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Why is it important to manage knee injuries early and effectively?12th April 2018
Knee injuries are one of the most commonly sustained injuries. Every year millions of people visit their doctors due to sprains, fractures, ligament tears and dislocations.
This is because the knee is constantly under pressure from your body. This means that your knee takes the full weight of your body if you twist it and fall. This weight can result in some fairly serious knee injuries, and if you don’t seek treatment for your knee, the injury may get worse.
The knee joint
The knee is an intricate joint with lots of different components, which means there are lots of different types of knee injuries. Some injuries only require simple treatment, whereas other knee injuries might require surgery.
The knee has four main parts; bones, ligaments, cartilage and tendons. Here’s a more detailed overview of the different parts of the knee:
There are three bones that meet and form the knee joint - the shinbone, the thighbone and the kneecap.
The three bones are joined to each other by four ligaments. These ligaments hold your bones together to keep the knee stable.
There are also collateral ligaments and cruciate ligaments in your knee. The collateral ligaments surround the knee and control the sideways movement of your knee, which helps to prevent knee injuries. The cruciate ligaments are found inside your knee joint, and they cross over each other to control the back and forward knee motion.
There are two types of cartilage in your knee, meniscus cartilage and articular cartilage. The articular cartilage protects the ends of the tibia and femur and the back of the patella. This helps your knee bones to glide across each other when you move, without causing inflammation or irritation. The meniscus cartilage helps to absorb shock between the tibia and femur. This cartilage is tougher than articular cartilage, which helps to stabilise the joint and reduce the risk of injury.
The muscles in your body are joined to the bones by tendons. For instance, the quadriceps tendon joins the muscles at the front of the thigh to the patella.
Common knee injuries
As the knee is made from so many different components, there are lots of different knee injuries that you can sustain. Each injury will require a different form of treatment, so it is important to have your injury identified by a medical professional.
A dislocated knee is a fairly common knee injury. The dislocation happens when the bones in your knee are moved out of place. Sometimes the bone is completely moved out of place, and sometimes it is only partially moved out of place.
Dislocations are sometimes caused by natural abnormalities within the knee structure. If you have a normal knee structure, dislocation normally occurs after high energy impact, which may happen during sports, a fall or a car crash.
The knee bone that is most likely to be fractured is the patella, but the ends of the tibia and femur can also be fractured. Most knee fractures are caused by high energy trauma such as a significant fall or car crash.
Injuries to the posterior cruciate ligament
Injuries to the posterior cruciate ligament are normally partial tears, and sometimes they can heal naturally on their own. However you should still speak to a doctor to find out if they recommend treatment. This knee injury most commonly occurs after the front of your knee is hit when the knee isn’t straight.
Anterior cruciate ligament injuries
Anterior cruciate ligament injuries, also known as ACL injuries, most commonly occur during contact sports like basketball, soccer and football. Normally, the injury occurs after landing incorrectly after a jump, or after suddenly changing direction while running.
ACL injuries sometimes happen alongside another knee injury, such as articular cartilage damage or meniscus ligament damage.
Collateral ligament injuries
Collateral ligament injuries normally occur after contact, such as a straight blow to the knee. This pushes the knee outwards. However, tears to the lateral collateral ligament happen less often than any other knee injuries, and it is important to speak to a medical professional about treatment options.
A tender tear is a fairly common knee injury. It most frequently happens to middle-aged people during physical activity, such as jumping or running. Normally, the injury occurs after a fall, such as landing on the knee or landing awkwardly, as the tendon is stretched and can be torn.
Meniscal tears can be a result of aging and arthritis, but they can also occur during sports. Falling, twisting, being tackled and pivoting are all common causes of meniscal tears. Simply getting up from the sofa awkwardly can cause a meniscal tear, especially if the menisci are weak.
Why you must treat a knee injury early
If you have injured your knee, you must speak to a medical professional about treatment as soon as possible. This is because if you leave a knee injury, it can quickly progress into something more severe. This could mean that you have to take time off work and sports, and you may need to have surgery to rectify the problem.
You may even have knee problems for the rest of your life, if you don’t seek treatment. This could mean that you have problems walking later in life, and for instance, you may need a walking stick.
It is especially important to treat your knee injury if it is an ACL injury. This is because people who suffer ACL injuries are much more likely to experience osteoarthritis of the knee in later life.
If you arrange to speak to a medical professional, they will diagnose the injury and then recommend a form of treatment. They will treat immediate symptoms, such as pain and swelling, on the day, and then they will set you on a treatment plan that will help to heal and strengthen the knee.
A knee injury will be diagnosed by your doctor. They will do a history and physical examination to determine the type of injury, and they may also do an X-ray or an MRI.
The kind of treatment that you receive for your knee injury will be determined by which joint has been affected. The severity of your injury will also affect your treatment options. If the injury is severe, your treatment plan may take months to complete, but if it is a minor injury, your doctor may simply recommend that you take a week off work, so that the knee can rest.
Your treatment will either be surgical, non-surgical or a mixture of both. Your doctor will need to consider your circumstances, before suggesting treatment. For instance, if you are older, that may affect the injury, and some people are allergic to certain medications.
If the injury is severe, it is likely that physical therapy will be a part of your treatment. This can also reduce the risk of another knee injury in the future, as it will help to protect the joint cartilage from further damage.
Knee braces are one of the main forms of treatment for knee injuries. There are lots of different types of knee braces for different injuries. Some offer compression, which helps to reduce inflammation and pain relief. However, these types of brace wouldn’t help to treat a knee injury such as ligament damage.
Other braces offer stability, so that the person can be mobile while their knee heals.
If you have osteoarthritis, it is important to diagnose the root cause of the problem, as treatment is different depending on where the injury is located. For instance, the injury could happen at one side of the knee, both sides of the knee or the front of the knee. Because of this, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis, so that you choose the right knee brace, as the wrong brace may make the injury worse.