Because we place a good deal of pressure on our knees, they are vulnerable to damage and injury. That is why it is imperative to seek medical intervention immediately if you are experiencing any problems along these lines.
Some injuries can be quite debilitating and lead to problems with walking or performing daily tasks. The knee is the body’s largest joint, and therefore gets injured more readily. Pain and swelling are common cues of a knee injury. Some of the injuries lead to instability.
Types of Knee Injuries
The knees made up of cartilage, bones, and tendons, all which are susceptible to various kinds of injuries. The most common injuries involve fractures, sprains, dislocation, and tears of soft tissues, such as the ligaments. The following information elaborates on common knee injuries.
The most common type of knee fracture involves the patella. The ends of the tibia and femur, where they meet at the knee joint, can also fracture. Fractures usually result from trauma. Patellar fractures involve the kneecap while distal femur fractures involve the thigh bone. A fractured shinbone, or the proximal tibia, may also be broken from a high-impact accident.
When the bones of the knee fall out of place, a dislocation occurs. A dislocation can either be partial or complete. For example, if the tibia and femur are forced out of alignment, the patella, or knee cap, may dislocate. Usually, this type of injury forms when the structure of the knee is abnormal. When the knee structure is normal, a dislocation usually results from the trauma associated with a crash, fall, or sports-related mishap. Dislocations may involve an unstable kneecap or may surface as an instability in children.
3. Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury
The anterior cruciate ligament or ACL often is injured during athletic events. An athlete who participates in a high-demand activity, such as basketball or football, is more prone to this injury. By changing direction quickly or landing incorrectly, the ACL may become torn or permanently damaged. About 50% of injuries to the ACL happen when other structures in the knee are damaged. These structures may include the meniscus, articular cartilage, or similar soft tissues.
4. Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Injury
The posterior cruciate ligament is frequently injured by a blow to the front portion of the knee when the patient bends his knee. Therefore, this injury may occur as the result of an auto crash or sports-related accident. Often the PCL tears and, in many instances, heals on its own. That is because the tears are often partial and not complete.
5. Collateral Ligament Injury
Usually, the knee is forced sideways when this type of injury occurs. These injuries often come from a direct blow while playing sports.
6. Meniscal Tear
These injuries occur often during sports play. Tears in the meniscus develop when a patient pivots quickly. The tears may also form from arthritis or the aging process. Just a wayward twist can be enough to trigger a tear.
7. Tendon Injury
When the quadriceps or tendons of the knee are overstretched, a tear may occur. These tears often occur in people who are middle-aged and happen when a person is running or jumping during sports activity. Falls or direct force to the front part of the knee may tear a tendon. Also, if a person lands awkwardly, a tendon injury may develop.
Symptoms of knee injuries
When knee injuries occur, regardless of the location, the patient immediately feels something is wrong. Usually, the symptoms can lead to crippling conditions, or with problem walking or climbing. Therefore, make sure you have your knee examined when any symptoms appear.
The location and severity of the symptoms vary, depending on the location and the exact cause of the knee injury. Below are the most common symptoms that are experienced by knee pain patients.
- Swelling and stiffness – Because a knee is large in size, it is prone to swelling and stiffness.
- Redness – Besides being red, a knee may also be warm to the touch after it sustains an injury.
- Instability or weakness – A knee may either lock up or give out when it receives a direct hit or is injured in this manner.
- Problems with straightening the knee – When a knee injury causes a knee to fall out of alignment, the patient may have trouble straightening his or her knee.
Treatment options for knee injuries
The treatment a doctor suggests depends on the cause of the knee pain and the severity of the injury. Below are some general therapies.
The doctor may prescribe medicines to reduce the level of pain and treat an underlying cause, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
2. Physical Therapy
Strengthening the knee muscles promotes stability. Therefore, physical therapy treatments usually focus on strengthening the thigh muscles or the quadriceps. Therapists also focus on the muscles on the back of the thigh called the hamstrings. If the patient is involved in sports, he or she may be instructed on the correct way to move or how to establish a better technique. Exercises designed to improve balance may also be recommended.
In some instances, therapists may suggest the wearing of arch supports to shift pressure from the side of a knee affected by inflammation, such as osteoarthritis. Braces, in some cases, may be prescribed to support the knee as well.
Doctors may suggest the following injections to promote healing:
- Corticosteroids – These injections are recommended to alleviate the symptoms associated with arthritis, and may be used to provide pain relief for a short period.
- Hyaluronic acid – This natural lubricating fluid improves mobility and eases discomfort. Relief can last up to as long as a half-year.
- Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP) – This injection takes the plasma in the patient’s blood and injects it into the pain site to reduce inflammation and encourage healing. PRP injections often work the best when given to people who are younger or who are mildly arthritic.
4. Surgical Procedures
Patients may undergo surgical procedures to experience relief for intense or debilitating knee pain. Some of the surgeries include the following:
- Arthroscopic surgery – This surgery enables the physician to repair knee joint damage using a fiber-optic type camera. The surgery allows the doctor to repair cartilage or reconstruct ligaments that have been torn.
- Partial knee replacement – This type of procedure, also known as unicompartmental arthroplasty, allows the doctor to replace the injured portion of a knee with an artificial part made of plastic and metal.
- Total knee replacement – During this procedure, the surgeon cuts out the damaged cartilage and bone from the shinbone, thighbone, and kneecap before replacement. An artificial joint replaces the damaged knee, which is made of plastics, polymers, and metals.
While most knee injuries can be treated using braces, compression, or physical therapy, some patients require replacement surgery if their knee damage is advanced.