When you compare them to other areas of the body, the knees seem to be fairly simple. Knees are basically hinge joints - similar to the hinges on a door, and they only really move one way. Unfortunately, the knee also represents one of the most commonly injured joints in the human body. The chances are that at some point during your life, you'll experience some form of knee pain - either caused by regular activity, exercise, or simply an unpredictable accident.
Most people who suffer from some of the most common knee injuries find that they occur almost out of nowhere, whereas other problems appear to creep up over a longer period. Either way, many fitness enthusiasts, athletes, and average Joes all find that they probably could have prevented their knee problem from happening if they'd taken a few preventative measures. Strength-building and knee compression therapy can go a long way to eradicating future joint related problems.
Following, we'll address just some of the most common knee injuries, and what you can do to fix, and prevent them in the future.
1. Runner's Knee
Runner's knee usually occurs because of overuse. Whether you're spending too much time at the gym without your knee compression therapy, or you're pushing yourself too far on the track, you could end up forcing your knee to take on more stress than it can handle. Though it's known primarily as "runner's knee" athletes like weightlifters can also experience symptoms, and the condition may also be caused by injuries, direct blows to the knee joint, weak quads, or flat feet. Signs that you're suffering from runner's knee include:
- Pain when bending the knee
- Discomfort around the knee cap
- Problems walking up or downhill
In most circumstances, runner's knee indicates that someone lacks hip stability in their frontal plane. Because of this, doing a lot of side and front planks can be useful for building up necessary strength. Another recommended exercise is the "step-up". If you're already suffering from runner's knee, then the best way to fix it is with the R.I.C.E method. Rest, use ice, grab your knee compression therapy, and elevate the affected joint.
2. IT Band Syndrome
The Iliotibial band is the fibrous tissue that runs across the outside of the leg, all the way from the lateral side of the shin to the hip. IT band syndrome is a problem that develops when this band of tissue is irritated - typically resulting in pain around the outside of the knee, or just above the knee. When it isn't handled appropriately, ITBS can sometimes lead to meniscus tears - which may require surgery to allow for a full recovery.
Often, IT band syndrome is caused by a sudden increase in activity level. This might include increasing your mileage as a runner, or jumping straight into heavy workouts without any time for a proper transition. IT band syndrome can also occur from running at an incline, or decline, or from general overuse.
As with runner's knee, and many of the other most common knee injuries, the RICE method is quite an effective form of rehabilitation. What's more, when you have recovered from the initial injury, you should consider working on the strength around your legs to prevent further muscle problems. For instance, by engaging in stretches that work on the glutes, hip flexors, and outside of the leg, you should lower your chance of additional problems in the immediate future. Many people recommend using a foam roller to stretch out the IT band to speed the recovery process, but this can be quite painful for some.
3. Jumper's Knee
As the name might indicate, jumper's knee is often brought on by excessive jumping - generally as a factor in competing or participating in sports such as volleyball and basketball. Often, jumper's knee stems from overuse, and an inability to maintain the proper muscle form to prevent injury. Usually, if you suffer from jumper's knee, you'll experience pain across the front and bottom of the kneecap, and may feel stiffness in the area following a workout. You might also experience pain when flexing you thigh muscles.
Once again, as with the other most common knee injuries on this list, it's a good idea to use the RICE method to begin your treatment. Try to avoid ignoring the problem if you think that the pain is only minor to begin with. Many people find that issues of Jumper's knee start with some mild discomfort, before growing progressively worse over time. If you have a minor injury and continue to engage in knee-centric sports, your discomfort may quickly become more significant.
4. Ligament Tears and Sprains
Finally, most of the time, when you hear someone complaining about a knee-based injury, they'll be referring to a tear, or sprain in one of the ligaments that surround the knee joint. Injuries to ligaments such as the MCL (medial cruciate ligament) and the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) are probably the most familiar on this list. Though other knee problems generally develop over time, tears and sprains can be very sudden, and often result from a jarring, sharp motion such as an awkward landing or sudden contact.
There are three primary grades of tears and sprains in the knee. The first is grade one - where you overstretch your ligament (without tearing it). The second is grade two, which involves partial or slight tearing, and the third is Grade three which includes a full rupture. The common causes of these injuries can range from sports that include a lot of quick lateral movements like lacrosse and football, to regular running and other activity.
The best way to address a sprain or tear is to speak to your doctor or physical therapist and ask for help with painkillers and rehabilitation treatment. However, people who have had ACL and MCL tears in the past find that using knee compression therapy in the future can help them to prevent future injuries - as it provides extra support and protection during activity.