Common Knee Injuries

Common-Knee-Injuries

Knee Injuries

Contrary to popular belief, knee injuries can affect everyone. Whether you are an Olympic athlete or an average homemaker, you can have a knee injury. Knee injuries can be very painful and debilitating, rendering even the most simple tasks difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish. However, the good news is that knee injuries are preventable and treatable. As long as you know their root causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention, then you can either shorten the duration of knee injuries or avoid them in the first place. As the old saying goes, “A problem understood is a problem half-solved.”

Knee Ligament Injuries

The knee has four ligaments, which work in pairs. The anterior cruciate ligament and posterior cruciate ligament stabilize the knee, as well as enable it to move forward and backward. The medial and lateral collateral ligaments ensure the knee’s sideways stability. Sudden twisting movements and immense pressure on the outer knee (e.g., from a sporting tackle) are the most common causes of knee injuries to the ligaments.

            On a more specific note, below are the types of knee ligament injuries:

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries

These knee injuries are characterized by the tearing or rupturing of the anterior cruciate ligament as a result of the ACL getting overstretched. ACL injuries are usually caused by sudden twisting movements or immense pressure applied on the outer knee (e.g., from a football tackle). The most common symptoms of ACL knee injuries are knee swelling, pain and weakness, as well as a clicking or popping sound from the knee during movement. If left untreated, ACL injuries can lead to instability while pivoting or twisting. ACL injuries are treated by rehabilitation, exercises and/or surgery.

Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Injuries

These knee injuries are characterized by damage to some or all of the fibers of the medial collateral ligament. MCL injuries are caused by sudden twisting movements or immense pressure applied on the outer knee. The most common symptoms of MCL injuries are inner knee pain, swelling and instability, as well as difficulty in bending the knee. MCL injuries are treated by rest, ice compress, exercises and knee braces.

Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Injuries

These knee injuries are characterized by a partial or complete stretching or tearing of the posterior cruciate ligament. PCL injuries are caused by a blow to a bent knee or the upper shin (e.g., a simple misstep or a bent knee hitting a dashboard in a car crash). The most common symptoms of PCL knee injuries are knee pain, swelling and instability, as well as difficulty in walking. PCL injuries are treated by rest, ice compress, rehabilitation, exercises, knee braces and/or surgery.

Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Injuries

These knee injuries are characterized by a partial or complete stretching or tearing of the lateral collateral ligament. LCL injuries are caused by an injury or immense pressure that pushes the knee joint from the inside. This, in turn, leads to stress on the outer part of the knee joint. The most common symptoms of LCL knee injuries are knee pain, swelling and instability, as well as knee locking (the inability to bend or fully straighten the knee). LCL injuries are treated by rest, ice compress, rehabilitation, exercises, intake of non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), knee braces and/or surgery.

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Knee Sprain

The knee sprain is considered one of the most common knee injuries. It is characterized by partial or complete stretching or tearing of the knee ligament. A knee sprain is usually caused by sudden twisting movements or sudden pressure applied on the knee. The most common symptoms of a knee sprain are knee pain, swelling and instability, as well as knee locking and a clicking or popping sound from the knee during movement. It is treated by rest, ice compress, exercises and knee braces.

Knee Cartilage Injury

Each knee has two cartilages or menisci—rubbery, C-shaped discs that cushion the knee joints. Menisci also help stabilize the knee joints by evenly distributing the body’s weight across the latter. But menisci can suddenly or gradually degenerate, resulting in injury.

Torn Knee Cartilage (Meniscus Tear)

A torn cartilage (also known as a meniscus tear) is another one of the most common knee injuries. It is characterized by partial or complete tearing of the meniscus. A torn cartilage is usually caused by sudden twisting movements when the knee is bent, as well as aging. The most common symptoms of a torn cartilage are knee pain, swelling, stiffness, instability and locking, as well as difficulty in walking and standing. It is treated by rest, ice compress, rehabilitation, exercises, knee braces and/or surgery.

