Knee pain is a highly common problem people that can develop in the musculoskeletal system. In part, this can be attributed to the fact our society is starting to make the wise decision to become more active.
Whereas greater levels of physical activity is outstanding for improving our collective health and wellbeing, it does mean there’s an increased risk for potential injuries – including ones that cause knee pain.
All it takes is a single wrong step or poorly-executed sports move—or a forceful blow to the knee—and a knee can fracture or the supporting ligaments might stretch and snap.
Of course, injury from exercise and sporting activities are not the only causes of this problem.
There is actually a wide range of potential causes. In turn, this naturally means there are also a variety of treatment options used to resolve them.
When knee pain makes it difficult to enjoy your favorite sports—or even just walk around while performing normal, daily activities—it’s time to come and see the medical specialists at McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group.
Know When to Seek Professional Treatment
The first step in successfully taking care of any injury or health concern is understanding when you can take action on your own, and when it is time to seek professional help.
When it comes to knee injuries and pain, you should be aware of signs indicating that the condition requires advanced orthopedic care, like the kind you can find at our Sacramento practice. These signs include:
Your knee “gave out.” Any sudden, forceful change in direction or jump that lands the wrong way could potentially twist your knee, causing injury. A knee that buckles in response to these kinds of movements is an indication of joint instability – something our team can assist in addressing to reduce your risk for further damage.
You heard a loud pop at the time of injury. Loud popping noises in conjunction with injury is often an indication of a torn connective tissue. In this case, it is likely one of the ligaments supporting the knee joint.
Your knee visually appears different than normal. If the nature of the injury was a fall, or your knee was hit with a great amount of force, your kneecap could potentially be fractured or dislocated. Injuries like these can affect the appearance of the knee. Be sure to seek orthopedic care at the earliest possibility.
You feel extreme pain when you try to walk. Some pain after injury is to be expected. Severe knee pain from just walking, however, is an indication of a serious problem.
Your knee starts to severely swell within hours after injury. You can expect a certain degree of swelling following many physical injuries. If this is excessive—and especially if it’s to the point you cannot bend the swollen knee or you feel as though there is water on it—there is a chance you have either an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear or fracture.
You cannot straighten your knee. Whether as a result of excessive swelling or any other root cause, being unable to straighten an injured knee is a sign of a serious injury requiring professional treatment.
You can specifically pinpoint the location of your knee pain. While milder injuries such as strains or sprains can cause pain and tenderness in the entire area, something like a meniscus tear will typically result in pain in a specific location. With regards to fractures, there may be radiating pain across the entire knee, but the area of the fracture tends to be especially tender to the touch.
If your knee pain is lasting greater than three days and you’ve been following appropriate home care measures, it’s time to contact our office for an appointment. It is possible you might have damaged connective tissues, and they require appropriate treatment to heal properly.
Some of the specific causes of knee pain our team at McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group can help you overcome include:
Ligament injuries (including ACL tear, LCL tear, MCL tear and PCL tear)
Baker’s cyst (swelling behind your knee)
Chondromalacia (a type of runner’s knee)
Patellar tendonitis (jumper’s knee)
Lifestyle and Home Remedies
If you have not experienced any of the aforementioned signs to seek professional care, and it is still early in the problem (less than three days), there are some home remedies you may wish to try first.
Depending on the nature of your knee injury and pain, you might be able to benefit from:
Medication. Over-the-counter options like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen are able to both reduce pain and inflammation. Further, some people are able to find relief from the pain by applying various creams which contain a numbing agent of some sort. A decent number of those products contain either lidocaine or capsaicin (which is actually the substance that makes chili peppers hot).
Rest. For a minor injury, you may simply just need a day or two to rest. Taking a break from normal activities will help to not only reduce repetitive strain on the affected knee and give it time to heal, but also serves to prevent further damage from occurring. In the case of a more-severe injury, your body will likely need a longer period to fully recover.
