An Orthopedic Specialist’s Guide to Chronic Knee Pain

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Learn to recognize the causes and symptoms of chronic knee pain — and what you can do to treat them.

Chronic knee pain is a common problem that can greatly impact your quality of life. This pain may be the result of sports injuries that have never fully healed, such as dislocations, torn ligaments, or meniscus tears (ruptures of the cartilage). In other cases, a disease like gout, rheumatoid arthritis, or bone cancer may be to blame. Overuse or long-term deterioration of the affected area that manifests as tendinitis, osteoarthritis, bursitis, or Baker’s cysts — a buildup of fluid behind the knee — may also cause chronic knee pain.

While many people believe that joint pain is an unavoidable part of aging, there are a variety of effective treatments available to address the symptoms of this condition.

DIAGNOSING CHRONIC KNEE PAIN

Because there are so many possible causes of chronic knee pain, symptoms often vary. Some of the most common are aching, limited mobility, and sharp pain when bearing weight.

With conditions caused by infection or disease, the entire knee may be inflamed, while with mechanical issues the pain tends to be more localized. Some conditions, such as gout, leave the knee mostly pain-free until a flare-up occurs, at which point the pain can be excruciating.

Your orthopedic specialist may be able to make an accurate diagnosis with a physical examination alone. They will ask questions to get a sense of the location, type, and severity of the pain, while also examining the knee through its full range of motion. This is helpful in testing for stability and locating any structural damage.

Physical examinations are often supplemented with more specialized tests. Blood work or fluid drawn from the knee joint can be used to identify the presence of conditions such as gout or arthritis. Imaging tests such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans will pinpoint deterioration in the bone or tears in the muscle. However your condition is diagnosed, we encourage you to seek treatment at the earliest sign of pain so that the condition can be managed effectively.

SEEKING TREATMENT AND PAIN RELIEF

Recommended treatment plans for chronic knee pain are specific to each patient, but most will include physical therapy as a central component. For pain related to disease or infection, anti-inflammatory injections can be very effective.

When a patient is suffering from a mechanical issue or from severe deterioration of the joint, surgery may be recommended. With some levels of damage, minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery is a sufficient fix. With more significant damage, a full knee replacement may be the best route for eliminating pain in the long-term.

Beyond surgical treatments, there are many ways to manage pain through medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. If a patient is obese, losing weight is helpful for almost every category of chronic knee pain. Cutting down on high-impact activities that put stress on the joints will also help. Even something as simple as buying shoes with a greater cushion can make a difference.

Don’t accept chronic knee pain as part of your life. At New York Bone & Joint, our specialists have decades of experience effectively treating knee conditions and getting patients back to the activities they love. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.

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