Why Does My Knee Hurt and What Can I Do About It?

Posted in Knee   |   By

Erin Barsness

September 27, 2019

Your active lifestyle keeps you feeling energized, youthful, and ready to conquer life! You enjoy the natural boost you get when you exercise, and even if you're not following a specific exercise routine, your life revolves around movement. Whether it's taking the five flights of stairs at the office, delving into year-round yard work, or playing with your kids at the park, your life is as much physical activity as it is inaction. You love it that way. Then, one day, out of seemingly nowhere, you are hit with something that threatens to knock your activity way level down. No, it's not busyness on the job that distracts you from keeping up with your active lifestyle. No, it's not a new baby demanding all of your attention. It's not even a car accident or sickness. It's pain -- an intense pain in your knee. This pain is threatening to change your lifestyle from active to inactive. However, it doesn't have to stop you from participating in all the things you love to do. With the proper knee treatment and care, you will be up and running again – literally.

So, just why do people get knee pain? What causes it and how do you treat it? Does it go away completely in time? Can you still use your knee when it's in so much pain? These are common questions for those affected. Read on to find out all you need to know about knee pain and its treatment.

 

What happened to my knee? Why does my knee hurt?

People expect to have some pain when there's an injury or accident. Suppose you are playing a tough game of football and you fall on your knee. You would naturally expect to have pain in your knee. Or if perhaps you get in an auto accident and your legs and knees are banged up, you know why you have pain. However, some causes of knee pain may not be evident to you. For example, if you are playing tennis and reach out to hit the ball and jerk your leg abnormally in the process, this can result in knee pain. Or if you are chasing your child around the park and twist your leg slightly, you can end up with knee pain. These actions may not seem like injuries but they do in fact do some damage to the fibers of the ligaments.

The most common cause of knee injury are:

  • Sprained ligaments
  • Meniscus tears
  • Tendinitis
  • Runner's knee
  • ACL injury

There are other reasons besides an injury that can cause your knee pain such as osteoarthritis, bursitis, dislocated kneecap, or disease. In addition, an old injury that never healed completely can lead to reoccurring pain. While many different situations can result in knee pain, the most common is sports-related injuries.

 

How bad is my knee injury?

When you first experience the excruciating pain of a knee injury, it can feel quite serious. Knee injuries can be either acute or chronic. Acute knee pain comes on suddenly and usually clears up relatively quick. Chronic knee pain may bother you on and off for years. Although chronic knee pain may not be as intense as acute, the ongoing nature of the pain causes much suffering. In addition, knee injuries are categorized accordingly:

Grade I

The grade I knee injury is the least traumatized of the three. The fibers of the ligaments are damaged but there's no visible tearing. If you have this type of injury you may not experience much pain, swelling, or tenderness. If so, it will be mild and the knee is steady and capable of holding up during movement. However, it still needs care or the injury could progress to a higher grade level. 

Grade II

This type of injury will be slightly worse than grade I. The main difference you will notice is that the knee feels slightly shaky under pressure. It could even give out on you while walking. You won't notice any visible signs of injury such as extreme swelling or discoloration. However, a grade II injury means the fibers of the ligament are partially torn, but it's not a complete break.

Grade III

This grade represents the worst of knee injuries. In this situation, the fibers have torn totally, causing the ligament, that holds the knee to the leg, to break into two pieces. You will likely experience pain, swelling, and redness. The swelling is more pronounced in some people than others. Although the pain may not feel severe, the injury itself is substantial. Since the ligament is torn completely, you will have difficulty keeping balanced. Your knee may give out without warning as well.

 

Is it ok to use my knee when I injured it?

The first thing people may wonder after a knee injury or when experiencing knee pain from other causes is if it's ok to use your knee. It's normal to want to stay off your leg when you experience an injury. For one thing, it's painful and for another, there is the nagging fear that you'll make it worse. While it's true that you need to give your knee a bit of time after the initial injury, especially if you experienced a grade III type of injury, you don't want to let your knee become stiff from not using it. So, just when is the right time to begin moving around after a knee injury? Again, it will depend on the type of injury you have. If you have a totally torn ligament, you won't be able to walk easily. You will feel unsteady and may even fall. So, it will be obvious to you that resting your leg is necessary at this stage. However, as your knee begins to feel better, the swelling goes down, and you aren't as unsteady, then walking is fine. Of course, you'll want to use a knee stabilizer to provide your knee with maximum support while you heal.

 

What treatment options are there for my injured knee?

Treatment for your injured knee may be categorized into these three areas:

Rest treatment

If your injury was somewhat severe, you need to take time for the RICE method of healing. Most people are familiar with this method but let's review it. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. When icing your knee, leave the ice pack on for approximately 15 minutes, three times a day. Compression means wrapping your knee with a bandage that will decrease the swelling. Additionally, once the swelling goes down, you should wear a knee stabilizer, knee brace, or knee support. Elevate the leg a few times a day for about 15 minutes. It's convenient to elevate your leg at the same time that you are icing it.

 

Stabilizing treatment

Once you're over the initial shock of the injury, you can begin to heal. However, you want to make sure you support and stabilize your knee properly. Wearing a supportive brace or stabilizer gives your knee ligament the support it needs to go about your daily life without further damaging the ligament. Remember those knee injuries that don't heal properly can come back to bother you in later years.

 

Exercise treatment

The last part of your treatment occurs when you are well enough to walk steadily and you aren't experiencing any more pain or swelling. Get the go-ahead from your doctor before beginning your exercise treatment. You will likely know when it's time to begin a routine because you'll be feeling better. However, you don't want to do any high-impact exercises such as running, jumping, hard sports, and so on. Incorporating gentle exercises such as swimming, walking, and bicycling will help in the healing process. Exercises that professionals do not recommend after a knee injury include:

  • Knee extensions
  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Hurdlers

 

Stretches and strength building exercises are recommended as long as they don't put undue strain on the knee ligaments. Some of these include:

  • Leg lifts
  • Hamstring curls
  • Calf raises
  • Stair steps
  • Side leg raises
  • Leg presses

Whether you are doing cardio or strength building exercises, remember to wear your protective knee brace for added support and comfort.

 

When will my knee heal?

Anytime you have an injury, you're eager to be completely healed so that you can return to all your normal activities. Knee recuperation varies depending on what grade of injury it was and how severe within the grade it was. For example, a minor grade I injury may only take a week to mend. If the grade I injury is almost a grade II, then it may take two weeks to make a full recovery. When you reach a grade III knee injury and the ligament is completely torn, then recovery time may take several months. When people get surgery because of their knee problem the healing process takes even longer.

 

Don't let a knee injury keep you down. Take the steps to full recovery and reclaim your active lifestyle. At Mueller Sports, we're rooting for you. We want to be a part of your healing process. Connect with us today to find out more about our knee supports. 

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