Knee pain can disrupt every aspect of life – making it hard to walk, exercise, and even take care of household chores. Whether you are experiencing acute knee pain after an injury or you have a chronic ache that never seems to go away, it might be time to talk to a sports medicine specialist.
Did you know that the knee is one of the most common injuries? When a bending or twisting force is applied to the knee joint, it can damage the internal workings of the knee.
If you are experiencing swelling and knee pain, it could indicate that you need to seek medical services. Other symptoms of a knee injury might include tenderness, limited range of motion, weight-bearing issues, popping sounds, locking of the knee, bruising, and joint instability.
Types of Knee Injuries
The majority of knee injuries and pain are caused by sports, motor vehicle accidents, and falls. When the injury occurs, your sports medicine doctor will determine how the anatomy of the knee was affected by the injury. Then, a personalized treatment plan can be designed to optimize your long-term results.
Knee sprains happen when the ligaments are injured. Since the ligaments hold the knee together, the stabilization of the joint is affected. Common ligament injuries affect the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), the medial collateral ligament (MCL), or the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). The stretching or tearing of the ligaments is often categorized by grade, with a grade 3 knee sprain happening when the ligament is torn through completely.
Knee strains are related to an injury that affects the muscles or tendons in the joint. Often, hyperextension or hyperflexion occurs, which results in dysfunction of the joint’s range of motion. When the knee is strained, it might result in pain outside of the knee joint.
Other common types of knee injuries include knee bursitis, joint dislocation, meniscus tears, bone fractures, degeneration of the cartilage, arthritis, and more.
Non-Surgical Knee Treatments
Just because you meet with a sports medicine surgeon doesn’t mean that you will need surgery right away. Instead, initial tests are completed to determine a diagnosis. Then, our team of experienced doctors will offer non-surgical treatments when possible. Standard non-surgical treatment options include:
- RICE: As with many other sports medicine treatments, at-home care for the injury can sometimes be sufficient to bring down the swelling and reduce the pain. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Applying ice and compression can help to alleviate the swelling. Rest and elevation are essential to support the healing process.
- Physical Therapy: Certain types of knee injuries respond well to physical therapy. You can meet with a physical therapist for a few weeks or months to strengthen the muscles and improve the mobility of the joint. Not only will you perform knee exercises during the physical therapy appointment, but you will also have movements that need to be completed at home each day.
- Immobilization: If you continue using an injured knee, it can lengthen the recovery time. Re-injuring the knee by walking on it or participating in sports activities while injured means that it will be harder to recover. Your sports medicine doctor might recommend a brace for stabilization. Sometimes crutches are necessary when the joint needs to be immobilized, helping you avoid putting weight on the foot.
- Anti-Inflammatory Medications: When the joint is inflamed, medication can be helpful to bring down the inflammation and speed up recovery time. Oral anti-inflammatory drugs can also be beneficial for pain relief. If over-the-counter medications aren’t sufficient, then the doctor might recommend a prescription.
- Cortisone Injection: Another option is an injection of cortisone into the knee joint. This medication is a steroid that offers powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
Minimally-invasive treatments can often be used for minor injuries. There are also situations where knee surgery is the necessary treatment because of the injury’s type or severity. For example, extensive injuries that involve joint instability, torn ligaments, dislocation, or bone fractures might require surgical treatment.
Types of Knee Surgery
In most cases, surgery can be completed using arthroscopy technology. During this procedure, small incisions are made to insert a camera and surgical instruments into the knee joint. Only two to three incisions are needed, and the recovery time is much faster than a large incision to open the whole knee.
Whenever possible, minimally-invasive arthroscopic surgery is preferred by sports medicine experts. This method provides patients with many benefits over traditional surgical procedures. For example, there is no need to cut the tendons or muscles, bleeding is reduced, small incisions decrease scarring, and the recovery time is much faster. But sometimes, a larger incision is required for more complicated surgical techniques.
Common types of knee surgery procedures include:
- Arthroscopy Surgery: This method allows the doctor to see inside the knee joint. The procedure is usually recommended for diagnosis, minor repairs to ligaments or tendons, or if cartilage or bone needs to be removed. This type of knee surgery covers a range of procedures.
- Total Knee Replacement Surgery: A full knee replacement is known as arthroplasty. When the joint is damaged beyond repair because of injury or disease, then an implant can be put in the knee joint to restore function. A small portion of the cartilage and bone are removed from the shinbone and thigh bone to allow perfect placement of the new metal-and-plastic knee joint.
- Revision Knee Replacement: Most knee replacements last between 15 – 20 years. If a patient has a knee replacement at an early age, then the person may need another operation for new implants in the future. In this surgery, the sports medicine surgeon removes the original prosthesis and replaces it with a new prosthesis.
- Partial Knee Replacement: Certain types of knee injuries don’t require a full replacement. Instead, only the worn-out portion of the joint is replaced. For example, cartilage loss in a portion of the knee can be repaired with a partial replacement.
When your sports medicine doctor has determined the cause of your knee pain, then it’s time to discuss your personalized treatment plan.
Personalized Sports Medicine Treatment
You don’t have to live with chronic knee pain! If you are experiencing discomfort, pain, and swelling in the knee joint, then it’s time to talk to a sports medicine specialist for a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Call us at Orthopedic Associates to book an appointment to meet with a sports medicine doctor. We provide our patients with a full-service clinic, including a knowledgeable team that can help you find the right treatment solutions. Contact our office if you’d like to book an appointment.