What is Chronic Degenerative Knee Pain?
Chronic degenerative knee pain is a common complaint that affects almost every one of all ages, according to the US National Library of Medicine (NLM).
However, the severity of knee pain increases with age.
For instance, about 18% of men aged 60 years and above reported knee pain in the US and 24% reported knee pain in Australia.
About 23% of women aged 60 years and older reported knee pain in the US and about 30% of Australian women reported knee pain.
About 18% of adolescents complained of chronic knee pain compared to about 4% in children.
Chronic degenerative knee pain may occur due to an injury, such as a torn cartilage or ruptured ligament. Also, medical conditions, such as gout, arthritis, infections, etc., can cause knee pain.
Although self-care measures have been reported to handle many types of minor chronic knee pains, knee braces and physical therapy may be necessary to relieve severe chronic knee pain.
What exactly is Chronic Degenerative Knee Pain?
Chronic degenerative knee pain is long-term pain, sensitivity, or swelling in one or both knees. It is a common problem and can occur due to several reasons.
Knee pain makes it difficult to walk and go about the normal functions in everyday life. The most affected part – the knee joint – is so complex and can be affected by a series of factors that can cause damage and pain.
Once any of the many components of the knee isn’t working properly, inflammation, pain, and other symptoms can set in.
Chronic degenerative knee pain can result from either trauma or some medical conditions.
Symptoms of Chronic Degenerative Knee Pain
Note that the severity and location of chronic knee pain may vary based on the cause of the knee pain.
That being said, here are some common signs and symptoms that are associated with knee pain:
- Inability to straighten/stretch the knee fully
- Crunching or popping noises at the knee
- Redness and warmth to the touch
- Stiffness and swelling
- Instability or weakness
- Constant ache
- Sharp, shooting pain when in use
- Dull burning discomfort
Causes of Chronic Degenerative Knee Pain
As stated above, the cause of your chronic knee pain would determine the signs or symptoms you experience. Several factors can cause or contribute to chronic knee pain.
Therefore, chronic knee pain doesn’t come with general experience and your experience with chronic knee pain may be different from that of another patient.
Note: Temporary knee pain is different and should not be mistaken for chronic knee pain. Temporary knee pain is usually a result of an accident or injury.
On the other hand, chronic knee pain isn’t always attributable to a particular incident and is often the result of several causes or conditions. Also, chronic knee pain rarely goes away without treatment.
The following conditions or diseases can lead to either temporary or chronic knee pain:
1. Knee Injuries
A knee injury can affect any of the cartilages, tendons, bones ligaments, or fluid-filled sacs (bursae) that form or surround your knee joint. Some of the more common knee injuries include:
- Baker’s cyst – this is a buildup of synovial fluid behind the knee (synovial fluid is the fluid that lubricates the joint).
- Bone tumors – this is also referred to as osteosarcoma and commonly occurs in the knee. Osteosarcoma is the second most prevalent bone cancer.
- Bursitis – this is an inflammation in the knee caused by repeated overuse or injury of the knee.
- Chondromalacia patella – this is damaged cartilage under the kneecap.
- Meniscus tear: A rupture in one or more of the cartilages in the knee. It can rupture if you suddenly twist your knee while bearing weight on it.
- Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is another common cause of knee pain. It occurs when the knee bone becomes thinner, causing damages in the cartilage and connecting tissues in the knee. Osteoporosis may also result in a fracture.
- Tendinitis: This causes a pain in the front of the knee that is made worse when climbing, taking stairs, or walking up an inclined plane. Runners, cyclists, skiers, and those involved in jumping activities may develop inflammation in the patellar tendon, which connects the quadriceps muscle on the front of the thigh to the shinbone.
- Torn ligament: This is a tear in one of the four ligaments in the knee — the most commonly injured ligament is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
- Fractures: The bones of the knee can get broken during a fall or vehicle collisions. People suffering from osteoporosis may sustain a knee fracture simply by stepping wrong due to weak bone.
2. Mechanical Injuries
Here are some examples of mechanical injuries that can cause knee pain:
- Dislocation: This is dislocation of the triangular bone (kneecap or patella) usually due to trauma. Sometimes, the dislocation of the kneecap may be so obvious.
- Loose body: Sometimes injury or degeneration of cartilage or bone can cause a piece of cartilage or bone to break off and float in the joint space. This loose body may interfere with knee joint movement, causing knee pain.
- Iliotibial band syndrome: This occurs when the tough band of tissue ((iliotibial band) that extends from the outside of your hip to the outside of your knee becomes so tight that it rubs against the outer portion of your femur.
- Cyclists and runners are most susceptible to iliotibial band syndrome.
- Hip or foot pain: Pains in the hip or foot may cause you to change the way you walk to spare these painful body parts. However, this may place more stress on your knee joint.
Arthritis is another major cause of knee pain. There are over 100 different types of arthritis. However, the common ones that are most likely to cause knee pain include:
- Osteoarthritis: This is inflammation, pain, and joint destruction caused by deterioration and degeneration of the joint due to overuse or aging. It is the most common type of arthritis and is sometimes referred to as degenerative arthritis.
