Updated: Jun 1
Are you having problems with knee pains? Knee pain is something experienced by many people. It is one of the most common joint pains that most of us have to face sometime in our lives. It can affect people from all walks of life and with widely varying severity and type.
Knee pain problems can be extremely discouraging and debilitating, but with proper treatment and help from our New York pain management specialists, knee pain can be reduced and prevented.
Maybe you've been running for years, maybe you're just getting started, but either way, you've been at it long enough to have heard of runner's knee—that nagging pain that makes your knees ache at the end of a run, or even worse, makes it hard to keep your knees from hurting when you run.
Much like its namesake, runner's knee is a common ailment among those who run. It tends to strike when runners are going at it at a high level for long periods of time, and it typically affects people when they're involved in their favorite sport or hobby.
The pain typically hits during training or play and can be felt directly below the kneecap. Some might feel as though they have a hard bump under the kneecap, some might feel a sensation of weakness and instability around the joint, and some may even feel as though their kneecap is literally "twisted."
Runner's knee is an overuse injury that happens when the tendons or muscles in your knee become inflamed. It most often occurs for people who do a lot of repetitive motions with their knees—jumping, running, walking long distances—but it can also happen if you don't move around much (and therefore don't make much repetitive motion) but still spend a lot of time sitting with your knees bent and raised off the ground.
The cause of the runner's knee isn't always obvious, but one common culprit is excessive pronation—the way your foot rolls too far inward as you step. This usually happens as a result of reduced flexibility in the muscles in your lower legs and hips.
IT Band Syndrome
If you've ever experienced sharp pain on the sides of your knee—or even a dull ache—you might wonder, "What's going on with my knee?" It might be IT band syndrome if you feel pain at the side of your knee, either just below or above the kneecap.
This can cause a variety of problems, from an achiness that worsens with activity and gets better when you're resting to a sharp pain that occurs while you're running or during everyday tasks like walking upstairs.
IT band syndrome is also sometimes called iliotibial band friction syndrome. The iliotibial band (IT band) is a thick tissue strip that runs outside your thigh and connects near the hip to your shin bone (tibia). The IT band helps to stabilize and move your knee during activities. However, when this thick tendon rubs over bony parts in your knees, it can cause inflammation and irritation.
This type of pain can be very uncomfortable and cause a burning feeling or stiffness on the sides of the knees. While it can occur in anyone, certain people are more at risk than others—athletes who participate in activities that involve repetitive motion (like running or cycling) are particularly vulnerable to this problem.
If you're having this pain and are an athlete, try taking some time off from your usual activity—it'll help you rest up any injured tendons, ligaments, or muscles before you start up again. See a pain doctor for an accurate diagnosis if you have suspected IT band syndrome. If they say it's likely that you have IT band syndrome, there are some things you can do to help it heal.
The term "hamstring strain" is used to describe any injury to the hamstring muscles, which are located at the back of the thighs. The three hamstring muscles are the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. These muscles extend the knee when they contract and flex the hip. They also stabilize the knee joint in walking and running.
Hamstring strains often happen when you overuse your leg muscles during training or exercise. In these cases, a sudden motion that takes your leg beyond its normal range of motion can cause a muscle tear in your hamstrings (the muscles located along the back of your thighs). The strain usually affects the biceps femoris and semitendinosus—the two muscles on either side of your thigh that help you straighten your leg.
You can also sprain your hamstring when forcefully stretching it. The injury is easy to spot: there will be a bulge in the back of the leg due to the muscle being torn. The pain will be especially severe when you try to straighten your knee, and it will persist until you give the muscle some rest.
A hamstring strain can be treated, and it should heal within two weeks if you give it the proper time to recover. A rehabilitation plan can help you return to sports without sustaining another injury.
Lateral Collateral Ligament Sprain
The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) sprain starts at the top of your femur (the big bone in your thigh) and stretches down to where the bone meets the tibia (the larger bone in your lower leg).
An LCL sprain is an injury to the fibrous band itself, and while they are common, they aren't typically serious. However, if you've hurt yours, you'll know: you'll feel pain and tightness around the outer side of your knee, and you might notice that you lose range of motion there compared to the other side.
The cause is usually a twisting motion—like when you're trying to change lanes on the highway, and someone hits your car from behind. However, it can also happen when you fall directly onto your outer knee. Soccer players often sprain their LCLs during games when they run with their knees too close together or when they cut quickly with their feet planted on the ground instead of pointed forward (a move called the "in-and-out").
If you feel a pop in your knee and experience swelling, pain when walking, or bruising around the area where the injury occurred, it's important to get medical attention. A pain doctor can examine the injury and determine whether further treatment is needed — but if left untreated or repeated too quickly, it could lead to other serious knee injuries like torn cartilage or even ACL tears.
Knee Pain Can Be Treated Without Surgery
Though it can be hard to hear that you suffer from one of these conditions, it is important to know how to treat your knee pain and get back to feeling like yourself.
Here are some of the non-surgical treatments for knee pain:
Physical therapy can help improve flexibility, strength, and endurance in your knees. It also teaches you how to perform exercises at home so that you continue to progress even after treatment ends. A physical therapist may recommend using heat packs or ice packs for extra relief during exercise sessions. The goal is for the patient's symptoms to improve over time so that they can return back to their normal activities without much difficulty.
Ankle braces are used to support and stabilize the ankle joint. Ankle braces can be worn during activities that put extra stress on the joint, such as walking or running. They can also provide relief for people who experience frequent sprains or swelling in their ankles.
Injections are a common form of treatment for knee pain caused by arthritis, tendonitis, or ligament damage. The injections contain steroids, which reduce swelling and inflammation surrounding the joint.
In addition, they may contain other medications that help decrease pain and improve mobility around the joint. Injections should only be performed by a licensed physician who understands your specific condition and its treatment options.
When it comes to knee problems, the best treatment is often prevention. Take care of your knees, and injuries won't happen—or at least they will be less likely. Be active, eat healthily, and listen to your body if you notice something out of the ordinary while exercising.
Understanding what's causing your knee pain will help you get the right treatment. The more you understand about different types of pain, the better you'll be able to find a solution. And if you're experiencing knee pain right now, remember that even mild knee problems can become serious over time. So don't ignore any symptoms! Instead, talk to a New York pain management specialist if the pain continues.