Knee Pain in Adults

Patient education: Knee pain (The Basics)
Written by the doctors and editors at UpToDate

What causes knee pain?
— Many different conditions can cause knee pain. Some of the most common are listed below.

●Bending or using the knee too much – This can cause pain in the front of the knee that worsens with running, climbing steps, or sitting for a long time.

●Arthritis – Arthritis is a general term that means inflammation of the joints. There are lots of types of arthritis. The most common type, called osteoarthritis, often comes with age. It can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling (figure 1).

●Bursitis – Bursitis happens when fluid-filled sacs around the knee (called “bursae”) get irritated or swollen (figure 2). Bursitis can cause pain and swelling.

●A collection of fluid in the knee – This can happen after a knee injury.

●A tear in the meniscus – The meniscus is a cushion of rubbery material (cartilage) between the thigh bone and the leg bone.

●A tear in a ligament – Ligaments are bands of tissue that connect one bone to another. There are 4 ligaments in each knee.

●Muscle strain – Different leg muscles move the knee joint, causing the knee to bend and straighten. If one of these muscles doesn’t work well, moving the knee can cause pain.

●Other knee injuries, a knee joint infection, or a condition called gout, which causes crystals to form inside joints.

●Conditions that don’t involve the knee – For example, problems in the hip can sometimes cause knee pain.

Figure 1.

Figure 2.

Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better?
— Yes. To ease your symptoms, you can:

●Put ice on the knee to reduce pain and swelling – For the first few weeks after an injury, or after an activity that worsens pain, you could try icing your knee. Put a cold gel pack, bag of ice, or bag of frozen vegetables on the injured area every 1 to 2 hours, for 15 minutes each time. Put a thin towel between the ice (or other cold object) and your skin. To reduce swelling, sit or lie down and raise your leg above the level of your heart when you put ice on it.

●Rest your knee and avoid movements that worsen the pain – Try not to squat, kneel, or run. Also, don’t use exercise machines, such as stair steppers or rowing machines. Instead, you can walk or swim (the front and back crawl strokes) for exercise.

●Take a pain-relieving medicine, such as acetaminophen (sample brand name: Tylenol) or ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil, Motrin).

Should I see a doctor?
— See your doctor if:
●You are unable to put weight on your knee or your knee “gives out”
●Your knee is very swollen and painful
●You have a fever with knee pain, swelling, and redness
●Your knee pain doesn’t get better or gets worse after you treat it on your own for a few days

How is knee pain treated?
— The right treatment for knee pain depends on what is causing it. Treatments might include:
●Wearing a knee brace or shoe insert
●Doing exercises to strengthen and stretch the muscles that move the knee joint – Ask your doctor or nurse which exercises can help with the cause of your pain.
●Having physical therapy
●Getting a shot of medicine in the knee
●Other medicines

All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Oct 13, 2016.

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