What is a knee injury?
The knee is the largest and one of the most complex joints in the body. Whether you’re moving or sitting throughout the day, your knees can experience heavy wear and tear, so it’s important to take good care of them.
Three large bones come together to form the knee joint: The femur, the tibia, and the patella. Each one is covered at the ends with a cushioned, elastic material called cartilage that works like a shock absorber.
Although knee injuries can happen to anyone, some activities and demographics are higher risk than others, such as:
- Athletes, especially in high-impact sports
- Runners, especially if wearing improper footwear
- People who are overweight
- People who sit too long in uncomfortable positions
Knee injuries left untreated can potentially lead to a number of complications, like:
Signs of a knee injury
The first sign of a knee injury that most people feel is pain. Though the pain may be severe, often there is only a very mild stiffness or discomfort around the knee joint, especially while making certain repetitive motions with it.
Other important warning signs of a serious knee injury include:
Pain while climbing stairs
Some kinds of swelling can stop you from bearing weight on your knee or bending it at all, whereas you may have no problem whatsoever walking in other cases. Either way, a swollen knee shouldn’t be ignored.
Sometimes the injury shows itself right away, such as a sharp pain in the middle of exercising. In this case, the pain and swelling will happen immediately, suggesting a torn ligament or even a bone fracture has occurred.
Some injuries appear a few hours or even days after the injury actually took place. An overuse injury, for example, develops little by little in response to prolonged pressure and is often a sign of cartilage or meniscal tearing.
Some more signs to look for are:
- Popping sounds
- Feeling unstable
Seek medical attention if you notice any of these symptoms.
Types of knee injuries
The bones of the knee joint may sometimes fall completely or partially out of alignment. Some people, due to their specific bone structure, may be more prone to this kind of injury than others. The most common cause of knee dislocation is trauma.
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury
Athletes who often quickly change direction or jump will often have ACL injuries. Many hear it "pop" when the ligament is either torn or strained.
Tendonitis in the knees is sometimes known as"jumper’s knee" because it often affects athletes who jump regularly. There are two tendons involved in the knee joint, around the quadriceps and patellar bones, and both can be stretched, torn, or worn down with time.
Diagnosing knee injuries
Doctors have many tools at their disposal to aid in the diagnosis of knee injuries. For instance, they’ll often collect your medical history and ask you questions about your activity level. X-rays, ultrasounds, and MRI scans can also provide a clear picture of your knee joint for an accurate diagnosis.
Treatments for knee injuries
Some mild knee injuries are treated using the R.I.C.E. method, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Other cases may require physical therapy to strengthen the joint and restore its range of motion. Surgery is reserved for the most serious knee injuries and may be either minimally invasive or involve a total replacement of the joint.
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