Knee pain is one of the most common complaints suffered by adults in the United States. Often, the pain is a result of injury or strain. Sometimes the pain is caused by age and degenerative disease. Whatever the cause, the pain is usually the result of injury or irritation to the cartilage that surrounds the kneecap and the leg bones in the joint. Cartilage is the gelatinous material that covers the bones and allows them to slide over and around one another smoothly. This is especially important in the knee joint, where the leg bones bend back and forth over the kneecap. This article will give you some information on cartilage pain and how to treat it.
Knee cartilage is the tissue that is similar to but softer than bone that surrounds and coats the living bone in your knee joint. The tops of your leg bones and the entire bottom side of your kneecap are lined with this smooth substance that serves as a cushion for your joint. Because it is soft, and because it endures all the stress of the bones grinding against each other, knee cartilage can become injured, and this will cause pain. When the cartilage is injured, it responds with inflammation, bleeding, tearing, and numerous other complaints, just as any other soft tissue in your body. The pain caused can be anywhere from irritating to severe.
The knee is the largest joint in the body and endures tremendous pressure. For every pound that you weigh, you put ten pounds of pressure on your knees. All of the twisting, jumping, running, squatting, lifting, etc. that you do is taken out exponentially on your knees. For people who are active, the knee sustains incredible pressure and injury or long-term damage is likely. Whether you play a non-contact sport such as tennis, or a high impact sport such as football, the strain placed on your knees is huge. At some point, whether it is through a twist, a fall, a trauma, or other impact, your knee cartilage may well be bruised, pulled, or torn. When this happens, your body reacts as it would in any other injury. Swelling, pain, and bleeding will occur--all inside of your knee joint.
The first and most obvious sign of knee cartilage damage is pain. This will most often be with weight bearing, but can still occur even at rest. The pain will be inside the knee joint. It can be on one side, or it can be on both sides. It can be more centered below or above the knee itself, but it will be sore to the touch. Even a light touch on the outside of the kneecap can cause the pain to worsen. Manipulation of the knee by hand will intensify the pain. Standing or walking makes it worse. The knee may feel "unstable", as if it is going to buckle. You may not be able to straighten the leg. Another sign is swelling. If you have a high pain tolerance, you may not notice the pain as much as you notice swelling of the joint. Your kneecap may swell slightly, or it may become hugely swollen, depending on the injury. But if there is swelling on the knee, chances are, something has damaged or strained the cartilage in the joint.
Begin with using the I.C.E. method. (I)ce the knee. Use a (C)ompression bandage, like an Ace wrap, on it. (E)levate the knee above hip level, and stay off it. This method will reduce swelling and pain and allow you to assess the real extent of the damage. If you use this method, and in twenty-four hours do not see improvement, chances are you have damaged some cartilage or done some other injury and may need further treatment. Another thing you can do is to take over the counter NSAID's (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), as these will reduce the pain, stiffness, and swelling. If the injury is not serious, the combination of drugs, rest, ice, compression, and elevation should help
At some point, when you have tried the above remedies, and the pain has not improved, you will need to see a medical professional. The tearing of knee cartilage is not an injury to be taken lightly. If it is not properly cared for, it can worsen into an injury that may require extensive surgery to fix. By ignoring damaged cartilage and continuing to remain active, you are putting your actual joint at risk. Damaged cartilage no longer functions as it should, which puts your knee at the risk of dislocation, ligament strain or tear, bone fracture, and other injuries that are more extensive and will requirement immediate medical intervention. So, if you have used the methods mentioned in the above section, and seen little improvement, it is time to seek the help of an orthopedic doctor.
- Photo Credit Courtesy of orthopedics.com
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