Last Updated on 23 February 2022 by Ray Plumlee
The largest joint in our body is the knee joint that is designed by nature in a way to hold most of the body weight during activities like walking, running and climbing stairs. These activities put the knee joint under much stress making it liable to undergo injuries and degeneration. In the west, knee pain is common with almost one in three people when crossing the age of 45 years. Knee pain can be acute and appear suddenly without any prior signs and symptoms, and this might become chronic with time.
Causes of Knee Pain:
The most common conditions contributing to knee pain are listed below:
• Too much use of the knee or bending – this makes the front of the knee joint pain, and it will be persistent while running, climbing, and sitting for too long.
• Arthritis – it comes with inflammation of the knee joint characterized as different types. The most common in the elderly is osteoarthritis that causes pain, stiffness, and swelling of the knee joint.
• Bursitis – it is a condition in which the fluid-filled sac, called bursae, present around the knee becomes irritated and swollen. It accompanies pain and swelling.
• Fluid accumulation – knee injury often brings fluid accumulation in the knee.
• Meniscus tearing – meniscus is a cartilage lining between the thigh bone and the leg bone.
• Ligament tearing – ligaments are the strands of tissues that connect two bones. We have four ligaments in a knee.
• Muscle strain/pull – the knee is supported with different muscles that help in bending and relaxing the knee. If one muscle fails to do its job, knee pain results.
• Others – knee injuries, knee infection, problems in the hip, gout (crystal depiction inside the knee joint) may result in knee pain.
Arthritis is the condition in which the joints get inflamed. The reasons may be many leading to different types of arthritis. Among such types, the most common affecting the elderly is the osteoarthritis. It gets intruded as we age, and targets the hands, knees, and hips. There is a rubber-like material called cartilage is present between two joints which allows connection and sliding of the joints between each other without any pain. When a person is affected by osteoarthritis, the foremost thing is that this cartilage starts breaking up. During that course, the bone in the knee joint causes pain, stiffness, and swelling when the joints glide over each other.
Remedies to Ease the Pain at Home:
The following measures can be taken to ease the pain at home:
• Icing with an ice pack or directly with the ice. This helps in reducing the pain and swelling. After few days of the injury or after any activity that causes knee pain, use ice, a cold gel pack, a bag of frozen vegetables on the affected areas for 15 minutes with a 1-2-hour gap in between every application. Do not directly use them, instead cover the ice or ice pack with a cloth or towel and then put it on the affected knee. To reduce the swelling, perform this remedy while keeping your leg raised above the heart level.
• Rest for a while and reduce the movements that may enhance the pain in the knee. Forget about squat, too much kneeling and running for some days. Do not use exercise machines like stair-steppers and rowing machines, instead go for a walk or swimming.
• Pain killers like acetaminophen (sample brand name: Tylenol) or ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil, Motrin) may give relief in the painful condition of the knee joint.
After having a close examination of your knee, your doctor may initiate with any of the following treatments.
• Using a knee brace or shoe insert
• Exercises that strengthen and stretch the muscles of the knee joint
• Physical therapy that may ease the difficulty of using the knee joint
• Medicines directly in the knee or by oral therapy
• At last, surgery
Knee Replacement Surgery:
If nothing works, your doctor may ask to go for a knee replacement surgery. This surgery involves removing a part of a knee joint and placing an artificial part in place of it. The knee joint is a combination of the following bones:
• Femur; the lower part of the thigh bone
• Patella; the knee cap
• Tibia; the top part of the shinbone
If anything happens with the knee joint because of injury or excessive use of the joint, the knee joint becomes painful, swollen, stiff, and the person may feel difficulty in moving the joint for normal working. In such a case, knee replacement surgery often comes with a handy option for the treatment of knee pain. It, no doubt, reduces the pain condition and enhances the everyday use of the knee joint.
Herbal medicine can be a sideway treatment for knee pain management. Even without significant evidence, some natural products can prove to be effective in pain indication. The following herbal medicines provide an anti-inflammatory effect on arthritis.
Turmeric is a yellow colored powder obtained from a flowering plant for adding flavor and color to the food. It has ingredient curcumin that has anti-inflammatory properties. It was traditionally used in Chinese and Ayurvedic system of medication. It is safe in most adults, but high doses and long-term use can cause gastrointestinal upset. It is available in powder form to be taken by mouth or in teabags.
2. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM):
MSM is a natural medication having a powerful anti-inflammatory property, so can be an aid in the treatment of knee pain and arthritis. Also, when given in combination with other supplements like glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, and boswellic acid, together they can show maximum effectiveness. One study revealed that MSM with glucosamine and chondroitin decreased the pain and stiffness associated with knee osteoarthritis more than when these supplements were given alone.
Glucosamine is naturally found in the cartilage, however, the supplement of it is prepared from the shell of the shellfish. It can be synthesized in the lab, too. The oral use of glucosamine sulfate has been shown to give symptomatic relief of pain from osteoarthritis in the knee. While glucosamine hydrochloride is effective in the pain management of rheumatoid arthritis.
Just like glucosamine, chondroitin is the building block of the cartilage. So, it protects cartilage from disposing of because of osteoarthritis. It was studied that some 20 percent of people who took chondroitin experienced an improvement in knee pain. Even the use of chondroitin in a longer run might help decrease the progression of osteoarthritis and delay the onset of shrinking of joint space.
This is what knee pain looks like. The above-mentioned treatment strategy would definitely work, but it’s better to ask your doctor first before anything else.
I am chief medical resident doctor in Internal Medicine at a tertiary care hospital. I am also an author and editor at StatPearls publishing, a medical website with thousands of PubMed indexed articles and MCQs.