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Knee joints are crucial to good mobility. Ours knees are particularly susceptible to damage and pain because they take the full weight of our bodies especially during high impact sports. In this blog post we look at five of the most prevalent knee problems we see at The Edinburgh Clinic.
Arthritis affects around 10 million people within the UK. Arthritis is a joint disorder and the pain is usually localised to the affected joints. There are many different types of arthritis (around 100) but osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most prevalent forms.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the UK and affects the cartilage between the bones. The surfaces within your joints become damaged so the joint doesn’t move as smoothly as it should. This leads to painful rubbing of bone on bone within joints causing pain and stiffness. The knee is a joint that is frequently affected by osteoarthritis, often developing in those over the age of 50.That said, the condition can develop at any age as a result of an injury or other joint-related conditions.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It develops when the body's immune system attacks and destroys the affected joints, causing pain and swelling to occur. Symptoms usually vary over time, the condition can sometimes be very painful, making movement and everyday activity difficult. It often starts in people between the ages of 40 and 50 years old and women are more likely to be affected than men.
The menisci are cartilage tissue in the knee joints which act as shock absorbers. The menisci can be torn, usually due to a forceful knee movement whilst weight bearing on the same leg. Meniscal injuries are common in sports such as football, tennis, rugby and skiing and result in pain, swelling and restricted knee movement. Some tears heal by themselves, but an operation to fix, trim or remove the meniscus may be required in the more severe cases.
Cruciate ligament injuries
Cruciate ligament injuries are common in athletes. Of the four major ligaments found in the knee, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the medial collateral ligament (MCL) are the most often injured.
The ACL is commonly stretched or torn by a sudden twisting of the knee through a constant shifting of direction, and movement of weight from one knee to the other. This type of injury is common in footballers and results in severe pain, swelling and instability of the knee. Depending on the severity of the injury the patient may need surgery or long term physiotherapy.
The MCL provides your knee with stability and limits the amount it can move from side to side. An MCL injury is most commonly caused by the twisting of the knee at the same time as the foot being firmly planted on the ground. This trauma is frequently seen in skiers and results in pain and stiffness, swelling and instability of the knee. MCL injuries can require surgery and/or physiotherapy.
Tendinitis is a term used to describe inflammation of the tendon and can affect many parts of the body. Tendons are strong bands of tissue that attach muscle to bone and help move the bones and joints when the muscles contract. Tendonitis is caused by over using a tendon (for example repetitive strain injury) or due to a tendon injury. Tendon pain can get better after a few days rest but in more severe cases surgery, physiotherapy or corticosteroid injections may be required. Patellar tendonitis, or “jumper’s knee” occurs in athletes who are involved in sports which require excessive jumping, hence the name. The patellar tendon in the knee becomes inflamed and irritated and this can become a chronic condition for some athletes.
Anterior knee pain
Anterior knee pain is used to describe a range of conditions causing pain in and around the kneecap, because of this diagnosis can be difficult. The kneecap and thigh bone work closely together when the knee is bent and straightened. If for some reason this doesn’t work smoothly, anterior knee pain may result.
Adolescent anterior knee pain is thought to be the most common form of anterior knee pain, it is prevalent among active, healthy adolescents (usually girls) but the causes are not always clear. It is thought that numerous factors can contribute towards adolescent anterior knee pain including; imbalance of thigh muscles poor flexibility, leg alignment and overactivity.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is also known as runner’s knee. The stress of running can cause irritation where the kneecap (patella) rests on the thighbone. The cause can often be weak quadriceps and tight hamstrings. Running on softer ground or wearing an orthotic are both thought to help this common problem.
Some forms of anterior knee pain can worsen with activity and other forms can cause pain whilst sitting, this is known as “cinema-goers knee”. Depending on the severity of the pain, simple rest can remedy some patients but more chronic cases may require physiotherapy.
Our new knee arthroscopy service is now available at The Edinburgh Clinic with our expert orthopaedic surgeon. For more information or to book an appointment with us, please call 0131 447 2340.