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Common Causes of Knee Pain

Ligament Injuries usually occur when the knee ligament is torn or ruptured accidentally through injury or athletic activity. Ligaments connect one bone with another. The major ligaments that may become injured are Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL), Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) and the Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL).

Cartilage Injuries and Meniscal Tears. Over time, damage to cartilage can allow the bones in the joint to rub against each other. Cartilage injuries are a common source of knee pain. For more information on cartilage see Knee Anatomy.

Inflammation of the large tendon that connects the shin bone to the kneecap. 

Dislocated kneecap – when the patella kneecap moves out of its normal position – usually due to injury.

Inflammation of the bursae - the sacs of fluid that reduce friction in the joint. This can be caused by sports injury, overuse, or excessive kneeling (sometimes referred to as ‘housemaid’s knee’).

Joint degeneration is a painful condition that develops when the cartilage cushioning the joint deteriorates allowing bone to rub on bone. This is a degenerative condition, which means it often gets worse over time.

Nearly one in five Australians has degraded joints, making it our leading cause of chronic pain and disability.1 Of these, 62% are of working age (15-64 years).1

Problems associated with joint degradation include pain, stiffness, inflammation and damage to the joint cartilage (cartilage is the tissue on the ends of bones that enables the bones to move against each other without rubbing bone on bone). This damaged cartilage can lead to joint weakness, instabilities and deformities which you might find can interfere with basic daily tasks such as walking, driving, dressing and preparing food.

Pain and levels of discomfort can vary from mild to moderate to severe.

There are several forms of joint degradation:

  • The ‘wear and tear’ effect causes a breakdown in the tissues in the joints. This is increasingly likely with age, most often occurring after the age of 45 years. It frequently results in pain, stiffness and reduced movement in the weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips.
  • There is no single cause for this type of joint degradation: Risk factors include: being overweight (more pressure on weight-bearing joints) advancing age hereditary factors joint injuries and other metabolic or inflammatory disorders.1
  • An autoimmune systemic disease can attack any and all joints in the body resulting in pain, swelling, stiffness and reduced joint movement.
  • Joint degradation can develop after a joint is injured and the bone and cartilage do not heal properly. The resulting irregularities lead to excessive wear on parts of the joint.

Degeneration of the inner surface of the kneecap. A knee with this problem may hurt, swell and grind. Whilst this condition can be painful, lots of people have this with no symptoms other than a grinding sensation when they squat or climb stairs.

 

 

When to Talk to Your GP

If you don’t know what is causing your pain, or if you don’t know what treatment is right for your condition, talk to your GP. Signs that you should talk to your GP include:

  • Difficulty walking comfortably on the affected side
  • Injury that causes deformity around the joint
  • Knee pain that happens at night or while resting
  • Knee pain that persists for more than a few days
  • Inability to bend the knee
  • Swelling of the knee or calf area
  • Signs of infection, including fever, redness and warmth in the knee area
  • Any other unusual symptoms

References

  1. 1. My Joint Pain Fact Sheets, An initiative of Arthritis Australia, launched February 2013. www.myjointpain.org.au*. Accessed 15 April 2013.
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