The knee joint can be easily injured, as it is constantly subject to our direct body weight and a pivot point between two of the longest bones in the body.
Due to the location it sometimes is exposed to excessively and awkward forces, these may include extreme bending and twisting.
The knee is described as a hinge joint with major muscles such as the Quadriceps, Hamstrings and Calf muscles crossing in front and behind it. For optimal function to occur it is paramount that there is a balance of strength and flexibility throughout these muscles.
The knee has other structures like ligaments and cartilage on the inside and outside that play a significant role in knee function. These ligaments include the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL), Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) and Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL). The specialised cartilage includes the medial and lateral meniscus. Any injury to the muscles, joint, tendons, ligaments, cartilage or meniscus of the knee can lead to pain, stiffness and reduced mobility.
Causes of Knee pain
Knee pain and dysfunction tends to be associated with repetitive activities and significant trauma, the most common being sporting events.
Most fast paced sports will cause considerable loading forces to be applied to the knee joint which may result in sprains and strains. Some of the detrimental actions include running, jumping, pivoting, and squatting under load or a combination of the above actions. Those involved in sports requiring running and jumping subject their knee to considerable loading forces which can result in overuse injuries. As mentioned above, balanced muscle strength will reduce this process and weakness or imbalance will increase chances of injuring the muscles.
Traumatic knee injuries can occur for many reasons, these might include a motor vehicle accident, a fall or they are commonly seen in contact sports. Ligament sprains and tears, muscle contusions and tendon tears are all possible injuries from the above mentioned trauma.
Incorrect lifting technique at the gym or repetitive tasks such as ascending and descending stairs, kneeling or squatting are also common culprits of knee pain.
Interestingly knee pain can also be the result of referred pain from the hip or lower back.