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Knee pain is an extremely common occurrence. It may be chronic (long-lasting) or acute (short-term). According to a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 20% of adults ages 18 and up reported experiencing knee pain. Almost all Americans will experience some form of knee pain during his or her life. Knee pain can be caused by a variety of factors and therefore there are many different pathways for treatment and prevention.
Knee pain can be caused by a variety of factors. Common causes of knee pain include:
Age-related degeneration. The knee is a complex joint that withstands an immense amount of pressure from walking, jumping, running, etc. According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, the forces exerted on the knees while walking on level ground is equal to 1 ½ times the weight of the body. For example, a person weighing 150 pounds exerts about 225 pounds of pressure on the knee joints. Because the knee sustains such a large amount of impact, as the body ages, protective cartilages may become worn or damaged and the supporting muscles may weaken.
Arthritis. Arthritis is a common condition that causes joint pain. According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately one in five (22.7%) adults in the United States report having doctor diagnosed arthritis. The prevalence of arthritis increases to almost 1 in 2 for adults ages 65 and older. For more information on arthritis, visit the Arthritis Condition Center.
Injury. Knee injuries account for approximately 15% of sports injuries. Knee injuries can also be caused by accidents, falls, slips, or other trauma to the knee. Common knee injuries include:
The following factors can increase your risk of developing a knee injury:
Diagnostic procedures for the underlying causes of knee pain vary. If you are experiencing knee pain, see a doctor. He or she will be able to conduct the proper set of diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your knee pain. Tests that your doctor may conduct include:
Medical history/family history. A complete medical history, including a list of symptoms and a family history of disease, will help your doctor better understand your risk of certain illnesses/conditions.
Physical exam to look for physical signs of knee injury/illness including discoloration, swelling, tenderness, range of motion, strength, and warmth.
Imaging techniques, which help provide doctors with images of the knee joint tissues/bones. These include:
Blood tests to rule out the presence of certain disease-specific proteins.
The following tips can help you manage living with knee pain:
The following tips can help you prevent knee-related injury/pain:
Pain relief medications come in different forms and strengths. They are available as prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications and can treat various type of pain, including acute and chronic conditions, injuries and traumas, cancer and post-surgical discomfort. All medications have side effects, and many pain-relieving medications can be highly addictive. Speak with your doctor about what side effects you can expect from the medications you are taking.
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications include:
Prescription pain relievers include:
Some cases of knee pain may require surgical intervention. The specifics of knee surgery depend on the patient and the cause of the knee pain. Common surgical procedures performed on the knee include:
Physical therapy is a necessity after many surgical procedures to help regain strength and mobility of the joint. It can also help reduce pain and increase mobility for patients experiencing knee pain who have not undergone surgery.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CCAM) the currently available evidence is not strong enough to allow definite conclusions to be reached about whether any complementary approach is effective for chronic pain. However, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that several approaches may help to manage some painful conditions including low back pain, headaches, rheumatoid arthritis (including in the knee) and osteoarthritis.
These approaches are:
Marijuana has recently been in the spotlight as a possibly effective remedy for chronic pain sufferers. Several clinical studies have shown Marijuana’s ability to provide relief to chronic pain sufferers. Use of medical marijuana is controversial due to the substance’s reputation as a recreational drug. A growing number of states are legalizing medical marijuana, though the substance still remains illegal in the majority of the country.
If you are experiencing unexplained knee pain, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
If you are taking pain medication and experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
** If you experience chest pain, call emergency services. This may be a sign of heart attack.
You may want to ask your doctor the following questions:
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