Kneecap Injuries

The kneecap (also known as the patella) is a flat, triangular bone that protects the knee joints and relieves friction between the bones and muscles when the knee is bent or straightened. Strong ligaments hold it in place to avoid knee injuries. A cartilage covering (articular cartilage) protects the kneecap from excess force and enables it to glide effortlessly against the base of the femur (thigh bone) when the knee is bent. Kneecap injuries are relatively rare—they only take place when strong pressure is applied on the knee. To read more about knee cap pain click here.

On a more specific note, below are the types of kneecap injuries:

Chondromalacia Patella

Chondromalacia patella (also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome) is characterized by an abnormal softening of the articular cartilage. The said injury is usually caused by repetitive stress on the knee joint (e.g., that sustained during sports), poor muscle control (e.g. malfunctioning hip and knee muscles) and injury (e.g. kneecap fracture or dislocation). The most common symptom of chondromalacia patella is a dull, aching pain in the front part of the knee, which intensifies when kneeling, squatting, walking up or down the stairs or sitting with a bent knee for long periods of time. Chondromalacia patella is treated by rest, ice compress, rehabilitation, exercises, intake of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), knee braces and/or surgery. To read more about chondromalacia Patella click here.

Housemaids Knee

Housemaids knee (also known as prepatellar bursitis) is characterized by the swelling of the bursa (a small fluid-filled sac located in front of the kneecap). It is usually caused by kneeling for long periods of time, infection (e.g. caused by infected knee wound), another inflammatory disease (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis) and gout. The most common symptoms of housemaid’s knee are knee pain, swelling, high fever (if the injury is caused by an infection) and difficulty in walking, kneeling and bending the knee. Housemaids knee is treated by rest, ice compress, rehabilitation, exercises, antibiotics (if the injury is caused by an infection), intake of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), knee braces and/or surgery. To read more about housemaids knee click here.

Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee (also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome) is characterized by pain around and sometimes behind the kneecap. It is usually caused by repeated bending of the knee, overstretched tendons, direct trauma to the knee (e.g., a fall or a blow), weak thigh muscles, misalignment of the bones in the knee, hip or foot or extremely flat feet. The most common symptoms of runner’s knee are pain behind or around the kneecap, swelling of the kneecap, a clicking or popping sound from the knee during movement and difficulty in kneeling, squatting, walking up or down the stairs or sitting with a bent knee for long periods of time. Runner’s knee is treated by rest, ice compress, rehabilitation, exercises, intake of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), knee braces and/or surgery. To read more about runner’s knee click here.

Dislocated Kneecap

A dislocated kneecap is characterized by the kneecap sliding or moving out of place. It is usually caused by sudden twisting movements and direct trauma to the knee (e.g., a fall or a blow). The most common symptoms of a dislocated kneecap are knee pain, swelling, instability and tenderness, difficulty in walking, collapsing of the knee and the kneecap physically slipping to the outside part of the knee. A dislocated kneecap is treated by surgery, rehabilitation, exercises and knee braces. To read more about a dislocated kneecap click here.

Patella Fracture

Just like what its name suggests, a patella fracture (also known as a broken kneecap) is characterized by broken patella or kneecap. There are four types of patella fractures: Stable (the broken ends of the patella stay aligned and remain in place during healing), Displaced (the broken ends of the patella are separated and are not aligned), Comminuted (the patella shatters into three or more pieces) and Open (the patella fragments stick out through the skin). It is usually caused by direct trauma to the knee. The patella is prone to fracture because it serves as a shield for your knee joint. The most common symptoms of patella fracture are knee bruising and difficulty in walking and straightening the knee. A patella fracture is treated by rest, knee braces, casts, splints, exercises, rehabilitation and/or surgery. To read more about a patella fracture click here.

Arthritis

Arthritis is a condition that is characterized by inflammation of one or more joints in the body. There are three types of arthritis: osteoarthritis (gradual degeneration of the joint cartilage), rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease that destroys the joint cartilage) and posttraumatic arthritis (arthritis as a result of a knee injury). Osteoarthritis is the most common form of knee arthritis. To read more about arthritis click here.

