Your knees play such an important role in how you function daily, how you work, exercise, play sports, and your overall mobility. It is also a very complex joint, which consists of bones, cartilage as well as ligaments and tendons. So, damage or aggravation to any of these structures can cause issues, making knee pain a common problem. 

Although there is no accurate way of self-diagnosing knee issues, there are some ways that can help you break down how badly the knee is injured. We will take a look at these options in more detail below. You can then determine whether natural healing and good old fashion rest are options.  Alternatively, if your injury is more serious, we look at when to consult a doctor or orthopaedic specialist or use exercise therapy like a physio or biokinetics.

3 Common Causes of Knee Pain

Knee pain can result from several things, but here we’ll take a closer look at some common factors that cause knee pain. They can be divided into the following categories:

1. Overtraining

High impact and repetitive activities such as stair climbing, jogging, or jumping, place a lot of stress and pressure on the knee joints and tissues surrounding that area, leading to irritation, inflammation and ultimately pain.

If you don’t take enough time to recover between your training sessions, you could push it too far and risk an actual knee injury. 

2. Arthritis

Many forms of arthritis may affect any joint in the body, the following are the most likely to affect the knees. Keep in mind only a doctor can diagnose the following conditions, and these are only for informational purposes.

  • Osteoarthritis - A degeneration of the protective cartilage at the end of bones, due to ageing, disease or chronic trauma.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) - A chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and pain in the joints. RA is typically bilateral, so if you have it in one knee, you will most likely have it in the other. Symptoms include pain, inflammation, joint stiffness and a reduced range of motion.
  • Septic arthritis - Inflammation and pain in the knee caused by an infection in a joint. A penetrating injury, such as an animal bite or trauma, could transmit germs directly into that joint.
  • Gout – A type of arthritis occurs in people with elevated uric acid levels. When these levels are elevated, the uric acid starts to form sharp, needle-like crystal deposits in the joints or the surrounding tissue, leading to inflammation and intense pain.

3. Injury

An acute or traumatic knee injury happens suddenly and most likely with quite a lot of force. These types of knee injuries can be very painful and will require rehabilitation.

The typical structures that could be damaged in an acute injury are:

  • Ligaments -  Connects bone to bone and gives your knee joint stability. Anterior Cruciate ligament (ACL) is quite a common ligament injury.
  • Meniscus: Is the cartilage in the joint; bruising, swelling or tears occur most often with a knee twist or buckle.
  • Bone: May also be bruised (this can be quite painful), the joint surface may be damaged, or the bone itself may be fractured.
  • Dislocation: When your knee joint no longer sits in the right position. This can happen at your knee cap, and in some severe cases, the main knee joint can dislocate completely.
  • Muscle: When the muscles around your knee are overstretched or overworked, they sustain a strain or tear.

Home Management of Knee Injuries

Sometimes, knee injury pain can be managed at home. The first thing to do is prevent further injury and apply the RICE method.

RICE is an acronym that will help you remember this remedy. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. If there is a particular activity that led to the pain, make sure to give that a rest. Treat the injury by applying a cold compress on the problematic area for about 20 minutes three times a day. Compress the area by wrapping your knee to ease the swelling. Elevate your knee above your heart to reduce any further swelling.

When to See the Doctor

For less serious knee pain causes, RICE can help. But, if you’re experiencing continuous knee pain, don’t ignore it. Damage to your knees can get worse over time and severely affect the quality of your life.

Seek emergency care immediately if the injury is as serious as a bone jutting out or if you observe any deformities.

The following symptoms are signs that knee injuries need to be addressed by a doctor.

  • The pain is continuous and severe when there is no pressure on your knee. 
  • There is persistent redness, bruising, swelling, or pain on the knee.
  • The knee and leg have limited mobility even for everyday activities, including an inability to bend your knee.
  • You have been trying to manage the injury with RICE but are not seeing any improvements. 
  • Your leg or foot is numb, weak, or tingling. 
  • The redness, pain, or swelling worsens, especially with a fever. 
  • A bone is protruding. 
  • Your knee has an obvious deformity. 

Take Care Of Yourself

It’s easy to delay treatment as life gets busy, and if we usually put treating our little niggles off. If an acute problem persists, seek help as soon as possible. The sooner you start rehabilitation, the faster you’ll return to full health and that injury-free life.