As the largest and perhaps most important joint in the body, the knee joint is an easy one to injury. Through twisting or moving awkwardly, there can be a strain on the joint and even if overusing, this can create knee pain. The knee joint takes a great deal of pressure and weight-bearing and this, along with natural aging are all likely causes of joint problems. Mild strains are likely where the tissues of the knee are stretched but minor aches and pains are unlikely to need medical assistance. Protecting, resting and using ice to relieve any inflammation is wise but ensuring flexibility is maintained and good muscular strength is present around the knee joint will help in a preventative manner. During recovery from any sprains, it’s useful to keep the leg elevated as much as is possible.
It is wise to take preventive measures to knee joint health because a severe injury could lead to a greater risk of ligament issues or, even arthritis in the long term:
- Take a measured approach to increasing activity levels
- Wear good fitting sports shoes
- Warm up prior to exercising and stretch as part of the cool down process
- Try low-impact exercises which will not injure the knee joints
Any injury to the knee joint could be costly. Damage to the joint will certainly affect movement, flexibility and, once weakened, it is likely that the individual will suffer from future pain or a reduction of mobility. According to Dr. Mininder Kocher, an orthopedics professor at Harvard Medical School, the potential to develop arthritis in the knee joint following a tear to a tendon or ligament is more than 50 percent. Therefore, treatment and due consideration to the health of the joint is paramount. Arthritis is very common and pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joint are typical.
The knee is a modified hinge joint which enables extension and flexion. It also enables external and internal rotation to a certain degree. There are three compartments; the patella (kneecap) the patellar groove on the front of the femur and the medial and lateral tibiofemoral articulations which connect the femur to the tibia. The joint capsule contains synovial membrane and fluid.
Knee joint pain can be considerable and where the severe injury occurs to the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) perhaps a severe sprain or if torn, the individual will experience stiffness, swelling, pain on the outside of the knee and a weakness in the joint. Partial LCL injuries may not demonstrate many symptoms. The LCL is one of four ligaments to help stabilize the joint but, this is the most common of LCL injuries.
It is easy to injure the LCL:
- Over-stretching or over-use
- Hyperextension of the knee
- Twisting movements or a sudden change of direction
Injuries are graded accordingly. A grade 1 LCL sprain means that the ligament did not tear although there is the risk of further injury. A grade 11 LCL sprain means that there is partial tearing to the ligament and some symptoms will be experienced. When a grade 111 LCL sprain occurs, the ligament will have torn completely and there may be bleeding beneath the skin. If all the pain fibers are torn at the same time, there will be little to no pain.
Recovery – depending on the grade of injury may take up to four months. Minor injuries take much less healing time. Certainly, physiotherapy treatments will accelerate the healing process via massage, joint exercises, and electrical modalities. They will also guide the way that the knee ligament fibers heal. This can also help to reduce the potential to tear this ligament again. An MRI may be used for diagnostic purposes to be sure that there are no other combination injuries. Knee surgery may be required especially where there is a combination of injuries. Rehabilitation thereafter will focus on being able to increase strength to the joint and to restore the full motion of the knee. This will also help to reduce the risk of arthritis.