Understanding Knee Pain
Our knees are a vital part of our legs. From merely sitting to full throttle sprinting or cycling and more, we need healthy knees. Knee pain is not an uncommon complaint from people of varying ages, whether resulting from an injury, arthritis, a torn ligament, cartilage or even an infection.
By definition, the knee is the middle joint of the leg where the femur meets the tibia and fibula. The floating bone, called a patella, functions as a cap for the femur. You may have heard of an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) or LCL (lateral cruciate ligament) injury especially when it comes to sports like football or basketball. There are other ligaments crossing within the joint and on either side of the knee as well. The knee is a pivotal hinge joint that allows for flexing and extending and some rotation. Knees provide support for most of our body’s weight. It is no wonder this joint is susceptible to injuries.
Pain is where we come into trouble with our knees. Cartilage can deteriorate over the years. With runners, for example, overuse, excess weight, age or even a combination of these factors can contribute to the causes of knee pain. The outcome is that cartilage’s texture can change from a sponge-like consistency to that of an orange peel, and this can be painful.
The iliotibial band, or IT band, is a thick band of tissue that runs from the hip to the knee. Irritation can develop in the knee as the IT band moves across the knobs at the bottom of the femur, called the condyles. Pain results from the friction the IT band makes. However, the pain may not only originate from the knee but the hip as well. This is called ‘IT band syndrome’. Runners who experience IT band-related injuries may have weak hip abductors or external rotators. Strengthening these muscles can help reduce or even prevent pain.
Weightlifters are not immune to these common knee injuries either. Improper lifting techniques can frequently lead to knee pain. “Working through the pain” and continuing to use injured muscles and ligaments inhibits the healing process and can worsen an injury. Along with IT band syndrome, weightlifters may frequently suffer from bursitis or tendonitis. Bursitis results from constant motion and tremendous pressure applied to the knee. It occurs when the bursa, a soft sack that helps to protect joints as muscles move, becomes irritated and inflamed. Patellar tendonitis causes tenderness in the lower knee when squatting and occurs when the patellar tendon is inflamed, which is often attributed to improper lifting.
Going to a specialist who can give you a proper consultation is your best bet. Don’t try to evaluate and treat your symptoms without seeking a professional’s advice. Knees are easily injured. Take care of them so you can keep doing what you love to do.
Bing.com. 2009. Dictionary. 25 Jul 2011
Pashley, Tina. Knee Pain Associated With Weightlifting. livesrong.com. 26 May 2011. 25 Jul 2011.
Spiker, Ted. An Owner’s Manual For Your Knee. runnersworld.com. 16 Feb 2007. 25 Jul 2011.