Pain, swelling, and stiffness are the common symptoms of any damage or injury to the knee. Common causes of knee injury are
- Fracture of femur (thigh bone), tibia and fibula (leg bones)
- Torn ligament (either anterior or posterior cruciate ligament)
- Rupture of blood vessels following a trauma that leads to accumulation of extra fluid or blood in the joint
- Dislocation of knee cap (patella)
- Torn quadriceps or hamstring muscles
- Patellar tendon tear
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is major stabilizing ligament in the knee which may tear with over use of knee for playing sports. The ACL has poor ability to heal and may cause instability. Other common injuries in knee are cartilage damage and meniscal tear. Knee injuries may require surgical intervention that can be performed using open surgical or minimally invasive technique.
Knee sprain is another common injury that occurs from overstretching of the ligaments that support the knee joint. A knee sprain occurs when the knee ligaments are twisted or turned beyond its normal range causing the ligaments to tear.
Some of the common causes of a knee sprain include forceful twisting of the knee, sudden stop while running, direct blow to the knee, and fall that results in landing on your knees. The factors that increase the risk of knee sprain include participation in sports activities such as skiing, poor coordination, poor balance, and inadequate flexibility and strength in muscles and ligaments.
The most common symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, warmth and redness of the skin, and restricted movements. Pain will occur soon after injury and may increase upon moving the knee.
Meniscal tears often occur during sports. These tears are usually caused by twisting motion or over flexing of the knee joint. Athletes who play sports such as football, tennis and basketball are at a higher risk of developing meniscal tears. They often occur along with injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament, a ligament that crosses from the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone).
Various types of meniscal tears that can occur are longitudinal, bucket handle, flap, parrot -beak and mixed or complex.
The symptoms of a meniscal tear include:
- Knee pain when walking
- A "popping "or "clicking" may be felt at the time of injury
- Tenderness when pressing on the meniscus
- Swelling of the knee
- Limited motion of the knee joint
- Joint locking can occur if the torn cartilage gets caught between the femur and tibia preventing straightening of the knee
Patellar dislocation is a condition that occurs when the knee or the patella completely dislocates out of the groove towards the outside of the leg. Normally, the kneecap fits in the groove, but uneven groove can cause the kneecap to slide off and resulting in partial or complete dislocation of the kneecap.
Patellar tendon tear
Patellar tendon tear most commonly occurs in middle-aged people who participate in sports which involve jumping and running. Patellar tendon can be ruptured by several reasons such as by fall, direct blow to the knee, or landing on the foot awkwardly from a jump. It can be a partial or a complete tear. In partial tear, some of the fibers in the tendon are torn, but the soft tissue is not damaged. In complete tear, the soft tissues are disrupted into two pieces.
If the pain and swelling is rapid and fast then immediate diagnosis and appropriate medical treatment is advised. Initial diagnosis includes physical and joint examination followed by an X-ray.
Immediately following a knee injury and before being evaluated by a medical doctor, you should initiate the R.I.C.E. method of treatment:
- Rest: Rest the knee, as more damage could result from putting pressure on the injury
- Ice: Ice packs applied to the injury will help diminish swelling and pain. Ice should be applied over a towel to the affected area for 15-20 minutes four times a day for several days. Never place ice directly over the skin
- Compression: Wrapping the knee with an elastic bandage or compression stocking can help to minimize the swelling and support your knee
- Elevation: Elevating the knee above heart level will also help with swelling and pain
Acute or mild knee injury does not require a knee surgery. It can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and also it is necessary to drain out accumulated extra joint fluid with the use of a syringe or needle. If pain persist for a long time, or appears at night or while at rest, it is important to visit a doctor to seek advice.