Comprehensive Guide to Knee injuries
An active lifestyle is being healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally. Many stay active by doing multiple tasks, participate in sports, or exercising regularly. When you exercise your brain gets a boost of endorphins, which makes you feel happier and more energetic. We all could use more natural "feel good" chemicals in our lives.
However, anytime we participate in sports, activities, and exercise, there is a risk of injury. Some injuries are more problematic than others because they take a toll on our ability to get around, especially injuries to the legs, feet, or knees. Your lower body is necessary to keep up an active lifestyle. When knee injuries strike, a stabilizer can help to provide support to expedite healing.
What are Different Types of Injuries?
It's important to understand the anatomy of the knee to know how the knee may be injured. The knee operates like a hinge, which allows bending, squatting, running, and so on. The thighbone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia) lie above and below the knee joint and meet in the center at the kneecap (patella). The kneecap also consists of four ligaments that help provide support to the knee. Surrounding the ligaments is cartilage and tendons. Anytime damage occurs to the bones, ligaments, tendons, or cartilage, it results in injury to the knee. Here are some of the more common knee injuries:
A fracture in any of the bones around the knee or the kneecap will put you out of commission for a while. Most people get a fractured knee because of a serious incident, like a car accident. However, some people who have osteoporosis may get a fracture more readily because of the brittleness of their bones.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury
One of the main ligaments in your knee is anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). When this ligament becomes torn or strained, it results in substantial pain. People who play sports are more prone to get this injury especially if you need to turn directions suddenly during the sport. Stopping and turning abruptly is the main way this injury occurs. It's also possible to incur this type of injury during a fall down the stairs, because your foot may trip on a step. You may hear a slight popping sound and then feel a sharp pain when you injure your anterior cruciate ligament.
When you injure this ligament you'll have some difficulty putting all your weight down on your leg, and you may experience swelling. The injury ranges in severity and is graded on a scale from one to three. A grade one injury to the anterior cruciate ligament means you have a mild strain while a grade three means you have torn the ligament, and you would benefit from knee support. However, sometimes surgery is necessary to repair the torn ligament, and afterward, the knee support will aid in the healing process.
Your knee has two menisci that are positioned right above the shinbone and below the kneecap. The menisci are cartilage that provides a buffer between the shinbone and the thighbone. The menisci become injured when you twist your leg or turn it quickly. This happens more frequently than you would think. Some of the symptoms of tearing the cartilage there include pain and stiffness as well as difficulty with your range of motion.
A dislocated knee and a dislocated kneecap are two different conditions. With a dislocated knee, your shinbone (tibia) and thighbone (femur) become out of alignment with one another around the knee area. This usually happens during an accident or serious fall of some type. This type of injury is not as common as other types of knee injuries but can be quite traumatic.
A dislocated kneecap happens when your knee gets hit while your foot remains in place. This could be from an object striking it during an accident or some types of sports. When you have a dislocated knee or kneecap, symptoms may include any of the following:
- Popping sound when the situation occurs
- Pain around the knee
- Difficulty walking or putting pressure on the knee joint
- Problems moving the knee around or bending it (i.e. range of motion issues)
- Knee looks deformed in some way
How Do Knee Injuries Happen?
Knee injuries can occur for a variety of reasons. For some people who have compromised bones such as due to osteoporosis, a knee injury may occur just from walking on pavement the "wrong" way. Maybe while making a turn down a street or hallway, your knee will pop and you have an injury. While this isn't extremely common, it can occur.
Other people have strong bones and no trouble with osteoporosis, but they still end up with a knee injury, because of a rough game of sports or an accident. Many people get some type of injury while playing sports. Ways to prevent sport injuries are as follows:
- Always take a few minutes to warm up before exercising or playing sports
- Wear appropriate supportive shoes
- Wear knee supports if you are playing a highly active sport or if you have weak knees
- Be aware of your leg positions, especially stopping, turning, and twisting suddenly
Car accidents and falls are other reasons people get knee injuries. There is really no way to prevent accidents, but if you have one take the measures necessary to expedite healing.
How Long Does it Take to Heal From a Knee Injury?
Each knee injury is unique, and therefore takes a different amount of time to heal. If you have a mild strain or a grade 1 ACL, then with proper rest and knee support you may heal in two weeks (possibly less). However, if you get a fracture or full-blown tear, you may take up to 3-6 months to completely heal.
What Exercises Help Knee Injuries?
With some knee injuries, you have to wait before you can safely do exercises. You need to get your doctor's approval before attempting any type of exercise. However, these exercises are helpful in strengthening your knee and can aid in the recovery process:
Lie on your back. Bend your good leg and place your foot flat on the floor. Lift the other leg up until it's about as high as the other leg. Do three sets of 10.
Lie on your stomach. Use the muscles in the back of your thigh to slowly lift your calves up and come as close to your behind as possible with your feet. You can use weights if desired. Do three sets of 10.
Prone Leg Raises
Lie on your stomach with your legs straight. Tighten up the muscles in one leg and your bottom. Lift the leg upward as high as you can, but make sure you don't lift it high enough to feel pain. Hold for a few seconds, then lower your leg. Repeat this 10 times, then do the other leg.
Stand up against a wall, then squat down into a sitting position keeping your back upright. Make sure that you don't squat too far down or feel any pain. If you feel pain, then you are going too low or not positioned properly.
How Can I Heal Faster From a Knee Injury?
Everyone who gets any type of injury wants healing to occur overnight. A knee injury is in a delicate position because it directly aids in the walking process. With some knee injuries, you may have to stay off your feet for a short period. However, with most injuries, if you follow these healing tips, you can be up and about sooner:
- Take it easy. Don't overdo it by trying to play sports or participate in strenuous activities right away. You probably shouldn't do stairs either unless your doctor tells you that it's OK.
- Use ice for the first several days. This is especially important immediately following an injury. In fact, using ice may help reduce the severity of a minor injury. If you have a more serious injury, ice will help with the swelling and pain.
- Wear a supportive knee brace to help stabilize an otherwise weak or shaky knee. These knee supports will compress your knee helping with the pain and also ensuring that you don't damage it further.
- Elevate your leg the first day or two to help reduce the swelling and promote blood flow and circulation.
A knee injury is hurtful and causes a lot of stress. It hampers our lifestyle because we must make some necessary temporary changes. However, in time, you will be back to normal again ready to take on life with a vengeance. In the meantime, at Mueller Sports Medicine we are here to help you get through this difficult time with as little pain as possible. Our experienced sports medicine staff is ready to discuss what type of knee products will help you most during the healing process. Take a look at our website or get in touch with us with your questions.