AN ATHLETES GUIDE TO CHRONIC KNEE PAIN
Did you know that the knee joint is the biggest joint in the body, and also one of the most utilized?
Chronic knee joint pain is the kind of pain that is persistent. It grows to become a daily, constant companion of the athlete. Your knee will hurt any time you undertake any form of physical activity. It will notoriously be with you every minute of your waking hours. You will feel pain when you:
- Go up a flight of stairs.
- Descend the stairs.
- Sit for a long time.
These are all everyday activities, aren’t they? It just goes to show inconvenient chronic knee pain will be, not just for your career, but crippling to your everyday life.
In addition to pain, you may also experience:
- Inability to bend.
- Locking accompanied by acute pain.
- Bed knees.
- Reduced range of motion.
- Instability in your knees.
- Twisted knees.
- Burning sensations.
- Tingling sensations and finally
It is also good to remember that knees pains aren’t all the same in all instances. You may be experiencing knee pain but still, the question begs:
A review of different knee pains
Some pain gradually builds up, while some knee pain will shoot suddenly and intensely from nowhere.
First things first, let’s review the structure of the knee
The knee joint has amazing anatomy; a real masterpiece. The joint comprises of several parts that not only support but depend on each other. In addition, the different parts must work together in unison and perfect harmony to allow the knee to function properly. The knee is the designated weight bearing of the body; by default, making it the most vulnerable.
Consider the following facts:
The knee supports 1.5 times your body weight when you are walking.
It supports 3 to for times your body weight when climbing the stairs.
It supports eight times your weight when squatting.
This goes to show you the enormous responsibly that is placed on the knee.
Parts of the knee joint
The knee is a complex body organ comprising the following parts. Bones
NOTE: Reviews of all these body parts reveal that they are made out of collagen, a tissue that is present throughout the body. As you age, collagen gradually breaks down. This is why you are likely to have more issues with your joints in your old age as compared to your youth.
We now briefly review each of the parts.
There are two main bones that make up the knee:
The two bones of the knee are the femur and the tibia; the thigh bone and the shin bone consecutively.
The femur is not only the longest bone in the body but also the largest. It runs all the way from the pelvis to the knee. It has round knobs at the end known as condyles.
The tibia is the second biggest bone in the body. It starts from the knee and ends at the ankle.
In addition to the two main bones, the fibula is a long thin bone in your lower leg, lying side by side to the tibia, from the knee to the ankle.
Patella is the scientific term given to the knee cap. The patella moves every time the leg moves. It also functions to prevent friction between the knee bones and the knee joint muscles when you bend or straighten the knee. This is for the protection of your knee joints.
Before we continue, consider the following awesomeness:
When seated, the tibia and the femur hardly touch.
When standing, the two lock together, forming one stable unit.
Tendons are stretchy tissues that are attached to the muscles and they function to join the muscles to the bones. Their main purpose is to provide stability to the knee. There are two tendons in every knee.
- The patellar
The quadriceps tendons join the quadriceps muscles of your thigh to your knee cap, providing the knee with the ability to bend. The patellar tendon, on the other hand, joins the kneecap to the shin bone.
These cover the ends of the bones that have to communicate ‘touch’ during movement. Hence, their other name is articular cartilages because the bones are said to articulate whenever they move against each other. They are fundamental because they allow the bones to move effortlessly, preventing friction in the process.
Ligaments are stretchy, fibrous threads that connect a bone to the next. The knee has four ligaments, all of which are connected to the femur and the tibia.
- The Posterior Cruciate Ligaments and the Anterior Cruciate Ligaments (PCL and ACL) provide the back and front (posterior and anterior) rotation capability to the knee.
- The Lateral Collateral Ligament and Medial Collateral Ligament ( LCL and MCL) are located on the outer and inner (Lateral and Medial) and they provide the knee with lateral and medial stability.
In the middle of your knee are menisci. These are disc-shaped organs that act as shock absorbents for the knee joint.
