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Common Causes of Knee Pain

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Knee pain causes, treatments and home remedies

By Katherine Solem 

 

Human knees handle an enormous amount of strain every day. They are the main weight-bearing joints in the body, and must function well in order for tasks like walking, running, getting in and out of chairs and climbing stairs to be manageable. Not surprisingly, the knee is the largest and most complex joint in the body, comprised of bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, nerves and blood vessels that work in conjunction to keep you moving. Unfortunately, a significant amount of wear-and-tear comes with heavy usage, often resulting in pain. Knee pain is a very common condition that affects 19 percent of people in the U.S. The incidence and severity of knee pain increases with age, often causing disability. Here are some of the main knee pain causes and knee pain treatments.

 

Knee Pain Causes

  • Arthritis:Inflammation within a joint - an area where two bones meet - causing swelling, pain and difficulty moving
       
    • Osteoarthritis: Known as the "wear and tear" arthritis, is the degeneration of cartilage in knees. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of disability in the U.S., with 9 million diagnoses in 2005.
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    • Rheumatoid arthritis: An autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in joints.
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    • Gout:High uric acid levels in the body form small urate crystals on the joints, causing joint inflammation.
         
      • Baker Cyst: A swelling caused by fluid build-up in the back of the knee. This is a bi-product of arthritis.
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  • Tendinitis:Inflammation of the knee tendons, which are pieces of connective tissue that connect muscle to bone. It usually occurs as a result of repeated strenuous activities.
       
    • Patellar tendinitis: Tendinitis occurring in the front of the knee below the kneecap, at the patellar tendon.
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    • Popliteal tendinitis: Tendinitis occurring in the back of the knee at the popliteal tendon.
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  • Bursitis: Inflammation of the bursae - small, fluid-filled cavities - that reduce friction in areas where muscle or tendons pass over bone. Bursitis can be the result of injury or an over-worked knee.
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  • Ligament injuries: Ligaments are fibrous tissues that connect bone to bone. Injury from trauma can damage ligaments, producing pain. Ligament injuries in the knee can range from minor stretching or twisting (sprain), to a complete tear of fibers (torn anterior cruciate ligament or ACL).
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  • Torn meniscus: The meniscus is a piece of cartilage on the knee. Its purpose is to reduce friction caused by two adjoining bones (tibia and femur) so the joint isn't injured. An over-extension or awkward twisting of the knee can result in a meniscus tear.
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  • Dislocated kneecap: Your kneecap (patella) is a triangle-shaped bone that covers the knee. A dislocation occurs when the patella slips out of place, usually as a result of a quick, awkward movement.
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  • Fracture: The knee is made up of four bones that can incur fracture from trauma: the femur, tibia, fibula and patella. 

 

Symptoms Associated with Knee Pain

  • Stiffness and swelling
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  • Redness
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  • Popping or crunching noises
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  • Locking of knees
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  • Inability to fully straighten knee  

 

Knee Pain Risk Factors

  • Excess weight: Being overweight puts excess stress on your knee joints even during non-strenuous activities like walking, leading to knee pain. Overweight women are four times as likely to develop knee problems than people of normal weight and overweight men are five times as likely.
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  • Structural problems: Structural problems in your body, like flat feet, a high foot arch, uneven leg lengths and misaligned knees, will make you more susceptible to knee injury or knee pain.
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  • Lack of muscle strength and flexibility: Muscles are responsible for absorbing a lot of the shock that knees endure with every day use. If muscles are weak or inflexible, your knees will endure too much stress, causing knee pain or knee injury.
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  • Previous injury: Sustaining a previous knee injury will make another injury more likely. 

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