The knee joint is a large hinge type of joint which consists of 3 bones, 3 joints, about 11 ligaments and 13 bursae. Thus, it is a complex joint. Also, due to standing, it has to bear almost the entire weight of the body. This is another price we humans have to pay for our erect posture. The weight borne by the knee increases manifold during running, jumping etc. With age, wearing of the articular cartilage causes friction and misalignment between the articular surfaces, leading to what we commonly know as osteoarthritis.
What Are the Causes of Knee Pain?
There may be several causes of knee pain. Some of the most common ones include:
Deformities of the knee (valgus/varus) leading to malalignment and secondary osteoarthritis
Post trauma osteoarthritis
How to Prevent Osteoarthritis / Knee Pain?
Weight management: Being overweight / obese puts extra pressure on the already overburdened knee joint. Managing your weight and cutting down those extra pounds will definitely work wonders.
Exercise: Regular exercise ensures mobility and lubrication of the joint. However caution must be exercised if you are overweight, as certain types of exercises like running, skipping, jumping, aerobics can damage your joint. In a damaged knee, exercises should be done only under expert supervision.
Footwear: Even though this may seem like a minor point, proper footwear prevents or even reverses malalignment of the knee, acts as shock absorbers and prevents further damage to the joint.
Avoidance of Squatting / Sitting Cross Legged: These postures further reduce the space in the knee joint leading to more friction. These postures should be consciously avoided.
What is the Treatment of Knee Pain?
Weight management: Should be done only by expert advice by means of diet and exercise.
Physiotherapy: Which mainly focuses on quadriceps strengthening exercises.
Pharmacotherapy: Medicines may be prescribed which will reduce the pain. If needed long term, adverse effects must be kept in mind. Over the counter pain killers, which ae medically known as NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs act beautifully to reduce the inflammation and the pain. However, on long term use, they are a disaster for the kidney!
Intra-articular Steroid Injections: Steroid injections into the knee joint reduce pain and inflammation. However, the benefit is short term. On repeated injections, the knee joint cartilage may get damaged. Therefore, it is not advisable to take more than three injections per year.
PRP Injection: This is a type of regenerative therapy. In osteoarthritis, it not only halts disease progression, but may even reverse few of the changes.
Genicular Nerve Block: Injection of local anesthetic along with steroid is given to the nerves that carry pain sensations from the knee joint. The effect may be short lived. After a diagnostic injection, depending on the pain relief, radiofrequency ablation of the nerve can be done.
Radiofrequency Ablation of Genicular Nerves: This gives long term pain relief. In this technique, nerves carrying pain sensations are permanently blocked with radiofrequency ablation.