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What Causes Knee Pain?

The knee is the largest joint in the body. It has many moving parts including bones, cartilage, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Any one of these parts can suffer from disease or injury causing pain in the knee. The most common disease to cause knee pain is arthritis. A number of injuries can lead to knee pain, and with the increasing number of aging adults, overuse injuries are becoming more common.

DMC Orthopaedic Surgeons are specialists in knee pain, and are experts in knee repair. Procedures at DMC include:

Diseases that cause knee pain
Osteoarthritis is the number one disease that causes knee pain. Osteoarthritis wears away the cartilage in the knee and eventually affects the adjacent bones. Osteoarthritis most typically affects adults over age 50. Younger people can be prone to osteoarthritis if it runs in the family, or if they had a previous injury that triggers the onset of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis treatments are: 

  • medicines to reduce pain, such as aspirin and acetaminophen
  • medicines to reduce swelling and inflammation, such as ibuprofen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • exercises to improve movement and strength
  • weight loss
  • knee replacement surgery
Rheumatoid arthritis is another cause of pain in the knee, but it affects a much smaller portion of the population. This autoimmune disease causes the body to attack the membranes that line the joints. This causes knee pain from the resulting inflammation and damage to the bone, tendons and ligaments of the knee. Rheumatoid arthritis treatments are:
  • physical therapy
  • medications
  • knee replacement surgery
Injury that causes knee pain
The knee plays an essential role in everyday life and supports the weight of the body and allows us to walk, run, stoop, bend and jump. Pain in the knee can result from a direct blow, falling, twisting or over-extension. Sometimes knee pain develops slowly, over time due to improper alignment or everyday wear and tear. There are many parts of the knee, and each can contribute to knee pain.
Cartilage Injuries
Chondromalacia occurs when the cartilage of the knee cap softens. This can be caused by injury, overuse, or muscle weakness, or if parts of the knee are out of alignment. The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of cartilage that acts like a pad between the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone). It is easily injured if the knee is twisted while bearing weight. The seriousness of the injury depends on the location and the size of the tear.

Symptoms of cartilage injuries
Generally, when people injure a meniscus, they feel some pain, particularly when the knee is straightened. The knee pain may be mild to severe and include swelling. Although symptoms of meniscus injury may disappear on their own, if they persist or reoccur, treatment is recommended.

Treatment for cartilage injuries includes:
  • exercises to strengthen muscles
  • electrical stimulation to strengthen muscles
  • surgery for severe injuries
Ligament Injuries
Ligament injuries are known as sprains. Two commonly injured ligaments in the knee are the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). The ACL is most often stretched or torn (or both) by a sudden twisting motion. The PCL is usually injured by a direct impact, such as in an automobile accident or football tackle. The medial and lateral collateral ligaments are usually injured by a blow to the outer side of the knee. This can stretch and tear a ligament. These blows frequently occur in sports such as football or hockey. If a ligament is the cause of your knee pain, you may hear a popping sound, and the leg may buckle when you try to stand on it.

Ligament injuries are treated with:
  • ice packs immediately after the injury to reduce swelling
  • exercises to strengthen muscles
  • a brace
  • surgery for more severe injuries
Tendon Injuries
The three main types of tendon injuries and disorders are:
  • tendinitis and ruptured tendons
  • osgood-Schlatter disease
  • iliotibial band syndrome
People with tendinitis describe the knee pain as tenderness at the point where the patellar tendon meets the bone. A complete rupture of a tendon is not only painful, but also makes it difficult for a person to bend, extend, or lift the leg.

Treatment for tendon injuries and disorders includes:
  • rest
  • ice
  • elevation
  • medicines such as aspirin or ibuprofen to relieve pain and reduce swelling
  • limiting sports activity
  • exercise to stretch and strengthen
  • a cast, if there is a partial tear
  • surgery for complete tears or very severe injuries
Types of surgery for knee pain:
  • arthroscopic surgery
  • open surgery
  • knee resurfacing implants
  • total knee replacement
Is surgery right for my knee pain?
For many people with serious knee injuries, surgery is the preferred option to repair the damage and prevent knee pain. The decision to have surgery depends on many factors. You and your doctor will discuss your disease or injury and evaluate your options. Total knee replacement is often the answer for people whose pain persists after nonsurgical treatment, and when the limited range of motion in their knee joint severely affects their quality of life.

DMC orthopedic surgeons use the latest, scientifically proven techniques to repair knee injuries. For more information on range of treatment options for knee pain, or an appointment with a DMC orthopedic surgeon, call 888-DMC-2500.

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    Arthroscopy of the Knee 

    Femur Fracture Repair
    I-Total Knee Replacement
    I-Uni Partial Knee Replacement Surgery
    Knee ACL Reconstruction
    MAKOplasty Knee Resurfacing
    O.A.T.S. Procedure for Knee Cartilage
    Torn Meniscus Repair
    Total Knee Replacement Surgery


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