Knee pain is a common complaint for people of all ages. There are anatomic (structural), mechanical, and inflammatory reasons for knee pain, and often are a combination of all three. It may be the result of an injury, such as a torn tendon, ruptured ligament or torn cartilage, or mechanical muscle imbalance from overuse or deconditioning. Medical conditions — including arthritis, tendinitis, and bursitis— also can cause knee pain.
What are some common knee pain problems?
Sprained ligaments and/or strained muscles – This can occur by a blow to the knee or a sudden pivot-twist of the knee, or an explosive maneuver. Symptoms often include pain, swelling, and difficulty in walking, or a sense of instability.
Torn cartilage. Trauma to the knee can cause tears in the meniscus (the cartilage that acts as a shock absorber and enhances stability). Not all tears require surgery, so it is important to discern the type and location of the tear to decide on prognosis and treatment options.
Tendinitis. Inflammation of the tendons may result from overuse of a tendon, often seen with running, jumping, or cycling. This often occurs with sports, such as basketball or volleyball, where the force of hitting the ground after a jump strains the tendon.
Arthritis. There are many times of arthritis (inflamed joint). Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis that affects the knee. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative process where the cartilage in the joint gradually wears away. It often affects middle-aged and older people. Osteoarthritis may be caused by prior injury, repetitive injury, or excess stress on the joint.
How are knee pain problems diagnosed?
In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, other tests for knee problems may include:
X-rays (especially important for the knee are standing, weight-bearing X-rays) to evaluate bone health, as well as architectural alignment, and joint space narrowing on weight-bearing (which is the determinant of arthritis severity)
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This test uses large magnets, radiofrequency, and a computer to make detailed images of organs and structures within the body; can often determine damage or disease in a surrounding ligament or muscle.
Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan). This test uses X-rays and computer technology to make horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
When should I see an orthopedic surgeon for my knee pain?
- See a doctor immediately
- if you heard or felt a “pop” when your knee was injured
- Notice your knee looks deformed
- Feel severe pain
- Have sudden swelling or persistent swelling
- Can’t move your knee
- have redness, swelling, or warmth
- Feel constant pain or notice your pain getting worse
- Night pain or pain interferes with sleep at night
Arthroscopic and Reconstructive Knee Surgery for Knee Pain
Arthroscopy is a surgery Dr. Ignacio performs, to inspect, diagnose, and treat problems inside the knee joint. Arthroscopy literally means “to look within the joint.” During arthroscopy, Dr. Ignacio inserts a small camera, into your knee joint. The camera displays pictures on a video monitor, and she uses these images to guide miniature, specialized surgical instruments.
Because the arthroscope and surgical instruments are thin, Dr. Ignacio can use very small incisions (cuts), rather than the larger incisions needed for standard, open surgery. This results in less pain and stiffness for patients and shortens the time for rapid recovery and return to getting back in the game, back to work, and their favorite activities. You can learn more about Arthroscopy surgery here.