The knee is the largest joint in the human body, and it can easily be injured. Our knees are made up of bone, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and fluid-filled sacs (bursae). Muscles and tendons help the knee joint move. When any of these parts of the knee is injured through trauma or simply due to wear and tear over time, you’ll have a knee injury. At Bone & Joint Specialists, our entire team is dedicated to getting you past the injury and back to the activities you love.
Knee Injuries and Issues We Treat
- Sprains and Strains
- Meniscal Tears
- Joint Replacements
- Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Tears
- Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tears
- Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Tears
What Causes Knee Injuries?
When any part of the knee breaks down from overuse or is injured due to trauma, this is considered a knee injury. Knee injuries are quite common in people of all ages, not just athletes. Unfortunately, knee injuries also interfere directly with our quality of life, making routine things like climbing stairs a struggle. The most common disease affecting our knees is osteoarthritis, which is known as “wear and tear” arthritis. It is simply the result of the cartilage in the knee gradually wearing down over time, resulting in pain and swelling.
Injuries are also common with the ligaments and tendons that connect the bones to the muscles and also limit movement in the knee. The most common, and well known, is tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This is a common sports injury caused by a sudden twisting motion.
Symptoms of a Knee Injury
Symptoms relate to what is going on with your knee. For instance, if you have knee pain that seems to have gotten worse over the years, this is likely due to osteoarthritis and your cartilage wearing out. If you’re playing tennis and feel your knee give out, you could have torn your ACL. When you have torn a knee ligament, there won’t be any doubt about having injured your knee. Here are some common symptoms of a knee injury:
- Swelling and stiffness
- Redness and warmth to the touch
- Weakness or instability, especially with lateral movement
- Popping or crunching noises when you move your knee
- Inability to fully straighten the knee
what are the most common knee injuries?
A knee injury can involve any part of the knee, from the ligaments to the bursae. These are the most common injuries:
- ACL tears — The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of four ligaments that connect your shinbone to your thighbone. This ligament is commonly torn during sports that require sudden changes in direction when running.
- Fractures — The bones of the knee, including the patella (the kneecap), can be broken in a fall or car wreck. If you have osteoporosis, the odds of having a fracture increase dramatically.
- Torn meniscus — The meniscus is the rubbery cartilage that acts as a cushion and shock absorber between your shinbone and your thighbone. The meniscus can be torn by suddenly twisting your knee while the knee is carrying weight.
- Knee bursitis — Some injuries cause the bursae, the small sacs of fluid that cushion the outside of the knee joint, to become inflamed.
- Patellar tendinitis — Many athletes develop tendinitis in their patellar tendon, which connects the quadriceps muscle on the front of the thigh to the shinbone. Runners, skiers, cyclists, and those in jumping sports commonly have this tendinitis.
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Are Knee Injuries More Common at Certain Ages?
Obviously, wear and tear injuries to cartilage or issues such as knee replacement are prevalent in people over the age of 50. This is simply a result of long-time use coupled with a decrease in the strength of the support ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Osteoporosis leads to problems with the bones in the knee, and this also really shows itself after age 50 to 55. Traumatic injuries, such as ACL or MCL tears, don’t have a preponderance associated with age. They are just as likely in a well-conditioned NFL football player aged 23 as they are a 65-year-old playing pickleball.
How to Avoid Knee Injuries
No one can prevent any knee pain or knee injury from ever happening. And not all knee pain is serious or needs attention, other than possibly rest. These measures can help you avoid knee injury:
- Maintain a healthy weight — Imagine carrying around a small bag of fertilizer all day. That’s what your knees have to do when you’re 25 or more pounds overweight. The increased loads simply increase your risk of injury.
- Be in shape for your sport — Jumping right into a sport without any preparation is far more likely to result in a knee injury. Prepare your muscles for the demands of the sport you want to participate in.
- Practice the right way — When practicing, make sure you’re using the correct technique and movement patterns.
- Get strong, but stay flexible — Weak muscles are the leading cause of knee injuries. But overly tight muscles, no matter how strong, also lead to injury. Include flexibility exercises with your strength training in your workouts.
- Be smart and don’t force things — If you have chronic knee pain from osteoarthritis or are constantly having the same nagging knee injury, maybe it’s time to switch to low-impact exercise, or possibly playing a different sport.
What Should I Do if I Have a Minor Knee Injury?
The professionals at Bone and Joint Specialists of Valparaiso, Hobart, Highland, and Merrillville, IN, encourage you to be prudent about assessing your knee injury as soon as possible. A minor knee injury, such as a sprain, often does not require medical attention and can be managed safely and effectively at home. However, severe tears, such as medial collateral ligament, anterior cruciate ligament, or posterior cruciate ligament tears, should all be evaluated and treated with the assistance of a medical provider.
How Can I Tell if My Knee Injury Is Serious or Not?
The symptoms of a minor knee injury will typically include some pain, swelling, and/or stiffness. It may also be difficult to bear weight on the affected leg. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you need to be prudent about taking the appropriate steps to reduce inflammation and ensure the knee heals properly. This may include rest, ice and heat therapy, or even physical therapy.
When Should I See a Doctor for My Knee Injury?
There are certain symptoms that should be evaluated by a doctor in the event of a knee injury. If your knee has severe pain, swelling, or instability that does not resolve with home treatment, a medical provider should be seen to evaluate the injury and decide on the next steps. Our doctors at Bone and Joint Specialists in Indiana can assess the severity of the injury, diagnose the problem, and provide appropriate treatment recommendations to help you heal and recover properly. Diagnosis of the problem may include x-rays and other imaging options.
Is Surgery Necessary To Treat a Knee Injury?
While you may automatically assume that your knee needs surgery to recover, this is not always the case. Many minor knee injuries are treatable with home therapies, including rest, ice, and heat. However, severe injuries that will not resolve on their own or with therapy alone may require surgical interventions. Your doctor can walk you through your treatment options after you get a proper diagnosis, educating you on your condition and the most conservative options to try first before resorting to surgical interventions.
Can Physical Therapy Help With Managing a Knee Injury?
Physical therapy is often the most effective way to treat a minor to a moderate knee injury. It is also recommended after surgical treatments to restore function and mobility to the knee joint and surrounding ligaments and muscles. Physical therapists have extensive knowledge of the musculoskeletal system and can create an individualized treatment plan to help you heal and improve your symptoms, getting you back into the game or into your normal activities faster. Some of the treatments that may be performed by a physical therapist include:
- Manual therapies
- Therapeutic exercise
- Ultrasound treatments
- Electric stimulation therapy (E-Stim)
- Patient education
Does Insurance Cover the Cost of Treating a Knee Injury?
If you have medical insurance, your plan may offer coverage for not only the treatment of the condition but any added surgeries or therapies needed to heal afterward. It is essential to call your health insurance plan provider to determine what out-of-pocket costs can be reduced or eliminated with your current benefits.