Knee Pain

by: Dr. Michael A. Castillo

We use our legs every day and knee pain is common. The first thing we need to understand is what is wrong with the knee. There is need for a physical exam and an MRI. There can be injury to the internal knee and the external knee. There can be three approaches to the knee: internal injections with hyaluronic acid (roster comb), external injections with steroid or natural anti-inflammatory injections, regenerative medicine, and surgery (endoscopic and total knee arthroplasty). I do not suggest injection of steroid as we now know it increases degeneration of the joint. It may be used as a bridge to a total knee replacement.

knee pain
Knee pain from sports injury, or aging. There are many approaches to treating knee injuries.

The internal knee can be broken do to four things: meniscus, articulating cartilage, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). Treating the internal knee without treating external knee pain does no good.

The external knee: outer ligaments (medial and lateral collateral ligaments), patella and patellar ligaments (knee cap and attachments), tendons (attach the muscles of thigh to the lower leg), bursae (water packets under ligaments and tendons), nerves (geniculate nerves), tibia/fibula joint, and Baker’s Cyst (abnormal pocket of fluid behind the knee). Treating external knee pain without treating the internal knee pathology does no good.

Medicare and insurance companies allow for hyaluronic acid injections to the inside of the knee. I believe and treat the external part of the knee at the same time with traumeel, a natural anti-inflammatory. This is covered by insurance and Medicare at this time.

Regenerative medicine is directed to the need. We can treat the inside and outside elements. We are now treating the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin) with decompression (hole in the bone) and implanting blood, fat cells, and exosomes (growth factors). This allows for regrowth of the bone. This is not covered by insurance at this time.

Endoscopic Knee Surgery allows for debriding (removing loose fragments) and implanting cadaver or natural ligaments (from another body ligament). Surgeons also put in artificial knees (total knee arthroplasty (TKA)). This is covered by insurance or Medicare.

What is Knee Pain?

Knee pain is a common complaint that affects people of all ages. Knee pain may be the result of an injury, such as a ruptured ligament or torn cartilage. Medical conditions — including arthritis, gout and infections — also can cause knee pain.

Many types of minor knee pain respond well to self-care measures. Physical therapy and knee braces also can help relieve knee pain. In some cases, however, your knee may require surgical repair.

Dr Castillo is now offering knee braces to help treat knee pain. Click here to learn more

The location and severity of knee pain may vary, depending on the cause of the problem. Signs and symptoms that sometimes accompany knee pain include:

  • Swelling and stiffness
  • Redness and warmth to the touch
  • Weakness or instability
  • Popping or crunching noises
  • Inability to fully straighten the knee

Knee pain can be caused by injuries, mechanical problems, types of arthritis and other problems.

Injuries

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. Some of the more common knee injuries include:

  • ACL injury. An ACL injury is the tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) — one of four ligaments that connect your shinbone to your thighbone. An ACL injury is particularly common in people who play basketball, soccer or other sports that require sudden changes in direction.
  • Torn meniscus. The meniscus is formed of tough, rubbery cartilage and acts as a shock absorber between your shinbone and thighbone. It can be torn if you suddenly twist your knee while bearing weight on it.
  • Knee bursitis. Some knee injuries cause inflammation in the bursae, the small sacs of fluid that cushion the outside of your knee joint so that tendons and ligaments glide smoothly over the joint.
  • Patellar tendinitis. Tendinitis is irritation and inflammation of one or more tendons — the thick, fibrous tissues that attach muscles to bones. Runners, skiers, cyclists, and those involved in jumping sports and activities are prone to develop inflammation in the patellar tendon, which connects the quadriceps muscle on the front of the thigh to the shinbone.

Mechanical problems

Some examples of mechanical problems that can cause knee pain include:

  • Loose body. Sometimes injury or degeneration of bone or cartilage can cause a piece of bone or cartilage to break off and float in the joint space. This may not create any problems unless the loose body interferes with knee joint movement, in which case the effect is something like a pencil caught in a door hinge.
  • Iliotibial band syndrome. This occurs when the ligament that extends from the outside of your pelvic bone to the outside of your tibia (iliotibial band) becomes so tight that it rubs against the outer portion of your femur. Distance runners are especially susceptible to iliotibial band syndrome.
  • Dislocated kneecap. This occurs when the triangular bone (patella) that covers the front of your knee slips out of place, usually to the outside of your knee. In some cases, the kneecap may stay displaced and you’ll be able to see the dislocation.
  • Hip or foot pain. If you have hip or foot pain, you may change the way you walk to spare these painful joints. But this altered gait can place more stress on your knee joint. In some cases, problems in the hip or foot can refer pain to the knee.

Types of arthritis

More than 100 different types of arthritis exist. The varieties most likely to affect the knee include:

  • Osteoarthritis. Sometimes called degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It’s a wear-and-tear condition that occurs when the cartilage in your knee deteriorates with use and age.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. The most debilitating form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that can affect almost any joint in your body, including your knees. Although rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease, it tends to vary in severity and may even come and go.
  • Gout. This type of arthritis occurs when uric acid crystals build up in the joint. While gout most commonly affects the big toe, it can also occur in the knee.
  • Pseudogout. Often mistaken for gout, pseudogout is caused by calcium-containing crystals that develop in the joint fluid. Knees are the most common joint affected by pseudogout.
  • Septic arthritis. Sometimes your knee joint can become infected, leading to swelling, pain and redness. There’s usually no trauma before the onset of pain. Septic arthritis often occurs with a fever.

Other problems

Chondromalacia patellae (patellofemoral pain syndrome) is a general term that refers to pain arising between your patella and the underlying thighbone (femur). It’s common in athletes; in young adults, especially those who have a slight misalignment of the kneecap; and in older adults, who usually develop the condition as a result of arthritis of the kneecap.

Knee Pain

When to see a doctor

Call your doctor if you:

  • Can’t bear weight on your knee
  • Have marked knee swelling
  • Are unable to fully extend or flex your knee
  • See an obvious deformity in your leg or knee
  • Have a fever, in addition to redness, pain and swelling in your knee
  • Feel as if your knee is unstable or your knee “gives out”

Risk Factors and Complications from Knee Pain

A number of factors can increase your risk of having knee problems, including:

  • Excess weight. Being overweight or obese increases stress on your knee joints, even during ordinary activities such as walking or going up and down stairs. It also puts you at increased risk of osteoarthritis by accelerating the breakdown of joint cartilage.
  • Biomechanical problems. Certain structural abnormalities — such as having one leg shorter than the other, misaligned knees and even flat feet — can make you more prone to knee problems.
  • Lack of muscle flexibility or strength. A lack of strength and flexibility are among the leading causes of knee injuries. Tight or weak muscles offer less support for your knee because they don’t absorb enough of the stress exerted on the joint.
  • Certain sports. Some sports put greater stress on your knees than do others. Alpine skiing with its rigid ski boots and potential for falls, basketball’s jumps and pivots, and the repeated pounding your knees take when you run or jog all increase your risk of knee injury.
  • Previous injury. Having a previous knee injury makes it more likely that you’ll injure your knee again.

Not all knee pain is serious. But some knee injuries and medical conditions, such as osteoarthritis, can lead to increasing pain, joint damage and disability if left untreated. And having a knee injury — even a minor one — makes it more likely that you’ll have similar injuries in the future.