Knee pain can strike people of any age. Trauma, age-related conditions, and overuse make knee pain a common complaint accounting for 1/3rd of all physician visits in the United States. The knee is the body’s largest joint with a complex mobility structure that must work in unison to walk comfortably. If any of the knee’s components (ligament, muscle, tendon, or bone) develops a disorder or complication, function can be disabled and pain may be a result.
Rest and ICE
For acute cases of knee pain, rest and temperature therapy should help in less than 10 days. Elevating the knee above the heart level will improve circulation and flush the areas. A standard knee brace may provide relief as well. OTC painkillers and anti-inflammatories should accompany the rest and compress on the knee.
In cases of moderate pain with injury or trauma, physical therapy will be recommended to improve the mobility and strengthen the joint. Diagnostic testing and imagery (such as a CT Scan, X-ray, or MRI) will be performed if rest and traditional treatment proves ineffective or pain persists for over when swelling subsides.
This may show a meniscal tear, ACL tear or significant fluid from a bone bruise or cartilage defect.
Therapeutic injections may be given for pain or steroids for inflammation administered directly into the affected area. A stress fracture or torn tendon would warrant this.
Injection options include steroid medication or hyaluronic acid treatments. This may include a therapy such as Synvisc.
Regenerative medicine may be sought if injury is a secondary result of a chronic condition that eroded the cartilage, leaving the joint vulnerable and surgical correction is not an option. PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) is a rejuvenation therapy that infuses a concentrated dose of growth hormone and platelets to help repair and hasten healing of musculoskeletal conditions, such as osteoarthritis. The body’s first response to injury is usually sending in an army of platelet cells, so PRP delivers a higher concentration to aid in a faster recovery and healing of soft and hard tissue.
Stem cell injections may include bone marrow or amniotic derived therapy, both of which are outpatient treatments.
If the knee damage is a result of acute trauma or injury, invasive corrective surgery may be needed for proper repair.
Arthroscopy is used to diagnose and administer treatment to a damaged knee joint. It is a procedure where a super small lens visually determines what the injury is to the knee. An estimated 700,000 arthroscopy procedures are performed per year in the United States, with most of those being used as a diagnostic tool.
Injuries to the knee that may need surgery include:
- Removal of lining that is damaged or inflamed
- Loose fragments in the joint
- Torn cartilage
- Fractures around the knee joint
- Meniscal tear (the most common source of knee pain)
With more advanced or complex knee injuries, total knee replacement may be recommended.