Acute knee pain is pretty common — most of us have experienced at least mild knee pain after a day of strenuous activity. And in those cases, painful symptoms usually go away after a little rest and maybe an ice pack or two. Now imagine having knee pain on a regular basis — or even every day. That’s chronic knee pain, and unfortunately, it’s pretty common too. Depending on what’s causing your chronic knee pain, there’s a good chance ice packs aren’t going to be enough to make it go away. Chronic knee pain usually requires a more comprehensive approach, with treatments tailored to your health history, activity level, age, and of course, the underlying problem that’s causing the pain.
What causes constant knee pain?
Constant knee pain can follow a knee injury, and it can also be caused by daily wear and tear. You bend your knees a lot — probably a lot more often than you realize. If you take an average of 5,000 steps per day (a low estimate), that’s 5,000 times you bend and flex your knee joint — and that’s just from walking. Think about the number of times you stand up and sit down, get into and out of a car, climb up or down the stairs — that’s a lot of bending, and a lot of stress on your knees.
Now it’s true, your knees are designed to bend, and as long as your knees stay healthy, you won’t have to worry about pain. But if any part of the knee joint gets irritated, inflamed, or damaged, you may start to feel those painful sensations creeping in. And with chronic knee pain, usually the longer you go without medical treatment, the worse those symptoms will become.
Knee injuries from falling, sports accidents, car accidents, and other types of trauma can cause both acute and chronic knee pain, especially if you delay seeking medical treatment. It’s the same with pain from knee strain or degenerative conditions like knee arthritis. In fact, knee arthritis is one of the most common causes of constant knee pain. In arthritis, the cartilage on the ends of your leg bones starts to wear away, increasing friction inside your knee. Mild to moderate knee arthritis is usually treated with options like oral pain relievers, injections, and therapeutic exercise to reduce pain and improve mobility. More severe arthritis might require minimally-invasive surgery to repair the knee cartilage.
Sometimes, constant knee pain involves a problem with the kneecap or patella. Kneecap instability is a chronic condition that causes your kneecap to dislocate, slipping out of its normal position in the center of your knee. Tendonitis or bursitis are two other common causes of knee pain, occurring when tendons or bursae (small sacs of fluid inside the joint) become inflamed. And in other cases, the pain might not be caused by your knee at all; instead, you could have a problem with your hips, your lower back, or even the way you walk. The only way to know what’s causing your symptoms – and what type of treatment will relieve them – is to schedule an office visit with Dr. Van Thiel.
When is knee pain serious?
It bears repeating – any knee pain needs to be medically evaluated to relieve symptoms and prevent further damage. But some types of knee pain are more serious than others. For instance, if your knee pain is accompanied by swelling, tenderness, fever, joint instability, difficulty bending or straightening the knee, or difficulty putting weight on the knee joint, you need to see us right away. Any of these additional symptoms is an indicator of a more serious issue that could quickly develop into something much worse.
Bottom line: If you have knee pain — even mild symptoms — it’s important to schedule a visit with Dr. Van Thiel and have that pain evaluated. Since you use your knees for so many activities, it doesn’t take long for “minor” symptoms to become a major problem.
How do you get rid of chronic knee pain?
Dr. Van Thiel offers lots of treatment options for chronic knee pain, including treatments designed to restore the knee’s structural elements, like cartilage and ligaments. Other types of knee problems can be treated conservatively with chronic knee pain exercises, rest, and ice. The important thing is to make sure your treatment plan is customized not only to the cause of your pain, but also to your overall health and lifestyle. When your treatment is tailored specifically for you, you can achieve the best possible outcome in the shortest amount of time.
Don’t let knee pain keep you sidelined this fall. Take the next step toward better joint health, and schedule a knee evaluation at our Rockford or Algonquin office today.