Your knee is one of the most complex joints in your body. They take on up to three times your body weight - which increases even more if you’re walking down the stairs! So it may come as no surprise that up to one in three people may be affected by knee pain in Australia . But what causes knee pain?
Today, the South Burnett Podiatry team are sharing the top five causes of knee pain we see in the clinic - and how we can help treat them.
Arthritis is undoubtedly one of the leading causes of knee pain and discomfort. Specifically, osteoarthritis occurs over time, as the cartilage that protects the ends of the femur and tibia at the knee joint are worn down and the joint damage occurs. This means, instead of moving smoothly, there may be more friction as the joint moves - which means pain.
While we can’t reverse the effects of arthritis, we can help you walk and feel more comfortable with the right orthotics and footwear. Sometimes, the alignment of your lower limbs may put more stress on one side of your knee. Other times, you may need help absorbing shock from the force transmitted through your legs when you hit the ground. We can help with these and other factors that can help alleviate some of your pain so you can keep walking for longer.
2. Runner’s knee
This is medically known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, and describes pain around and behind the kneecap. It is caused by mistracking of the knee cap (patella) during excessive use, like activities that repeatedly bend and straighten the knee. The misalignment can cause bony rubbing, irritating the joint and its tissues, and causing pain.
We are able to help treat runner’s knee by understanding what is causing the patella to mistrack, and solving this. It may be a tight or imbalanced muscle, or alignment problems with the lower limbs. We often use physical therapy, orthotics and footwear and dry needling (where beneficial) to help relieve the symptoms and prevent this problem from recurring.
3. Osgood Schlatter’s
If your child is getting knee pain, they’re aged between 7 and 15 years, and are fairly active - they may have Osgood Schlatter’s. This is a growth-related condition where the bones and muscles grow at uneven rates, resulting in increased muscle tension. This muscle tension irritates the growth plate at the top of the tibia (shin bone), and the result is pain.
While we can’t change the rate of bone and muscle growth, we can help lengthen tight muscles to reduce the strain. This is a similar process with growing pains at the back of the heels, where we work on the Achilles tendon to help with heel pain in kids. You can learn more about this here.
4. Jumper’s knee
Medically known as patellar tendinopathy, jumpers knee describes damage to (and painful inflammation of) the patellar tendon. The patellar tendon is the tendon that runs across the front of your knee, in which your knee cap is embedded. Damage to the tendon occurs when it is overloaded and placed under high forces, which can occur during activities that involve regular jumping like in volleyball or netball.
Treating jumper’s knee focuses on reducing the load on the patellar tendon, so it can function at a comfortable level. This may include reviewing your training technique and the surfaces you often train on, making adjustments to the alignment and biomechanical function of your lower limbs (using orthotics and footwear), and addressing any muscular imbalances using physical therapy.
5. Ligament damage
There are a lot of ligaments that work together to help keep your knee joint stable. You have your cruciate ligaments within the knee joint, that prevent the knee bones from sliding excessively forwards or backwards on one another, and the collateral ligaments on the sides of the knee joints, that limit excessive side-to-side movements.
When excessive force causes these ligaments to get damaged, like from a soccer ball hitting the outside of your knee joint at high speed, for example, the ligament can become damaged and no longer able to do its job. Aside from causing pain, this can cause your knee to feel weak and unstable, making it difficult for you to walk and put weight on the knee.
Treating ligament damage needs a more aggressive approach, to allow the ligaments to heal well and in the shortest amount of time, without causing further damage or causing the ligament to rupture. This may include using a brace or offloading pressure from the knee joint with orthotics if alignment issues are causing strain on the ligaments.
Struggling with knee pain?
If you’ve been struggling with your knee pain and need help to feel more comfortable on your feet, our experienced podiatry team would love to help. Book your appointment online by clicking here or call us on (07) 4162 7633.