Knee pain when bending can be debilitating. Here’s what you need to know to get some relief from chronic knee pain.
Almost nothing will put you on your back faster than the sharp pain that comes with an injured knee. Knee pain while bending can strike suddenly, and it can be caused by any number of illnesses or injuries. Roughly one third of the patients that visit doctors for muscle or bone pain are specifically seeking physical rehabilitation treatment for knee injury and pain.
Knee injuries are very common in athletes. More than 40% of people who play basketball, soccer, or football will suffer a knee injury at some point, and more than 60% of all snow skiers. Even dancers are not immune, with almost one third suffering from knee injury or pain. Many of people who play sports will require Sports Physical Therapy at some point in their athletic career.
Whatever the cause, severe knee pain probably won’t go away on its own and calls for medical attention. Here’s a rundown on some of the common causes of knee pain while bending, treatment options, and a few tips that will guide you to a swift recovery.
The first of order of business when you are experiencing chronic knee pain is to consult with an expert. There are a number of healthcare providers in the field of physical rehab that might be able to answer any questions and diagnose any problem you have. Physiotherapists, chiropractors and orthopedists all have the ability to diagnose and treat knee pain.
Anatomy of the Knee
The knee is the largest of the body’s joints. Though it feels like a solid mass in the middle of your leg, it’s actually an intricate assembly of bone and cartilage that’s held together by tightly wrapped ligaments. The kneecap is technically known as the patella, and it’s a solid disk of bone. Behind it, the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia) meet to form a hinge that’s cushioned by thick pads of cartilage.
Symptoms of a Serious Problem
Pain anywhere in this area could be the sign of a serious injury. It can come on swiftly or gradually build over days or weeks to the point that you’re left limping or rendered immobile. Signs of knee inflammation include:
- Reddening of the skin
- The knee area feels warm to the touch
Often, a knee injury triggers this inflammatory response, though it could also be the result of an infection.
Do you have pain above the kneecap?
Above the kneecap, your patella is secured by a strong tendon that connects the bone to the powerful muscles in your thigh. Pain in this location can indicate that you’ve sprained or torn this tendon. It’s also possible, as with any pain you feel in this complicated part of the body, that the pain is referred from deeper in the joint, as with a tear in the knee’s cartilage.
Do you pain in back of knee?
Behind the knee, the flesh of your leg feels soft and thickly padded. This region known as the poplitealis home to a number of blood vessels that feed your lower leg. You can even feel your pulse in this region if you can locate your popliteal artery. Pain in this region of the knee is sometimes the result of damage to or inflammation of these soft tissues.
Do you have knee pain when bending down?
When you bend down over as if to touch your toes, you’re flexing some of the muscles attached to your knee. The pulling effect can put extra pressure on the delicate tissues of the joint, and if you have any swelling there, the pain can be severe.
Do you have knee pain when pending, without swelling?
Without swelling, local warming, or other signs of inflammation, the problem is less likely to be associated with your knees’ soft tissues and more likely to be a problem with the bone itself. Osteoporosis, arthritis, and gout can all cause crippling pain in the lower extremities with the knee being one of the more common locations for damage caused by these conditions.
Many people delay seeking treatment when confronted with knee pain. This is totally understandable, but it’s important to note that knee pain can be caused by any number of different problems. There’s no way to diagnose a knee problem without seeing a specialist in orthopedics, and any pain severe enough to impair movement should always be referred to a doctor as soon as possible. In fact, roughly one half people with knee injuries wind up seeking medical treatment, so it’s best to not wait. It is also possible to receive physical therapy treatment at home.
Along with visiting your doctor, there are things you can do from home for less severe pain. Rubbing a balm into the skin of the knee is popular for aches that can come on with overexertion or advancing age. For acute pain and inflammation, such as that caused by a sprain, try putting ice in a plastic bag, wrapping the bag in a hand towel to protect your skin from the worst of the cold, and resting it on your swollen knee for fifteen minutes at a time. It goes without saying that if the pain persists or gets worse, it’s time to call the doctor.
Some knee problems won’t respond to at-home remedies. A good first step for persistent knee pain is to take the recommended dose of an over-the-counter medication such as Aleve or Motrin. Ibuprofen the active ingredient in Motrin is especially useful for this kind of pain because it acts to reduce inflammation as well as managing pain. For chronic knee pain or pain too severe to manage with OTC drugs, your doctor might prescribe stronger medication that will help you manage the pain better. Knee pain is responsible for approximately one-third of all doctor’s visits for muscle or bone pain, so modern medicine has had a lot of experience with effective treatment plans.
Surgery for Traumatic Injury
When medication isn’t enough to manage pain or restore your mobility, it might be time to consider surgery. Surgery can be indicated for any number of different injuries to the knee. One problem that’s very common among athletes is a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). While this doesn’t always call for surgery, a severe tear to this ligament which holds the upper leg to the knee joint often leaves surgery as the best option.
Total Knee Replacement
Sometimes, the damage to the knee is the result of a chronic issue such as osteoarthritis. When the bone in the knee has deteriorated or the cartilaginous pads between the bones have worn away, it is sometimes necessary to opt for a total knee replacement. This procedure has evolved toward a less-invasive approach that ends with new synthetic components being inserted into the knee joint. There are currently more than 14.5 million Americans living with a total knee replacement, and more than 90% of these types of patients report a dramatic decrease in knee pain and increased mobility after surgery.
Some kinds of knee injuries are amenable to treatment at home or by noninvasive remedies. Others are either the result of serious injury or chronic illness and have to be treated more aggressively. If you experience knee pain when bending knee components, such as the patella or ACL, or if the pain gets worse when you’re sitting or kneeling, you’ll want to try ice or over-the-counter medications. If these don’t bring immediate relief, it might be time to see a specialist. Knee pain when bending leg joints isn’t a minor problem, and it can be a sign of serious underlying issues. Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor with any questions you may have.