Ice. This is a time-proven method for reducing both pain and inflammation. When using cold therapy, be sure to limit the amount of time you are applying ice to the injured area. If you go beyond twenty minutes at a time, you start to risk damaging your skin and nerves. Stay within that twenty minute limit and wrap your ice pack or ice in a thin towel for optimal skin protection.
Compression. Not only will proper compression prevent fluid buildup in the damaged tissues, but it can also serve to maintain natural knee alignment and joint stability. Remember, you want to make sure your compression bandage—find one that is breathable, lightweight, and self-adhesive—is tight enough to support the knee, yet doesn’t interfere with circulation. (If you start to become numb or feel tingling, you may need to rewrap the knee a bit looser.)
- Elevation. In addition to ice and compression, you can further reduce swelling in the area by lying down and propping your injured leg on pillows. Keeping the affected knee higher than you heart is particularly important for minimizing fluid buildup.
Comprehensive Services for Injured Knees
When your injury is severe and/or home care isn’t providing the results you hope to see, it is time to contact our office and schedule an appointment for your earliest possible opportunity.
During your visit, we will take the time to listen carefully as you tell us about your symptoms and what happened at the time of the injury. We will perform a thorough physical examination of the affected knee and likely use diagnostic tools and test to assess your condition.
Once we have reached our diagnosis, we will begin developing a customized treatment plan to address it for you.
Depending on an array of factors, we will either use conservative or surgical methods to restore your knee to health – taking away your pain and restoring proper joint function.
Knee therapy and rehabilitation. Physical therapy can be used to stabilize the knee joint by strengthening the muscles around it, which provides additional, natural support to the knee. The focus is most likely going to be on the upper leg muscles – your quadriceps (the front of your thigh) and hamstrings (the back of your thigh). In addition to strengthening exercises, you might also use ones intended to improve balance, correct suboptimal biomechanical patterns, and establish good techniques for when you resume your normal sports or other physical activities.
Orthotics and bracing. Whereas stronger muscles can help to support and stabilize the joint, we may also need to prescribe various medical devices, such as orthotics or braces to provide external support. Given the inherent connectivity of the musculoskeletal system, you might benefit from arch supports, which can shift pressure away from specific areas of the knee.
Pain management, including cortisone injections. In order to help you find relief from knee pain, we may need to prescribe any of several different kinds of medication. One that is worth singling out is when cortisone injections are used to reduce symptoms from an arthritis flare and provide long-lasting pain relief (up to a few months). It is worth noting that injections aren’t necessarily effective for all patients and there are some other considerations we can discuss together when deciding whether or not to use this kind of medication.
Surgical Intervention for Knee Pain
In most instances, it is not necessary to have a knee surgery immediately. Whereas there are medical emergencies when this is necessary, most situations will give you time to weigh the pros and cons of all your potential treatment options – conservative and surgical.
We can discuss your options together and determine what could be best for you and your lifestyle goals.
If you elect to undergo knee surgery, some of the options we may recommend include:
Minimally invasive knee replacement
Partial knee replacement
Total knee replacement and knee replacement revisioning
Knee Pain Prevention
Our team at McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group has been able to help many fellow members of our Sacramento community overcome medical issues. Even better, though, is when we know you are able to prevent an issue from developing in the first place. For this reason, we also provide education on problems like knee pain prevention (in addition to our treatment services).
In this case, you can lower your risk for injury by:
Always following proper form and technique when you exercise or participate in sports.
Stretching your calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps on a regular basis.
Wearing shoes that fit well and support your arches for optimal structural alignment.
Maintaining a healthy bodyweight, which reduces pressure on joints in the lower body.
Allowing your knee to fully recover from an injury before you resume strenuous activities (to prevent either further damage or reinjury).
Orthopedic Knee Care in Sacramento
Contact McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group today for more information—or to request an appointment with an orthopedic specialist in Sacramento who can diagnose and treat your knee pain—by either calling (916) 961-3434 or connecting with us online today.