7 Knee Injuries and Treatments You Must Know

The knee joint contains fluid, ligaments, cartilage, and bone. Tendons and muscles work together to help your knee joint move and if any of the structures within the knee are diseased or hurt, it can lead to knee problems. These problems may cause pain ordifficulty walking.

Knee problems are common and can affect everyone, no matter their age. Knee issues may interfere with everything from participating in sports to even simple actions such as walking or standing up, leading to a large impact on daily life.

Common Types of Knee Injuries

1. Knee Sprains

A knee sprain is when the ligaments responsible for holding the knee together are injured. The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) which stabilize the knee when moving front and back. The LCL (lateral collateral ligament) and MCL (medial collateral ligament) help stabilize the knee, preventing movement from side to side.

There are different grades for ligament sprains and the grading depends on the extent of tearing or stretching of ligament fibers as well as the amount of instability caused.

  • Grade one is when the knee ligament injury is painful and stretched but there isn’t instability and fibers aren’t torn.
  • Grade two is for partially torn knee ligaments with mild instability.
  • Grade three is completely torn ligaments and an unstable knee.

2. Knee Strains

These occur if muscles or tendons around the knee stretch, usually from hyperextension or hyperflexion of the knee. The strain may cause pain outside the knee joint as well as dysfunction in terms of the knee’s normal range of motion.

3. Knee Bursitis

The bursa is a fluid-filled pouch located in the knee and knee bursitis takes place if it is infected, inflamed, or irritated. These fluid-filled sacs minimize friction between tissues, working as shock absorbers. There are two main bursas in the knee with one located above the kneecap and the other below the joint of the knee, close to the tibia bone’s front.

4. Meniscus Tear

The meniscus can tear when damage occurs inside the knee. The lateral and medial menisci are pieces of cartilage which absorb shock and cushion the femur (thighbone). They can be acutely injured or gradually become dysfunctional from overuse.

5. Knee Joint Dislocation

Dislocation may occur when there is a large-force, high-impact injury to the knee. Although rare, this type of injury will lead to severe damage on all of the knee’s anatomical components, possibly including the blood vessels. It can require emergency surgery or treatment.

It is also possible for the patella (kneecap) to dislocate on the knee’s side and although this is painful, it is not life-threatening. It can be treated by simply putting it back in place and splinting it.

6. Knee Fractures

The knee fractures when there is a direct blow to the bone. A kneecap fracture takes place if someone falls directly on their knees, cracking the kneecap from force. Tibia plateau fracture (when the tibia bone’s top portion collapses) may happen due to a sudden compression injury, particularly in those with osteoporosis. Additional fractures are rare for isolated knee injuries.

7. Overuse Injuries

Both degeneration of the kneecap’s cartilage and “runner’s knee” are examples of overuse injuries. They happen after repetitive damage to various knee structures and may either be due to improper mechanics related to knee movement or congenital problems.

Dealing With Knee Injuries

Mild knee injuries can sometimes heal without treatment, but you should always have a physiotherapist or doctor check and diagnose your injury. Any knee injury requires prompt medical treatment to increase your chance of a complete recovery. Always seek immediate treatment, especially when:

  • There is a popping noise and your knee gives out when the injury occurs
  • There is severe pain
  • You can’t move your knee
  • You start limping
  • The injury site swells

The recommended treatment will vary based on your activity level, general health, age, and the severity of the injury.

1. Try RICE

Basic knee injuries, such as overuse and mild strains or sprains, your doctor will probably recommend you rest your knee. In this case, RICE is essential. It stands for Rest Ice Compression Elevation and means that you want to let your knee rest as much as you can. Take advantage of ice packs to reduce swelling, use compression bandages and elevate your leg on pillows or similar objects. Your doctor may also suggest anti-inflammatories (like ibuprofen) for pain and inflammation.

2. Arthroscopy

In some cases, your orthopedist may perform an arthroscopy, which is a surgery to look directly inside the knee joint. During this procedure, the orthopedist will make a small incision in the knee through which he inserts an arthroscope (a small tube-like tool) in the joint capsule. The arthroscope has a video camera with light so the surgeon can watch while moving the scope and find the location of the knee problem as well as what it is. In most cases, the doctor will be able to resolve the issue during this procedure, such as repairing a torn ACL.

Arthroscopy decreases the amount of postoperative pain as well as recovery time when it is used for treating serious knee injuries such as meniscal and ligament tears.

3. Physical Therapy

Sometimes your doctor will suggest rehabilitative physical therapy. This will involve working closely with your physical therapist to do specific exercises which move the knee joint through its entire range of motion, preventing scarring and stiffness during healing. There may also be regular exercises that help strengthen and stretch your muscles around the knee. Some patients also do physical therapy as a way to recover from surgery.

4. Immobilization

It is possible that your doctor will suggest using a brace to prevent knee movement. A brace or cast can help hold bones in place during healing in case of a fractured bone. Sometimes the brace will be accompanied by crutches so you don’t need to put weight on the leg.

5. Other Treatment Options

In cases where the knee joint is extremely swollen, your doctor my draw off some fluid using a fine needle, a process called aspiration. For some severe injuries, open surgery will be necessary as the entire joint will need to be visible for repairs.

Tips and Precautions

There are some things you can do to help prevent knee injuries from occurring:

  • Always warm up your muscles and joints with gentle motions and stretch out the muscles before performing physical activity.
  • Wear supportive footwear.
  • Avoid motions that are sudden or jarring.
  • When changing direction, don’t twist through your knees. Instead, turn using the balls of the feet.
  • Always do easy, light, sustained stretches to cool down following exercise.
  • Build your exercise program up slowly over time.
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