- Research showed that aging and obesity increase the risk of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): This is the most debilitating form of arthritis. It is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory disorder that causes painful swelling in the knee and can eventually cause bone erosion and joint deformity.
- Gout: This is arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid crystals in the knee joint.
- Pseudogout: Pseudogout is often mistaken for gout, however, while gout is due to uric acid crystal buildup, pseudogout is caused by calcium-containing crystals in the knee joint fluid.
- Septic arthritis: This occurs when the knee joint becomes infected, leading to redness, pain, and swelling. Fever is often the major cause of septic arthritis.
Other causes of Knee Pain
- Obesity: According to research, obesity and excess weight are also contributors to chronic knee pain.
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome: This is a general term referring to a feeling of pains between the patella and the femur. Patellofemoral pain syndrome is common in athletes, especially those with a slight maltracking in their kneecap.
- Bacterial infections: Bacterial infections like cellulitis can lead to sudden knee pain. Bacterial infection occurs when the bacteria that are normally found on the skin surface find their ways underneath the skin.
Without immediate treatment, cellulitis can result in redness, swelling, pain, stiffness, and chronic knee pain.
How to Diagnose Chronic Knee Pain?
Since knee pain has many possible causes, diagnosing chronic knee pain requires a consultation with your chiropractor. At that consultation, the doctor will explain how chiropractic works and determine if you are a candidate for chiropractic care. If the doctor decides chiropractic is the right choice for you she will recommend a more thorough evaluation which includes a complete examination including range of motion, neurologic and orthopedic testing as well as a postural evaluation and digital x-rays (if necessary).
After a proper examination of your knee pain condition, the doctor can then determine the types of diagnostic tests you’ll undergo to determine the cause and this will, in turn, determine your treatment.
Treatment for Chronic Degenerative Knee Pain
Depending on the cause of your chronic knee pain, the doctor may recommend treatment, such as:
- Knee support.
- An exercise plan, which may include low-stress exercise.
- Resting the knee
- Chiropractic Care
Factors that may worsen chronic degenerative knee pain include:
- Assuming bad posture and form when doing physical activities or exercises.
- Improperly stretching the muscles
- Bacterial infection
- Injuries to the structure of the knee that may lead to bleeding and swelling. This can lead to a chronic problem over time if not treated properly.
- Not warming up or cooling down before or after physical activities
- Overuse of the legs
- Sprains and strains.
Tips to Care for Your Knee
Taking proper care of your body and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can often help in reducing the risk of chronic knee pain.
Even if you’re already suffering from chronic knee pain, observing the following tips can help improve the outlook and alleviate the pain:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a risk factor for many of the disorders that cause chronic knee pain. Hence, keeping a healthy body weight can greatly reduce the risk of chronic knee pain.
- Quit smoking.
- Reduce alcohol intake.
- Participate in regular moderate exercise and warm up before each exercise.
Here are some low-stress activities and exercises that can strengthen the knees and help in reducing the symptoms of knee pain:
However, your doctor may advise on the type of exercise to participate in and how intense the exercise should be depending on the cause of your knee pain and your health status.
How to Prevent Knee Pains?
Although preventing knee pains is not always possible, the following are suggestions that may help prevent joint deterioration and knee injuries:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Try as much as possible to maintain a healthy weight. Keeping off extra pounds is one of the best things you can do to prevent knee pains.
Note that extra weight also places additional stress and strain on your joints, increasing the risk of osteoarthritis and knee injuries.
- Condition yourself before sports activities: Always take your time for conditioning to prepare your muscles for the demands of sports participation.
- Be smart about exercise: If you have osteoarthritis, chronic degenerative knee pain, or recurring injuries, you may need to change the way you exercise.
Consider switching to swimming, water aerobics, or other low-impact activities — at least for a few days a week. Sometimes simply limiting high-impact activities will provide relief.
- Warm-up before exercise: Stretch your hamstrings and quadriceps before and after exercise.
- Try low-impact exercises: Instead of tennis or running, give swimming or bicycling a shot. Or mix low-impact exercises with high-impact exercises to give your knees a break.
- Walk down hills: Running puts extra force on your knee. Instead of running down an incline, walk.
- Avoid rough roads: Always stick to smooth, paved surfaces as much as possible. Rough roads or pocked walkways may be hazardous to your knee’s health.
- Replace your sporting or exercise shoe: Replace your sporting or exercise shoes frequently to ensure they still have proper support and cushioning.
Knee pain can lead to a more severe health problem if not treated immediately. Knee pain is caused by several factors. Hence, if you’re experiencing persistent knee pain, quickly see a Chiropractor.
The doctor will ask you about the symptoms to ascertain your condition, carry out a physical examination as well as other tests like blood test and imaging tests to determine the cause of your knee pain.
After the diagnosis, the chiropractor will discuss the available treatment options with you.
Suitable and immediate treatment can help in preventing chronic degenerative knee pain.