The knee is the largest joint in the body, where the thighbone (femur), shinbone (tibia), and kneecap (patella) connect. It also includes cartilage, ligaments, menisci, and tendons. When everything is working as it should, the knee joint functions properly – allowing for free movement without pain. However, if any part of the knee joint is not working well, pain, inflammation, and other symptoms can make it difficult to walk and participate in daily activities.
Chronic knee pain is common. It can be the long-term result of an injury, such as when someone falls or receives a blow to the knee. However, it is most often caused by everyday wear and tear, overuse, or by certain medical conditions. Sources of chronic knee pain include:
- Degenerative conditions, such as osteoarthritis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Crystalline arthritis
- Infections, such as cellulitis
- Patellofemoral syndrome (sometimes called “runner’s knee” or “jumper’s knee”)
Patients who experience knee pain often have other symptoms, such as swelling/stiffness, redness/warmth to the touch, weakness, instability, popping noises when bending, or inability to straighten the knee. If you cannot bear any weight on your knee or are unable to extend/flex your knee, contact your doctor or pain management specialist. Long-term knee pain can lead to permanent damage to the knee and loss of function.
Treatment options for chronic knee pain
Physical therapy to rehabilitate the knee and prevent future injuries and medication therapy are often the first steps in treating chronic knee pain. If there is no sign of improvement or reduced pain, your pain specialist may recommend other treatment options. Some other effective minimally invasive techniques are injections including corticosteroids (to reduce inflammation) and hyaluronic acid (to help cushion and lubricate the moving parts within the knee). If conservative therapies do not improve a patient’s condition within six months, surgery may become an option. Arthroscopic surgery, partial knee replacement surgery, and total knee replacement surgery are the three most common kinds of surgeries to improve knee pain.
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