Knee pain can arise quickly or be chronic in nature and can occur for a variety of reasons. For the most part, it will get better on its own and can be easily treated at home with some simple actions. If your pain is severe, you are unable to put any weight on it, it’s misshapen or you have a fever with it, then you need to see your GP or go to an A&E.
Below are some common causes of knee pain and what to do about it.
Acute Knee Pain
Acute knee pain is sudden in onset. It typically occurs as a result of an injury or exercise. If your knee is stretched, twisted or overused you can have a sprain or strain to your knee. Knee tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon that runs from your kneecap to shin. This is typically caused by repetitive movements and is seen in many sports activities that include running and jumping.
Bursitis is inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that surround your knee joint. They help to reduce friction and cushion the joints. This can be caused by prolonged pressure to the area (like kneeling), overuse, direct injury or an infection. Your knee will appear warm and red. With a direct injury to your knee, you can have broken bones, torn ligaments, dislocated kneecaps and other soft tissue injuries.
For minor injuries, you can treat at home with an ice pack wrapped in a cloth and place it over your knee for 20 minutes at a time every few hours. This will help with swelling and inflammation in your knee. Try to avoid putting weight on your knee.
If you have crutches available, use them. Take painkillers such as paracetamol and/or ibuprofen regularly.
If your injury is severe, you should avoid putting any weight on your knee and call for help. You should go to your nearest emergency department for a physical examination, imaging, and treatment. If you have knee swelling and a fever, there is a potential that your knee joint or bursa is infected with a bacteria. This will require antibiotic treatments.
Chronic Knee Pain
Chronic knee pain can also happen at any age. With teenagers, they can get a disease called Osgood-Schlatter’s, which causes pain just below the kneecap where the bone is growing. As we age, osteoarthritis is a common complaint.
Knee joints are a common area, along with hips, where osteoarthritis develops. It manifests as pain and stiffness in the knees, typically both knees with some minor swelling.
For osteoarthritis, there are a variety of treatment options available, ranging from topical ointments to a knee replacement. Your physician will first do an exam of your knee and order some imaging tests.
Typically a knee replacement is a last resort, and your physician may ask you to try thing such as physiotherapy, steroid joint injections and oral pain medication prior to seeing an orthopaedic specialist.
In general, if your pain or swelling is severe or it is not improving within a few days, it is worth going to see a physician.
Try some basic treatments at home to improve your discomfort, but remember that when in doubt, a professional should exam and treat your knee.
Sources: NHS, Voltarol