Even before we learn to walk, from the moment we start to crawl, our knees become an integral part of how we get around. From that day, and every day thereafter, we ask a lot of the hinge joints (synovial joints) we know as our knees.
In fact, when walking on level ground, the force on our knees is the equivalent of 1.5 times our body weight. That means a 200-pound man is placing 300 pounds of pressure on his knees with each step. When walking on an incline or climbing stairs, that amount of pressure increases, as it does when running, biking or carrying heavy loads. Simply kneeling to tie your shoes or picking up something off the ground, the force on your knees is nearly five times your bodyweight.
Now, think about that amount of force relative to how we use our knees. Bending down to pick up our kids or grandkids, putting in miles on the treadmill or bicycle, our favorite athletic activities, even just a walk on the beach or a stroll through the park… All of these activities that bring us so much joy, health and life enrichment, are hard on our knees. But, the older we get, the more we feel the effects of that repetitive joint stress.
What happens then? Our knees let us know something’s not right. Unfortunately, we tend to shrug off the early signs of knee disease or injury, chalking it up to “age” or “a minor ache.” While, in some cases, minor knee pain will go away on its own, a lot of the symptoms we try to ignore are indicators of something more than “age” … and many of these symptoms will simply not heal on their own.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), knee pain is, reportedly, one of the most common causes of chronic pain. But what are the warning signs that your knees may be in trouble? Here are some of the most common symptoms to watch for:
What conditions or medical issues cause these symptoms? Before we answer that question, we need to take a closer look at the knee, so you can better understand what is being affected by any diseases or injuries that may be causing your symptoms.
The knee is a strong and complex hinge joint tasked with offering both support and flexibility. As a hinge joint, the knee allows the leg to bend and flex, while limiting lateral (side-to-side) or rotating movement. A system of bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles and other soft tissue makes this movement possible:
Damage or disease in any of these components of the knee joint can result in pain, weakness and loss of function. In addition to traumatic injuries that cause pain and weakness in the knee — sprains, strains, joint dislocation, torn cartilage or torn ligaments — there are several common medical conditions that cause knee pain, weakness or function loss.
While injury is a common reason for knee pain, there are many other risk factors that can increase your odds of developing knee pain or weakness. These factors include age, previous injuries or trauma, improper stretching before physical activity, repetitive bending or flexing for work or recreation, and obesity.
How big an issue is obesity when talking about knee pain? Remember how much pressure we put on our knees when walking or climbing stairs? For every pound a person is overweight, they add four extra pounds of pressure to the knee.
If you are beginning to experience occasional knee pain, or you believe you may have experienced a minor injury or strain on your knee joint, there are a few treatments you can try to reduce pain and prevent further injury:
If these preventative measures fail and your pain continues to worsen, Dr. Skaliy may suggest Epidural Steroid Injections for temporary pain relief. This mix of anti-inflammatory corticosteroid and anesthetic medication can relieve pain and reduce the inflammation causing the pain.
Because the cause of your knee pain and other symptoms may be one of many things, and many of these conditions have similar symptoms, there are several tests necessary to accurately diagnose the cause.
Diagnostics begin with a physical examination to determine the extent and location of the pain, tenderness or other symptoms as well as to determine how well the knee is functioning. From there, medical imaging such as X-rays, a CT scan or an MRI may be recommended to enable the doctor to get a better look at the joint.
As symptoms of joint degeneration increase and become chronic, patients may reach a point where the pain and loss of function is so severe, a doctor may recommend knee surgery. There are several different types of surgery, based on the amount of damage in the knee.
But, no matter how invasive or extensive, all surgeries come with inherent risks, possible side-effects and unknown long-term prognosis. Because of these risks, before you elect surgery, Dr. Skaliy recommends minimally-invasive non-surgical options to treat knee pain. These treatments include Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP) and Stem Cell Therapy.
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) — Concentrated blood platelets, donated by the patient receiving care, are used to activate and enhance the body’s own healing ability. The blood is placed into a specialized centrifuge to separate growth factors and stem cells from the red and white blood cells. The result is a super-concentrated platelet rich plasma. The plasma is then injected into the affected joint.
Stem Cell Therapy (SCT) — A minimally-invasive treatment that promotes healing and regeneration in the affected joint. For more than a decade now, physicians have been using Stem Cell Therapy to successfully treat 65 different medical condition, including joint disease or injury. Stem cell treatment has many benefits over surgery, including:
Listen to what one of our patients had to say about how Stem Cell Therapy changed his life: