads to pain and swelling. Doctors call this prepatellar bursitis. You may also hear it called ”preacher’s knee.”

Osgood-Schlatter disease

Overdoing exercise, and irritation at a point on the bottom of your knee called the tibial tubercle, often make this area hurt. Also swelling and pain in the knee joint (juvenile idiopathic arthritis). The ache may come and go over time. It’s especially common in teenage boys and girls.

Osteoarthritis

This is the “wear and tear” type of arthritis. It’s a top cause of knee pain after age 50. This condition causes the knee joint to ache or swell when you’re active.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome

Muscle imbalance, tightness, and alignment problems of the legs usually cause this condition. It causes knee pain and occasional “buckling,”

Chronic compartment syndrome

The muscles in the lower leg can be divided into four so-called compartments. is a relatively rare condition where the cause is usually a dramatic increase in muscle volume.

Injuries

  • Dislocated kneecap: This means that your kneecap slides out of position, causing knee pain and swelling. Your doctor may call this “patellar dislocation.”
  • IT (iliotibial) band syndrome: The iliotibial (IT) band is a piece of tough tissue that runs from your hip down to the outer part of your knee. When you overdo activity, it can become inflamed over time. That causes pain on the outer side of the knee. It’s common among runners when going downhill.
  • Meniscal tear: Sometimes, a knee injury can cause cartilage to rip. These rough edges can get stuck in the joint, which causes pain and swelling. Many times, people will have the sensation of “catching” in the joint when they are active.
  • Knee Fractures: The most common bone broken around the knee is the patella. The ends of the femur and tibia where they meet to form the knee joint can also be fractured.
  • Patellar tendinitis: This means you have inflammation in the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shinbone. Tendons are tough bands of tissue that connect muscles to your bones. When you overdo exercise, they can become inflamed and sore. You may also hear it called “jumper’s knee” because repetitive jumping is the most common cause.
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries: Changing direction rapidly or landing from a jump incorrectly can tear the ACL. About half of all injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament occur along with damage to other structures in the knee, such as articular cartilage, meniscus, or other ligaments.
  • Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Injuries: Posterior cruciate ligament tears tend to be partial tears with the potential to heal on their own.
  • Collateral Ligament Injuries: These are often contact injuries. Injuries to the MCL are usually caused by a direct blow to the outside of the knee, and are often sports-related. Blows to the inside of the knee that push the knee outwards may injure the lateral collateral ligament.
  • Tendon Tears: The quadriceps and patellar tendons can be stretched and torn. Falls, direct force to the front of the knee, and landing awkwardly from a jump are common causes.

Remember, if you’re ever struggling with a pain for a long, don’t suffer in silence, find the best doctor to your nearest location. And talk to a healthcare professional today!

 


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