Diagnosing the cause of your knee pain will depend on the type of pain you’re feeling, along with where and when it occurs.
Common causes of knee pain include knee injury with tendonitis, knee degeneration and arthritis. A knee injury can affect any of the ligaments, tendons or fluid-filled sacs (bursae) that surround your knee joint, as well as the bones, cartilage and ligaments that form the joint itself.
Other causes of knee pain can include diseases or conditions that involve the hip joint, the soft tissues and bones around the knee, or the nerves that supply sensation to the knee area. The knee is also commonly involved in inflammatory arthritis, including rheumatoid disease, or immune diseases that affect widespread tissues of the body.
The location of your knee pain can help identify the cause of the problem:
Swelling of the knee is a common symptom for variety of knee problems. The speed at which the swelling appears may help indicate its cause:
If your knee locks you are unable to bend or fully straighten it. Knee locking generally results from two different types of medical conditions:
If you have a mechanical block to normal knee movement, you will need to see an orthopaedic surgeon as soon as possible, who is likely to advise arthroscopic surgery (keyhole surgery) to relieve the problem.
You may find it difficult to determine whether or not there is a mechanical block to your knee motion, or to decide if pain is the issue. Start by undergoing a consultation and physical examination, which can usually determine the cause of your locking.
Knee stiffness refers to the loss of the normal range of movement of the joint. Joint stiffness may be caused by a mechanical blockage to movement, or inflammation in the synovium – the lining of the joint, which can be a response to various types of arthritis.
Many patients with inflammatory arthritis feel joint stiffness early in the morning. Osteoarthritis stiffness tends to get worse during the day, especially after exercise such as long walks.
With inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus, the stiffness can last more than 45 minutes upon waking. However, this stiffness also tends to improve as the day goes on.
As one of the earliest symptoms of arthritis, knee joint stiffness is often a sign that you should see a doctor or knee specialist for a thorough physical examination to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.
Various knee conditions can result in knee instability, where your knee feels as if it is ‘giving way’:
The key findings of ligament injury and instability can be detected on physical examination, when a knee surgeon, or sports medicine doctor can test the stability of each ligament and determine if it is functioning properly.
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