Knee Injury: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

While staying active is a great way to maintain the health of your body as a whole, injuries are a real possibility, particularly as you age. As it turns out, knee injuries are often times the first to manifest, resulting in the loss of mobility or pain for an extended period of time.

Knee injuries can happen to anyone, irrespective of age, and are usually more likely if you possess certain risk factors.

Types of Knee Injuries

Not all injuries affecting the knee are the same, as they can originate in different locations within the knee, or as a result of different triggers. Common types of injuries include:

Knee Dislocations

Most likely to occur in athletes or persons that are considered outdoorsmen. Dislocations usually occur owing to high force impaction to the knee joint, such as from falling a great distance on your knees, or being involved in a motor vehicle accident.

While dislocations are rarer than other causes of knee injuries, they do result in significant damage to all structures within the knee, along with associated vascular and nervous components. Temporary loss of mobility is certain, along with the possibility of it being permanent if not addressed urgently and efficiently.

Minor forms of dislocation may involve the patella moving out of place, which can be addressed by popping it back into its original location.


Sprains often occur following injury to the ligaments that help support the knee and keep it in place. Sprains may be self-limiting, where no real damage has occurred, and run along the spectrum to the point that significant damage has occurred and surgical repair is necessary.


Strains occur when tendons or muscles that are directly connected to the knee are moved beyond their normal range of motion, usually as a result of hyperextension. Under normal conditions the knees do not extend beyond 180° to the front, but when damage has occurred it is free to move much further. Significant pain is often observed, and usually requires medical intervention.


Occurs when bones in the knee, such as the patella, crack as a result of impact, or when the tibia or femur are also affected. Most persons will not experience a fracture on falling on the knees, unless they do so from a significant height. People with osteoporosis are much more likely to develop knee fractures from falls.

Causes of Knee Injuries


Osteoporosis increases the likelihood of experiencing knee injuries owing to fractures of the bones within the joint. Osteoporosis raises the likelihood of falls occurring as well, with fractures also more likely to occur.


All types of arthritis are characterized by inflammation and degeneration of cartilage within the knee, resulting in chronic pain and tenderness. Arthritis itself does not cause a knee injury per se, but does lend itself to knee injuries such as those as a result of bursitis.

Vehicular Accidents

Often associated with very high impact injuries on joints, especially the knees. Damage to several structures within the knee joint are common, and may require splinting or immobility for a prolonged period of time.


Most likely to occur in endurance athletes such as distance runners who subject their joints to prolonged, repeated stressors over the course of many miles. Overuse injuries may not be serious, but repeated occurrences do increase the chances of knee injuries becoming chronic.

Body Weight

Overweight people are much more likely to develop knee injuries such as bursitis from the stress placed on the joint every day. The bursae within the knees act as shock absorbers, and also cushion other structures within the joint. Damage to these bursae cause compression of other structures and result in pain and inflammation.

Symptoms of A Knee Injury


The most obvious sign that a knee injury has occurred is pain at the location of the joint. Even though pain may occur spontaneously and resolve without indicating an injury, a person usually has a rough idea when an injury has occurred.


The knee appears visibly swollen, and tender to touch. This is because the immune system has mediated the release of inflammatory markers that attempt to initiate recovery. Inflammation usually worsens the perception of pain as well.

Unstable Gait

Your gait refers to the ability to walk and stand without issue. If you notice visible leaning to one side, limping and discomfort while walking and standing, some form of damage to the knee joint is often times common.

Weight-Bearing Issues

A person with a knee injury may find it difficult to stand for even short durations of time, as the pressure placed on the knee is excruciating. The body attempts to compensate by placing all the weight on the healthy healthy knee (if applicable), resulting in knee pain in the other knee many times.

Inability To Bend The Knees

An injury can occur at the location within the knee that makes standing possible, but makes flexing the knees difficult. It is important to investigate for injuries that may affect different parts of the knee joint as opposed to looking at the knee as a whole.

Treatment of Knee Injuries

Application of Ice

If an injury occurs at home, application of ice is a common primary approach to alleviating pain and inflammation. It may help, but does absolutely nothing to address the injury itself.


Immobilization either involves bed rest for a prolonged period of time, or use of a splint that prevents movement of the knee joint. Splinting may allow you to stand, but it is still a better idea to keep pressure off of the knees at this time.

Anti-Inflammatory Medication

These are typically used as adjunctive therapy for managing pain and swelling, such as which occurs in bursitis. Oral medication may be prescribed, or depot forms of steroids administered via injection. Other options include over-the-counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen.


If an injury involves inability to move the knees, loss of range of motion, or involves fractures, surgery is usually the only way to resolve these. Following surgical intervention a period of wheelchair use is usually mandatory if you still need to move around in this time frame.

Open knee surgeries are often not necessary today with the advent of arthroscopy, which uses a tiny incision and use of a camera to fix injuries. This also lends itself to faster recovery and a better prognosis.

Physical Therapy

Any injury which results in damage to supporting components with the knee such as the tendons, muscles or ligaments, stand to benefit greatly from a course of physical therapy. Such a practice gradually encourages a normal range of motion and ability for the knees to regain their supporting function.

Summary – Knee Injuries

Injuries are best dealt with by seeking the assistance of a medical professional. Many people that attempt to fix them on their own end up inadvertently doing more damage than good, or reducing the likelihood of a good outcome occurring.

You should not rely on the use of painkillers to blunt discomfort, as damage can be an ongoing process in the form of degeneration. Always attempt to stay off of your feet in order to facilitate recovery as well.



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