When we hear of “serious” knee injuries, especially in professional athletics, they’re often easy to spot. A soccer player’s rapid pivoting motion and sudden direction change result in him being down on the field. Boom! He tore his ACL. Perhaps in another case, it’s a severe motor vehicle crash, and the driver suffers a blow to the knee. Bang! She tore her PCL. These examples are what medical experts refer to as acute injuries. Acute means the injury happens suddenly, and the person suffering it (and those observing it, in many cases) can usually pinpoint the exact time or activity they were engaged in.
However, the truth about plenty of knee injuries is that they don’t always come in with a boom or a bang. Many seem to creep up on their unsuspecting victims, who were otherwise unaware, or who ignored the warning signs until the pain, disability, or instability became so severe that it got in the way of everyday living. Consider the following knee conditions or injuries:
Arthritis – There are more than 100 different types of arthritis in existence. But the three most common to affect the knees include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. These conditions are considered chronic, meaning they build up over time and, often, with age.
Meniscal Tears – Over time, whether from the effects of arthritis or getting up awkwardly from a seated position, are enough to result in a meniscus tear. The meniscus is the tough, rubbery cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between the shinbone and the thighbone.
Loose Body – A piece of bone or cartilage that has broken off and is floating in the knee joint space may have been there for years. It could have resulted from a previous acute injury that didn’t present symptoms at the time. But if the loose body moves and interferes with the movement of the knee joint, it can seem like a pencil stuck in the hinge of a door – causing troublesome problems for the mechanics of the knee.
Patellar fractures – The most common type of knee fracture is in the patella. The patella is a small bone that covers and protects the front of the knee joint. Arthritis can cause the weakening of all bones in the body, and the patella is not immune. In some people with severe cases of arthritis, patellar fractures can occur from activities that don’t involve severe trauma to the knee.
So, if your knee pain becomes severe or bad enough to have you altering your otherwise active life, please make an appointment with your physician to get to the bottom of what’s causing it. Even if you can’t recall an exact “bang, boom!” moment the pain began – it is ALWAYS worth evaluating. So many non-invasive treatments and therapies available today can get you back to living the healthy and active life you deserve. Don’t wait. Make the call and set the appointment. Your knees will be happy you did.