5 Common Causes of Knee Pain

5 Common Causes of Knee Pain

Knee pain affects one in four adults, often forcing them to take time out from their athletic activities or preventing them from keeping up with their daily responsibilities.

If you struggle with knee pain, consult with board-certified orthopedic surgeon Gregory M. Stanley, MD at Cascade Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Center. Early treatment prevents the source of your pain from getting worse or causing further damage to your knee.

The most common causes of knee pain varies. If you're active in sports, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are at the top of the list. Older patients are more likely to have knee osteoarthritis. 

Here is a list of the five common causes of knee pain:

1. Ligament injuries

Though the ACL is the most frequently injured ligament, your knee has four major ligaments and they're all vulnerable to damage.

The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and two collateral ligaments develop tears when you take a direct blow to the front, outside, or inside of the knee. These injuries usually occur during contact sports.

ACL injuries have a different cause. The ACL uniquely runs through the center of the joint, where it prevents excessive joint rotation. As a result, ACL injuries happen when you make certain movements, such as:

Another concern with an ACL injury is that other parts of your knee often become damaged during the same event. In fact, half of patients treated for an ACL injury also have a meniscal tear or damage to other ligaments.

2. Meniscal tears

The meniscus is the cartilage located on top of your shinbone. This crucial structure stabilizes your knee and absorbs shock.

In athletes, the meniscus sustains damage during twisting movements. You can also injure it when making the same movements that cause an ACL tear.

Like the articular cartilage covering the ends of bones, the meniscus slowly degenerates over the years. As a result, older adults can tear the meniscus during normal daily movement.

3. Osteoarthritis

Your knee endures repeated movement while supporting your upper body weight and absorbing shock every time your foot hits the ground. This combined effect takes a toll on the articular cartilage, which gradually breaks down and exposes the bone instead of protecting it.

Suffering a ligament injury, meniscal tear, or traumatic knee injury increases your risk of developing post-traumatic arthritis. This type of osteoarthritis develops at a faster pace because of the joint damage. 

4. Tendon injuries

The patellar tendon connects your shinbone to the kneecap, while the quadricep tendon attaches the knee to the muscles in the front of your thigh.

Running and jumping activities can injure both tendons. It takes a strong force to tear the tendon. For example, you may suffer a tear after taking a hit to the knee or landing in the wrong position after jumping.

You're more likely to have knee pain when the patellar tendon becomes inflamed, a condition known as patellar tendonitis or jumper's knee. Activities that demand frequent jumping cause repeated stress and inflammation. If you don't give the tendon time to heal, it weakens and may tear.

5. Fractures and dislocations

Knee fractures and dislocations occur after a high-energy trauma such as a sports injury (direct hit or sudden turn or twist), car accident, or fall. They're both serious injuries no matter what causes them.

When the kneecap is fractured, it often breaks into pieces that move out of place and need reconstructive surgery. A dislocation also requires special care to prevent chronic knee instability.

You receive comprehensive care for all types of knee pain at Cascade Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Center. We create customized care plans that begin with the most conservative treatment, but we also have extensive surgical experience and skills when needed.

If you have knee pain that doesn't improve, call or book an appointment online today at one of our Oregon offices. 

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