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Chronic Knee Pain: Causes and Treatment Options

According to recent statistics from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 25 percent of adults in the United States experience frequent knee pain. Chronic knee pain is often debilitating as it decreases range of motion and limits mobility.

Thankfully, many effective treatment options are available for those who struggle with chronic knee pain. The type of treatment largely depends upon the cause of the knee pain.

Common Causes of Chronic Knee Pain

The knee is an important joint in the leg that is made up ligaments, menisci, tendons, cartilage, and the patella, or kneecap. When these parts work as they should, it provides the ability to move about freely without any pain. However, there are many things that cause the knee to work incorrectly, often resulting in chronic pain.

Trauma

Knee damage can result from falling or taking a direct blow to the knee. Repetitive motions and suddenly changing directions while moving can also result in trauma to the knee. Some of the most common traumatic knee injuries include fractures, tears, or kneecap dislocations.

These kinds of injuries commonly occur when you play sports or get into an accident. When knee injuries are not treated right away, or they are not treated correctly, the knee doesn’t heal properly. When this happens, chronic pain usually occurs.

Degenerative Disorders

Degenerative disorders are caused by wear and tear and result in deterioration of the knee. The two primary degenerative disorders that cause chronic knee pain include osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that affects the joints, including the knee. Osteoarthritis begins with a breakdown in the cartilage. The cartilage then gradually wears away.

Osteoporosis is another type of degenerative disorder that causes chronic knee pain. This condition occurs when the bones become thinner and more fragile. When the bones are too thin, the cartilage and connective tissue of the knee can easily become damaged. While osteoporosis isn’t painful, it does increase the risk for knee fractures.

Autoimmune Disease

An autoimmune disease called Rheumatoid arthritis is another cause of chronic knee pain. Autoimmune disorders mean that the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. The synovial membrane covers the knee joint. Rheumatoid arthritis causes this membrane to swell, resulting in knee stiffness and pain.

Obesity, gout, and bacterial infections also commonly cause chronic knee pain. Physicians usually discuss treatment options after the specific cause of chronic knee pain has been determined.

Chronic Knee Pain Treatment Options

There are a variety of treatment options for chronic knee pain. For some, losing weight can alleviate pressure on the joints, which reduces knee pain. Others may benefit from staying physically active. When losing weight or staying active aren’t good options, there are other ways to treat chronic knee pain.

Physical Therapy

To avoid invasive types of treatment, the first thing a doctor recommends for chronic knee pain is physical therapy. This type of therapy strengthens the muscles around the knee, which reduces pressure on that joint. Physical therapy also increases the range of motion in the knee, as well as stability.

A physical therapist might also incorporate other types of treatment including electrical stimulation, ultrasound, kinesiology taping, or soft tissue massage.

Genicular Nerve Blocks

Genicular nerves are the branches of nerves around the knee that provide sensation. One way to block pain around the knee is to target the genicular nerves. This is done with a genicular nerve block, which consists of a local anesthetic.

When a person receives a genicular nerve block, it only takes up to 30 minutes for them to feel relief. A genicular nerve block eventually wears off, which means it will have to be repeated. For some, pain relief lasts several months.

Radiofrequency Ablation

For those who do not get enough pain relief from a nerve block, or the nerve block treatment doesn’t last long enough, there is another option called radiofrequency ablation. This procedure involves injecting a very hot needle directly into the nerve. The tip of the needle gets heated to 176 degrees Fahrenheit.

The heat creates inflammation and disables the nerve. Radiofrequency ablation causes swelling and soreness, which can last for several days. Once the swelling and pain have subsided, this type of treatment can provide pain relief for up to one year.

Knee Replacement Surgery

Unfortunately, some people with chronic knee pain have a difficult time finding a treatment that reduces their pain. When all other treatment options have failed, knee replacement surgery may be the only thing left to try.

If you experience chronic knee pain, contact Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates.  We will help you determine the cause of your chronic knee pain and discuss available treatment options. Our pain management team has been helping patients live a pain-free life for 20 years. And we can help you find relief from your pain too.

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