I know we have talked a lot about the stretching and bending of the knee. I want to point out to you real quick that those are by no means the only activities that the knee can perform. The knee can also twist and rotate from side to side.
Locations of chronic knee pain
There are mainly four locations of knee pain:
- Front of the knee joint: Frontal pain could be experienced:
- Above your knee. This pain mainly when poor training technique is used. For example, squatting wrongly with the knees going beyond the toes will cause this pain.
- Below your knee cap. This pain originates from the patellar tendon. This is the tendon which connects your knee cap to your lower leg.
- Back of your knee joint. You feel the pain when bending the knee. It is due to poor mobility of your knee joint.
- Inside the knee. This results from tendonitis of your groin muscles or from straining of the (MCL). By now you are conversant with the term.
- Outside of the knee. This pain will be from tendonitis (inflammation of the tendons) or due to irritation of the knee’s medial.
Reviews show that these are the major Causes of Chronic knee pain in athletes.
The likelihood of chronic knee pain will depend on several factors:
- Age: For instance, a former athlete may be more at risk than an active athlete.
- The level of activity: The more intense and strenuous your training program is, the more likely you are to expose yourself to chronic knee pain.
- Weight: The heavier you are, the more pressure you are exerting on your knee. This, in turn, increases your chances of experiencing chronic knee pain. It is always advisable that you maintain your weight at the ideal.
- Previous injuries: If you have been injured before, it means that you are more vulnerable to another injury as compared to the next athlete.
- Your posture: Poor posture puts undue pressure on the knee. Consequently; this increases the possibility of pain. This is not a scam, it is factual.
Causes of Chronic knee pain in athletes.
There are numerous causes of chronic knee pain:
Any form of injury sustained to an athlete’s tendons, the ligament or the bones will lead to persistent pain.
The four most common injuries are:
- Damaged meniscus: meniscus is rubbery cartilage that connects the shin bone and the thighbone. The meniscus is responsible for “absorbing shock” on behalf of your legs. If it is injured, the knee will have to endure more pressure than it ought to, leading to further problems.
- Bursitis: bursitis is a part of the knee that ensures that the ligaments and tendons glide effortlessly over your knees. They are a safety measure to protect your knee from wearing out.
- Patellar tendinitis: The tendinitis is the inflammation of a tendon. An inflamed tendon is very painful, and these are no exception. This form of inflammation is very common with runners.
- ACL tear: The ACL is one of the most important ligaments whose responsibility is to connect the shinbone and the thighbone. This form of injury is mostly experienced by basketball players.
- Patellofemoral pain (Also known as runner’s pain).The runner will feel a consistent dull pain that seems to be behind or around the runner’s kneecap. The pain is aggravated when the athlete squats, runs, descend stairs or sits for a long time. This will make training very difficult for you.
Apart from injuries, other causes of knee pain are what I will call mechanical problems. These are factors that may cause changes in how your knees work. They can actually become very critical if not treated.
- Dislocation of the knee cap. A dislocation of the knee cap can be quite painful. It may or may not be visible. It is not easy to treat a dislocated knee cap.
- Loose bone or cartilage. As an aftermath of an injury sustained earlier, a part of the cartilage or bone might have been torn out and is out there floating within the space of your knee joint.
- Pain in the hip or foot Pain in the hip or foot will alter the way you walk in an effort to reduce the discomfort, and consequently, will change the manner in which your body balances its weight. As a result, this irritates and damages the knees.
- Pseudogout. Pseudogout is a condition that is caused by calcium pellets that develop in the fluid of your knee joint.
- Arthritic pain. Arthritis is the inflammation within the joint itself. Arthritis may cause swelling in the joint. This may be as a result of the body trying to fight off a viral or bacterial attack.
- Osteoarthritis: this is a degenerative form condition. It is very painful. The surfaces within the knee joints are damaged making it hard for the knee joint to move smoothly.
