The knee is the largest and most complicated joint in the body, and as a major weight-bearing joint. It is also one of the most frequently to get injured.

The knee joint sits between the femur (the thigh bone) and the tibia (the shin bone), and at the front of the joint is the patella (the kneecap). The knee is made up of a number of different structures which include ligaments, muscles, capsule, synovial membrane and two pieces of cartilage called the menisci, which are located between the femur and tibia.

These structures within the knee can become damaged by a single trauma like a twist or impact, or by general wear and tear over a long period of time. As a result the knee structures can require a fair amount of the correct treatment and rehabilitation to heal.

Knee pain overview

Damage, strain or sprain to the structures of the knee can give rise to common symptoms including knee pain, stiffness, aching, locking, swelling, limping and difficulty with fully straightening or bending the knee. Osteoarthritis is a very common condition that affects the knee.

Other knee pain and problems are the result of issues and problems elsewhere in the body. Poor alignment of the knee or kneecap and resultant abnormal mechanics in relation to other joints such as the hips or ankles often play a part. For example, an arthritic hip refers pain to the knee area on the same side, and many back problems, especially those with the sacroiliac joint (the joint between the pelvis and the spine), can cause thigh or knee pain too.

Knee pain can be debilitating and have a significant effect on mobility. Over the long term, poor alignment and incorrect mechanics can also lead to earlier degenerative problems.

Some of the more common knee problems

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is basically wear and tear of the knee. Sometimes the knee can ache, or is painful after activities such as going up or down stairs. There may be stiffness in the knee, especially after a rest or when getting up in the morning. The knee pain may be felt within the joint itself, around the outside, or just in one particular place. Osteoarthritis can be effectively treated, especially if the treatment is started early on.

Sports injuries

Two of the most common sports knee injury types are ligament tears (cruciate ligament tears and collateral ligament tears), and meniscal (cartilage) tears.

Ligament tears often occur when excessive force is applied to the knee (often sideways), with the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) being the most commonly affected. Twisting the body whilst the foot is firmly planted on the ground can also cause a sprain to one of the cruciate ligaments. Other structures such as the joint capsule and the collateral ligaments (which are on the inside and outside of the knee) are also regularly damaged. Injury usually results in immediate severe pain and swelling.

The meniscus (cartilage) lines the ends of the tibia and femur (the shin bone and the thigh bone that meet in the knee). Cartilage tears can occur when the knee is over-rotated, and usually results in the knee swelling, locking or giving way.

Chondromalacia patellae

Chondromalacia patellae (commonly called runner’s knee) is wear and tear under the kneecap where the cartilage deteriorates and softens. There is then irritation as it slides against the end of the femur (thigh bone), which can lead to a feeling like a ‘graunching’ deep inside the joint. Climbing stairs or deep knee bends can be particularly painful.

Bursa inflammation

Bursa are similar to tyres filled with a viscous material which effectively act as pads between the tendons, muscles and bones around the knee. These pads can become inflamed, swollen and irritated, which then usually gives rise to pain immediately above or below the kneecap.

Biomechanical issues

Problems such as kneecap lateral tracking (moving towards the outside) is the result of many different issues including such problems as lack of strength of the quad muscles nearer to the inside of the leg(s), fallen arches in the feet, differences in leg length, a twisted pelvic, and others.

Osgood Schlatter’s disease

Over-activity in children and adolescence may result in this condition, where the muscles at the front of the thigh pull at the surface of the bone where they are attached just below the knee. Osgood Schlatter’s disease gives rise to a visible, painful lump just below the knee that is made worse by activity but eases with rest. Episodes of pain can typically last a few weeks to a few months.

Osteopathic diagnosis for knee pain

If you are experiencing knee pain, an experienced osteopath can assess you joints and muscles holistically, looking particularly from the low back to the feet, to accurately determine the cause (or causes) of your knee pain.

Most strains and sprains, or problems with ligaments and muscle imbalance can be addressed with osteopathic treatment to support the recovery process. However, if needed, you can be referred for further medical assessment with a relevant specialist.

Are you suffering from knee pain?

Stephanie Witts at The Pain Relief Clinic is a registered Osteopath and an expert in the treatment of knee pain and other disorders. Find out more about The Pain Relief Clinic and Stephanie Witts, and if you’re looking for an osteopath in Hassocks why not get in touch today, there’s no need to suffer in silence.

The Pain Relief Clinic Hassocks 01273 04 78 81.