For extraordinarily sturdy joints, the knees are also vulnerable to injury and other problems. This is because there are several components of the structure of the knee joint, and each of these structures can be injured.
Causes of knee joint pain
Knee pain can arise from various causes, including:
- Joint inflammation – caused by inflammation of the tissue lining the joints
- Injury – direct injury, misalignment of the knee resulting from a hip or foot problem, normal wear and tear, and many other types of injuries including an ACL injury (tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament), torn meniscus, tendinitis or bursitis
- Disease – arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and other conditions
The knee joint is bounded by the long thighbone, the femur, and one of the bones of the lower leg, the tibia. These are bound together by fibrous bands called ligaments in the interior and along the sides of the knee joint and the patella or kneecap. The four sets of ligaments provide stability to the knee joint and keep it within its normal range of motion.
Vigorous sports with intense starting and stopping, like handball or tennis, jumping, especially from high places, and moving in unusual ways all have the potential for spraining or tearing these ligaments, sometimes requiring surgery to repair.
Another important component of the knee joint is the tendons that connect muscle to bone. The quadriceps muscle inserts into the patella by the quadriceps tendon, and the patellar tendon connects this kneecap or patella to the tibia. Tendonitis, or inflammation of the tendons, can be caused by the same motions that tear the ligaments, such as dancing, twisting and running, but the result can become more of a chronic pain, and since these are often not repairable by surgery, may take longer to heal.
The bones of the knee, the femur, tibia and patella, glide together on a cushion of cartilage, called meniscus, which help the bones to articulate and move against one another comfortably. When arthritis has developed the cartilage can become worn away, and the resulting knee joint pain is extreme. The meniscus, can also be torn in violent movement, and must be repaired by a surgeon.
The bursa are fluid-filled sacs which also reduce knee joint pain by acting to cushion the knee. Sometimes the sacs become overfilled, and pain results from the swelling and enlargement of the bursa. In addition, trauma sometimes causes the bursa of the knee to become inflamed, resulting in acute or chronic knee joint pain, or bursitis.
Knee joints are also extremely vulnerable to diseases and conditions such as arthritis – both osteoarthritis, which is a degeneration of cartilage, or rheumatoid arthritis, which is a viral condition that attacks joints all over the body. Knee joint pain is often caused by too much weight, so losing pounds can take the pressure off the knees. Certain conditions like gout can cause extraordinary pain in the knee joint and feet, because crystals of waste products are not eliminated properly and accumulate in the body, causing pain and inflammation.
Many types of diseases and infections can result in painful knee joints. Among them are simple infections arising from organisms on the skin, and gonorrhea. If your knee is showing painful swelling, or you have fevers and chills, you may need to see a doctor to determine the type of infection you have.
A dislocated knee, such as that caused by knees slamming into the dashboard in an auto accident, can result in an interruption of blood supply to the lower leg, requiring amputation, a good reason to wear your seatbelt.
To prevent degenerative problems that can arise with knees and other joints, many are turning to Nopalea, a new health drink based on the prickly pear fruit and including many other antioxidant fruit extracts. Prickly pear juice has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body wherever it occurs and a small amount of Nopalea daily maintains this benefit. You can see a big difference in your joint comfort by taking a daily dose of Nopalea.