Knees are amongst the body’s most hard-working joints, allowing our legs to bend and straighten. They give us the flexibility and stability we need to stand, walk, run, crouch, jump and turn. Your knees may become sore for a number of reasons.
The most widespread arthritis of the knee is osteoarthritis, where the cartilage in the knee slowly wears away. The symptoms of osteoarthritis include stiffness and pain. Rheumatoid arthritis and gout may also affect the knee, causing it to become inflamed and destroying the cartilage.
Treatments for osteoarthritis include painkillers, medicines to reduce swelling and inflammation, and exercise. Rheumatoid arthritis can be treated with physical therapy, medicines and, for more serious cases, knee replacement surgery.
Common cartilage injuries
Chondromalacia patellae – more commonly known as runner’s knee – occurs when the cartilage of the kneecap softens. The most common symptom is a dull pain around or under the kneecap that worsens when walking down stairs or hills.
A meniscus injury also affects the cartilage. The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of cartilage that acts as a cushion between the thighbone and shinbone. It can be injured when the knee is twisted while supporting weight. The seriousness of the tear depends on the location and size of the injury. This is a common injury for skiiers.
Treatments for cartilage injuries include painkillers, rest, physiotherapy, or surgery as a last resort. If you suspect you have damaged your cartilage, you should visit your doctor immediately. They may refer you to a specialist, or recommend strengthening exercises. Your pharmacist may also be able to recommend a knee support that could help.
Two ligaments that can be damaged in the knee are the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). Forty percent of all sports injuries involve the ACL. It is often stretched or torn (sometimes both) by a rapid twisting motion, while the PCL is usually injured by direct impact, such as in a rugby tackle. Medial and lateral collateral ligaments – the other two ligaments found in the knee – are also most often injured by a hit to the side of the knee.
To treat ligament injuries, you can use ice packs immediately after the injury to reduce inflammation. If you think you've damaged a ligament, you should see your Doctor as soon as possible. They may refer you to a specialist. Treatments include exercises to strengthen surrounding muscles, using a brace, or surgery as a last resort to correct more serious damage.
These injuries range from inflammation of a tendon (known as tendinitis) to a ruptured or torn tendon. They occur when a tendon is overused (especially in sports) or during a fall. Tendon injuries or disorders are often treated with a method known as PRICE. This stands for:
• Protection – protecting yourself from further injury using a support
• Rest – limiting your activity and avoiding exercise
• Ice – although be careful not to leave it on for too long
• Compression – such as using an elasticated bandage
• Elevation – sitting or lying with your leg supported and raised on a cushion or stool
You can speak to your pharmacist for advice about medicines that may help. If your knee is swollen, hot to the touch or you're in severe pain or unable to put weight on it, you should visit your Doctor. They may be able to suggest strengthening and stretching exercises that could be helpful, or refer you to a specialist if necessary.
• If your knee feels hot or swollen, seek medical advice immediately
• If you're struggling with knee pain, speak to your doctor or pharmacist about what options are available
• If you suspect you've seriously injured your knee, you should visit your Doctor as soon as possible