Osteoarthritis

As mentioned above, osteoarthritis (OA) is characterized by the gradual degeneration of the joint cartilage. Hence, this condition often strikes middle-aged and elderly people. It is usually caused by aging, obesity, joint injury, deformed joints, a genetic defect in joint cartilage and stress caused by sports and certain jobs. The most common symptoms of OA are knee pain, swelling, stiffness and locking, as well as difficulty in kneeling, squatting, walking up or down the stairs, bending or straightening the knee. OA is treated by rest, ice compress, rehabilitation, exercises, intake of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), alternative medicine (e.g. acupuncture and magnetic pulse therapy), knee braces and/or surgery.

Other Knee Injuries

            Below are other examples of common knee injuries:

Bursitis

Bursitis is one of the knee injuries characterized by the inflammation of the bursa (small sacs of synovial fluid that acts as a cushion between bones, muscles, tendons and joints). It is usually caused by a knee injury, infection (e.g. that caused by a knee wound) or an underlying rheumatic condition. The most common symptoms of bursitis are knee pain, swelling, tenderness, stiffness and instability. Bursitis is treated by rest, ice compress, rehabilitation, exercises, antibiotics (if the injury is caused by an infection), intake of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), knee braces and/or surgery. To read more about bursitis click here.

Bruises, Cuts and Scrapes

A bruise refers to damage that takes place in the soft tissue under the skin. A cut and a scrape, on the other hand, are damages that take place at the surface of the skin. The most common cause of bruises, cuts and scrapes would be direct trauma to the knee or the skin. A bruise is treated by an ice compress and elevating the bruised area to a level higher than the heart. A cut and a scrape can be treated by washing the wounded area with an antibacterial soap and lukewarm water, applying antibacterial cream or spray to the wounded area to prevent infection and covering the wounded area with a Band-Aid or sterile gauze pad and tape.

Illiotibial Band Syndrome

Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is characterized by the tightening or inflammation of the iliotibial band (the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin). It is usually caused by a naturally tight or wide iliotibial band, flat feet, weak hip muscles and stress caused by certain sports (e.g. long distance or hill running). The most common symptoms of ITBS are knee pain, stiffness and locking, swelling of the iliotibial band and difficulty in walking up or down the stairs, bending or straightening the knee. iliotibial band syndrome is treated by rest, ice compress, rehabilitation, exercises, cortisone injections (to help reduce pain and swelling), intake of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), knee braces and/or surgery. To read more about iliotibial band syndrome click here.

Prevention of Knee Injuries

As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” While knowing how to identify and treat knee injuries is good, it would be better if you actually prevented them from happening in the first place. Treating knee injuries, after all, means spending time and money on hospitalization, rehabilitation, braces and drugs. Below are some tips on how to prevent knee injuries:

  • Always wear protective gear when playing sports to avoid knee injuries. Check your protective gear regularly for damage, as well as signs of wear and tear.
  • Never forget to do warm-up and cool-down exercises before engaging in sports.
  • Do not stand on chairs or other unsteady objects.
  • Do not force yourself to carry objects that are too heavy. Ask for help if you really need to carry an extremely heavy load.
  • Eat a nutritious diet with sufficient amounts of calcium and Vitamin D (this helps your body absorb calcium).
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Avoid smoking and moderate alcohol consumption. High alcohol consumption increases your risk of osteoporosis (weakening bones).
  • Consult your doctor at the first sign of a knee injury. Never self-medicate—this will only make things worse.
  • Replace your running shoes every 3 months or after 500 miles of wear to avoid foot as well as knee injuries. Avoid wearing high-heeled shoes or stilettos as much as possible.
  • Bruises, cuts and scrapes are the first signs of abuse. If you suspect abuse, contact the police immediately.

Have you had one or more knee injuries? Please comment below. 

References for Article on Common Knee Inuries

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