Most of us have been there: you’re powering through a workout or doing something as ordinary as walking up the stairs and…ouch. Your knee twinges, pops, twists, or any other abnormal, unwelcomed feeling. The knees are fragile joints that do a lot for us on a daily basis. We use our knees to get out of bed, push the stroller, squat, deadlift, and even grocery shop. So, keeping the knees in top performance condition is ideal for everyone, not just athletes!
NB: This isn’t medical advice, all injuries should be discussed with your doctor and you should consult your physician before returning to any physical activity.
In the meantime, pull up a seat, maybe a bag of ice for that sore knee, and read up!
How Your Knee Works
There are two bones that form your knee joint, stabilized by four ligaments. The movement of your knee is controlled by the muscles in the front and back of your thigh – your quads and hamstrings. There are also two parts of your knee responsible for absorbing shock – any time you jump or land on your feet these pieces come to the rescue. So, there are many parts at play and many culprits when it comes to knee pain. All of these parts need to be functioning together properly in order to avoid knee pain and injury. If just one piece is out of whack, the whole thing starts to bother you.
To first self-diagnose your knee injury, you need to evaluate exactly what went down. Was there a direct hit to your knee? Did you twist it? Was your foot planted on the ground?
Twisting injuries or movement of the knee in any other direction other than forward and back, can cause meniscus tears.
Pain and swelling will increase over the next few hours after the injury. A meniscus tear can be felt by placing a hand on the joint line of the knee and feeling for fluid, tenderness, or looseness of the ligament. The pain of a meniscus tear can subside over time; however, chronic pain often develops. Those with a former meniscus injury may experience pain on and off, especially when climbing hills or stairs. A feeling of the knee giving away can also identify a meniscus tear. The best way to deal with this type of injury is to consult your doctor to determine the best care option.
If the knee is overused (hello, runners, athletes, etc.) or there is hyperextension or hyperflexion at the time of injury, you could be looking at a strain of the muscles (quads or hamstrings) supporting the knee. Strains can range from first to third degree, varying from an over-stretching to a full-blown tear. To treat a muscle strain, rest, ice, and elevate your knee. Crutches can also be used to take the work out of the injured leg and over the counter medication can be used to help bring swelling down.
If your foot was planted and a force from the side is directed towards your knee, you may be facing an MCL or LCL injury.
Though there is minimal swelling with an injury to these ligaments, you will likely feel noticeable pain and difficulty walking. If this describes your knee pain- rest, ice, compress, and elevate the injured area. To help protect and support your injured knee, you should consider investing in a knee immobilizer or moveable splint.
Common in sports events, if there is direct contact to your knee from the front or back as your foot is planted, an ACL injury may be affecting you.
With an ACL injury, the knee swells almost immediately and walking is difficult. ACL injuries take the longest to recover from and may require surgery. If this one describes your knee pain, seek medical attention sooner rather than later!
There is also the possibility of developing injuries to the knee cap over time.
Commonly seen in housekeepers and carpenters, repetitive kneeling or crawling can cause the space between the skin and the knee to swell. Bursa inflammation is diagnosed by swelling and can be eased with knee padding and over the counter medication to reduce swelling. Movement of the knee cap causes patellar injuries. Diagnosed by swelling and pain when the patella doesn’t slide smoothly within alignment, patellar injuries can be healed with rest, ice, elevation, and physical therapy to correct muscle imbalances that may have caused the injury.
Now, rest up and get back at it as soon as you’re feeling 100%!