Knee injuries; the good, the bad and the reality these days is that knee injuries are far more common than you would believe . In a recent study it was determined that 54% of hospital visits were related to knee injuries and this number unfortunately is not going away due to the populations desire to maintain an active lifestyle and our desire to start being more active in response to father time starting to catch up with us(1). It was estimated between 1999-2008 that there was an alarming 6.7 million knee injuries seen in emergency departments, that is 2.29 knee injuries per 1,000 (1). The most frequent injuries are seen in sports and leisure recreation activities (49.3%) and the most common of the many knee alignments are sprains/strains (42.1%); the biggest victims are between the ages of 15-24, 3.83 knee injuries per 1,000 (1). It is an unfortunate set of circumstances that as more fitness trends (cross fit, zumba, revolution yoga.) and sporting activities(kickball, flag football, rugby) become readily available, we open up the door to operator error and human nature. We need to become more aware of when something is wrong with my knee and what should I be doing about it.
When you are suffering from a knee injury there are some key elements that you should be keenly aware of; what I am feeling, is this an acute injury(response to an activity performed recently) or is this a chronic on-going pain and what do happens next . Depending on the severity of the problem, you can use the good ol' fashion R.I.C.E. method ( rest, ice, compress, and elevate) or you made need to take it to the next level and speak with a specialties. Knee strains are the most common and frequently misdiagnosis ed (friends/family PhD's @home.com), there are 3 levels of sprains which can affect 1 or more of the 4 major ligaments of the knee. These injuries are acute injuries and usually display symptoms such as : pain, swelling, heat, redness and tenderness to the touch(2). In levels 2 and 3, where partial or full ligament damage is seen and moderate to complete knee instability is present a specialties should be seen immediately. Of course even with these injuries the R.I.C.E. method is important in the initial stages if getting to a medical professional is not readily accessible. When dealing with a chronic (long term) injury which may come from overuse, improper mechanics, or congenital traits your pain indicators will differ slightly. Symptoms that accompany are: consistent clicking and/or popping, locking of the knee, difficulty in bending the affected knee and intermittent pain. Over time injuries such as patellofermoral pain syndrome (runner's knee), chondromalacia patella, (degeneration of cartilage under the kneecap), knee bursitis (swelling, irritation or infection of a bursa sac in the knee) and arthritis can bring about deterioration in these areas over time, depending on the severity of the issue a medical professional may suggest anti- inflammatory or a cortisone injection. If the symptoms go unchecked this can lead to gross compensations and/or surgery. After surgery, or if surgery is not an option, physical therapy can be used to strengthen and stretch the muscles surrounding the knee. Physical therapy can also allow for better movement mechanics of the leg and the knee to help prevent future injury (2).
Ultimately, when you are feel like your knee may be injured, be mindful of what your body is telling you. Don't ignore the obvious signs that could have been there all the time or could have hit you like a ton of bricks. The shock absorbers and stabilizers that surround this major joint have a shelf life and if you are asking yourself “how do I know when my knee is telling me to stop,” it's more than likely that you are already at that point.
1. Academy of Emergency Medical Journal, Gage, BE, McIlvain, NM, Collins, CL, Fields, SK, Comstock, RD, 05/2012
2. What are Knee Injury Symptoms and Signs, Medicinenet.com, Cunha J., Shiel Jr.,C. 5/2013