Causes of Knee Injuries
- While direct blows will occur, the knee is more susceptible to twisting or stretching injuries, taking the joint through a greater range of motion than it can tolerate.
- If the knee is stressed from a specific direction, then the ligament trying to hold it in place against that force can tear. Ligament stretching or tears are called sprains.
- Injuries of the muscles and tendons surrounding the knee are caused by acute hyperflexion or hyperextension of the knee or by overuse.
Knee Injury Symptoms
- Acute knee injuries can cause pain and swelling with difficulty bending the knee and weight-bearing.
- Longer-term symptoms that point to knee problems will include pain and swelling in addition to other complaints.
- Inflammation in the joint may be caused by even minor activity. Swelling may be intermittent, brought on by activity, and may gradually resolve as the inflammation decreases.
- Locking is the term used when the knee joint refuses to completely straighten, and this is always due to torn cartilage. In this situation, the torn piece of cartilage folds upon itself and doesn’t allow the knee to extend.
Emergent medical care should be sought if, due to injury:
- There is almost immediate swelling in the knee
- If the bones appear deformed
- If there is inability to bear weight
- If the pain is intolerable
- If there is loss of sensation below the injury site
- Or if the foot and ankle turn cold and no pulses can be felt.
- Almost all knee injuries will need more than one visit to the doctor. If no operation is indicated, then RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) with some strengthening exercises and perhaps physical therapy will be needed. Sometimes the decision for surgery is delayed to see if the RICE and physical therapy will be effective.
- With the technology available, many knee injuries that require surgery can be treated surgically with an arthroscope, where a camera is used and small punctures are made in the knee to insert instruments. Patients usually begin their post-op rehabilitation within days of the surgery.
- Sometimes surgery is delayed to allow the patient to strengthen the muscles around the knee joint. If there is no rush to operate, then opportunity exists to strengthen the quadriceps and hamstring muscles beforehand to allow for easier post-operative therapy