NOTE: The leading cause of knee injury in athletes in training errors. You are always susceptible to training error, whether you are a novice or elite. For instance, increased exertion on the knee from an athlete who is not well conditioned will lead to overuse injury. Injuries also result from using the wrong techniques, or if you buy equipment that is worn out or one that does not fit you properly.
Injuries also result from using the wrong techniques, or if you buy equipment that is worn out or one that does not fit you properly.
Prevention of Chronic knee pain in athletes (Prevention is better than cure).
Reviews indicate that there are ways you can avoid being a victim of chronic pain:
- Maintain an acceptable healthy weight that your knees can comfortably accommodate.
- Be faithful to stretching before embarking on your regular training, playing your sport.
- Vary your exercises routine. Mix it up with some light exercises so that you do not always exert pressure on your knee.
- Always ensure that you wear appropriate sports gear and equipment. This is especially important for those athletes who play contact sports.
- Always stand, walk, and sit up straight (don’t hunch your back). Keep a good posture even if you are just resting or relaxing.
Management of pain
You can go a long way to relieving your pain even at home by:
- Icing your knee at the end of the day.
- Make it a habit of elevating your knee especially when it is swelled.
- A warm shower or buy a heating pad This is guaranteed to always make you feel better.
- Have periods of rest in between your training activity.
- Wear protective comfortable shoes that provide cushioning to your feet and knees.
- Sleep flat on your back or put a pillow between your knees.
NOTE: on the onset of pain, you should stop further training or playing. This ensures that you do not make the situation even worse. Also, strategy Do not buy into ideas that scam you into thinking that you can out train a painful knee.
strategy. These prehab exercises will also work great for you if incorporated into your workouts:
- Side-lying abduction
- Glute bridge
- Glute bridge leg
- Facedown, glute activation with knee
- Half kneeling hip flexor stretch
- Use a foam roll on your muscles.
You can also do the following exercises at home to reduce the pain. You are advised to do three sets, 10 repetitions of each exercise. Increase the numbers only and only if you are able to perform the exercise easily and without any pain.
Hamstring curls. These work the back of your thighs. Hold the back of a chair, lift the left foot, moving it towards your back, and do not go further than 90 degrees. Your legs will form the number four. Hold that position for three to five seconds and then lower the leg. Switch to the other one. Remember, the knees should be close together.
Straight leg lifts. This exercise works the front of your thighs.
Lie on the back. One leg remains straight while you bend the other. Lift the straight leg a few inches from the floor and at the same time tightening the thigh muscles. Hold the position for five seconds and then lower the leg slowly. Switch to the other leg.
Wall squats. These exercises work the front of your thighs.
Stand straight with your against the wall. Your feet should be two feet away from the wall, and hip-width apart. Now, slide down the wall to a near sitting position. Hold for 10 seconds and slowly come back. Your knees should not overextend beyond your toes.
Single leg dips. This exercise works the thighs, hips, and buttocks.
Have two chairs on either side and hold each at the back. Lift on the leg towards the front while at the same bending your other (supporting knee) in the process, lowering yourself a few inches. Hold the position for five seconds, straighten up and then switch sides.
Steps-up. This works your, hips, thighs and the buttocks
You can use a staircase step or a stool which is six inches from the floor. Place one leg on your chosen platform, allowing the other one to hang loosely. Retain the position for about five seconds and then lower the foot slowly. Repeat and switch sides.
After mastery of these exercise routines, weights can then be incorporated into the regime and gradually increased to improve your overall knee strength.
You can embark on the more aggressive treatment of the pain but only in situations where you do not improve in spite of several weeks of rest, home remedies, and comeback exercises.
As a comeback strategy start training slowly and then gradually increase the frequency, duration, and intensity of your training. Do not increase your routine of more than 10% every successive week. Do not come too early or you will be forced to alter the way you move which will take you back to the chronic pain. Always apply ice parks to your knee joint for 15-20 minutes after your exercise session.
To conclude, knee .buy pads, braces, wraps and other protective devices to cushion blows to your knee.