Knee injuries can be painful and disruptive to everyday life as they can seriously affect your life by preventing you from doing physical activities or even walking, so having knee problems is no joke! Understanding common knee injuries and how to prevent them can help you avoid discomfort, long-term damage to your knee, and save you pain and damage.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Nataraj HM, Head of Orthopaedics, Robotic Surgery and Sports Surgeon at Belenus Champion Hospital, Sarjapur Road, Bangalore, suggests keeping your leg muscles strong, gradually increasing activity intensity, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising properly. Alignment during physical activity to prevent knee injuries. He reveals some common knee injuries and offers tips to prevent them:
- ACL tear: An ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) tear is a common knee injury that occurs when the ligament that connects the thigh bone to the shin bone is damaged or torn. It is often caused by sudden twisting or direct impact on the knee. To prevent ACL tears, it is essential to maintain strong leg muscles and practice proper jumping and landing techniques during physical activities.
- Meniscus tear: The meniscus is a rubbery cushion that lies between the thigh bone and the shin bone. A meniscus tear can be caused by a sudden twist or impact to the knee. To prevent meniscus tears, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight and avoid activities that put unnecessary stress on the knee joint, such as running on hard surfaces.
- Patellar tendinitis: Patellar tendinitis is an overuse injury that occurs when the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shinbone becomes inflamed. To prevent patellar tendinitis, it is important to gradually increase the intensity of physical activities and avoid activities that involve repetitive jumping or running.
- Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: Patellofemoral pain syndrome is a condition that occurs when the cartilage under the knee becomes inflamed. This is often caused by overuse or misalignment of the knee joint. To prevent patellofemoral pain syndrome, it is necessary to maintain a healthy weight, practice proper alignment during physical activities, and avoid activities that put unnecessary stress on the knee joint.
- IT Band Syndrome: IT band syndrome is a condition in which the IT band, a thick band of tissue that runs from the hip to the knee, becomes inflamed. This is often caused by overuse or misalignment of the knee joint. To prevent IT band syndrome, it is important to maintain a healthy weight, practice proper alignment during physical activities, and avoid activities that place undue stress on the knee joint.
Adding to the list of common knee injuries, Dr Anil R Patil, Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Specialist at Consulting Hospital shares –
- Osteoarthritis: The most common injury we hear about is osteoarthritis of the knee or age-related degeneration of the knee. It is seen in the age groups of 50 and above and usually in the age group of 60-70 years. There are no real factors that affect the onset of this disease. In general, the most important factor is genetics, and other factors such as high-impact activities such as running, jumping or chronic injuries can affect knee osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is one of the most common problems that can eventually lead to the need for knee replacement surgery. It affects mobility and creates a lot of pain. This problem is seen in the elderly.
- Patellofemoral pain: The other extreme is knee pain in youth. Nowadays, we see that many young people experience pain when sitting for long periods of time or climbing stairs, they often feel the need to stretch. This is called patellofemoral pain (the joint between the thigh bone and the knee is called the patellofemoral joint). It is the most common cause of knee pain in young people under the age of 40. This knee pain is not caused by weak bones. This can be caused by flat feet, weak thigh muscles and hip muscles, and sitting too much all day. All these factors lead to patellofemoral pain or knee pain in young people. A proper assessment of the cause and lifestyle of the patient is important to get rid of such pain.
- Jumper’s Knee: Also called patellar tendonitis. This can be called tennis elbow of the knee. This is a muscle or tendon problem in which the soft tissue or elastic band that connects the knee cap to the leg bone is stretched beyond a certain limit or injured. It is more common in people who engage in impact activities such as running, jumping, skipping, and dancing.
- Sports injuries: Sports injuries to the knee are stabilized by rotational injuries. Contrary to popular belief that knee injuries are caused by hitting the ground or tearing or breaking something, it is usually a rotational or indirect injury in which the foot is planted on the ground and the body bears weight. A knee injury or ligament injury at the top of the knee. Kneeling directly on the floor is unlikely to injure the ligament. Ligaments are elastic bands that hold the knee together like door hinges. Ligaments hold the knee joint together for movement the way hinges hold a door. When the body rotates, these ligaments are stretched beyond limits, causing tears. This can result in severe pain, swelling and inability to walk. Over time, the pain and swelling subside, and the only symptom of an injury to this ligament is instability of the knee or a feeling that the knee (buckles) when trying to pivot and move. This is the most common symptom and buckling only happens once and is often ignored or pushed to the back of the mind. When it’s too late, the abnormal movement leads to wear and tear of the cartilage in the knee or arthritis. Thus, neglected ligament injuries can lead to osteoarthritis.
Suggesting the prevention of osteoarthritis, he emphasized –
- Weight loss: Osteoarthritis, as mentioned earlier, the most influential factor is genetics. Genetics is a big thing that we cannot change. Modifiable factors are weight. Losing weight reduces pressure on the knee joint and reduces pain.
- walking: Fitness plays a big role in arthritis. Usually people stop walking because of pain but never stop walking regardless of rheumatism.
- Do not do ground level activities: Once you develop knee arthritis, you should avoid ground-level activities such as sitting cross-legged, squatting, and climbing stairs.
- Lifestyle changes: Once you develop arthritis, the most important thing before surgery is lifestyle modification.
Advising preventive measures for patellofemoral pain, he said, “The most important thing is to avoid prolonged sitting. If this is unavoidable, find proper chairs. The height of the chair is very important i.e. the angle between your thighs and legs should not exceed 90 degrees. Make it a point to get up frequently and stretch your legs and make time to strengthen the knee joints and leg muscles.”
While suggesting that preventive measures should be taken for injuries in sports, he emphasized-
- Proper warm-up and proper stretching (sports injuries): Ligaments support the knee but it is the muscles around the knee that support the ligament. If the muscles are not strong, the ligaments have to work alone and they tend to give out if they have no support. It is also very important to follow proper techniques such as proper stretching, stretching, strength training, plyometrics, wearing proper footwear and proper landing, dodging and tackling techniques to avoid ligament injuries. Also, proper nutrition is also very important.
When to see a doctor?
- For osteoarthritis – Dr Anil R Patil said, “If you need daily painkillers or if your social life is affected and daily activities are becoming difficult due to knee pain, then it is time to see a doctor. Doctors may suggest analgesics, physiotherapy, injections and finally knee replacement if necessary.
- For Sports Injuries – Dr Anil R Patil recommends rest as the first thing to do immediately after an injury.
R – Rest
I- Ice pack application
E – Elevation
He said, ‘You should not massage your feet after an injury. It should be relaxed and there should be no movement of any part. Ice pack application is very important, not hot water pack. For compression, use crepe bandages or compression bandages to reduce swelling and keep your feet above heart level to prevent swelling. If the pain is constant or you can’t walk because of a deformity or your leg is stiff or boxy, it means that you may have a complete ligament injury.
He concluded, “You need a scan to confirm. X-rays don’t diagnose a ligament injury, you need an MRI scan. Once a doctor confirms a ligament injury, treatment depends on the grade of the injury (grade 1,2 or 3). Grade 1 and A grade 2 injury requires only rest and physiotherapy. A grade 3 injury depends on symptoms and may require keyhole or arthroscopic surgery to repair the ligaments.”