Chronic knee pain can result from a variety of orthopedic injuries, diseases and conditions.
This type of pain is characterized by its enduring nature and the unlikelihood that it will go away without treatment. For many, the chronic aching and discomfort is accompanied by other symptoms, including swelling, weakness and an inability to fully straighten the leg.
Knee pain can affect people of any age, and the extent of the problem can vary, depending upon the cause.
What Causes Chronic Knee Pain?
Long-term pain in one or both knees can develop for a number of reasons, and many patients have multiple contributing factors.
Injuries resulting from sports or accidents such as fractures, meniscus tears and ligament injuries, are often to blame for chronic pain in the knee. Medical conditions and overuse of the joint are also responsible for many problems with long-term pain. Some of the most common causes include tendinopathy, osteoarthritis and bursitis.
Some people are at a greater risk of developing pain in the knees. Excess weight, a lack of muscle strength and flexibility, previous trauma to the area and playing sports that stress the knees can increase the chance of suffering painful knee problems.
Chronic Knee Pain & Diagnosis
Diagnosing the cause of pain in the knees begins with a medical history to determine the location and severity of the symptoms. A physical examination is next, with the doctor checking for warmth, visible bruising, range of motion and stability.
Lab testing may be ordered to rule out gout, infection and other medical conditions. Many patients are also sent for imaging tests. X-rays and CT scans can detect knee fractures and bone problems, and an ultrasound or MRI may be useful in diagnosing soft tissue damage.
Chronic Knee Pain Treatment and Prevention
Whenever possible, conservative methods are used to treat painful knee problems. Medication may be prescribed for pain relief or to treat issues resulting from medical conditions. For patients with knee stability problems, physical therapy is often advised.
Injections directly into the joint are also routinely used to treat painful knees. Corticosteroids and hyaluronic acid can provide symptomatic relief and improve joint mobility in some patients.
Surgery may be necessary for some types of injuries and conditions. Arthroscopy, partial knee replacement or total knee replacement can be used to reconstruct the joint. However, whenever possible, both orthopedic specialists and patients try to avoid surgery.
Biologic injections are a minimally invasive and highly effective alternative, restoring function and relieving chronic pain. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem-cell injections can help promote healing and aid in the recovery of chronic knee problems.
Knee pain can’t always be prevented, but lifestyle changes may help alleviate the symptoms. Losing weight, wearing supportive shoes, choosing low-impact athletic activities and stretching before and after exercise can help patients avoid knee pain.