Knees are an important part of our physical makeup, from running and jumping to everything in between. You’ll likely experience knee pain at some point in life, but what about when discomfort occurs in this much-used joint despite having no recent injuries?
While it may be tempting to hope it improves on its own, determining your knee pain cause is key to finding the right treatment and preventing worsening symptoms.
Why Does My Knee Hurt Without an Injury?
Non-injury knee pain can affect people of all ages, and the reason is often an underlying condition. This makes it imperative to get a professional diagnosis as soon as possible to clarify how serious your knee pain is, and the best route to pain relief management.
Common Causes of Knee Pain Without an Injury
Knee pain causes range from sporting injuries and physical accidents to mechanical problems and arthritis. While the majority of non-injury knee pain involves ligaments and tendons – the connective tissues – other factors can significantly increase the likelihood of knee pain such as lack of muscle strength, being overweight, and having previous knee injuries.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome refers to pain between the thigh bone and the kneecap on top. There are multiple causes of this patellofemoral syndrome; younger athletes can develop the condition if their kneecap doesn’t shift correctly in its position, and older adults who suffer from arthritis in the kneecap can struggle from this pain syndrome.
The main symptoms of osteoarthritis in the knee are commonly swelling, stiffness, and inflammation, often accompanied by bone spurs and a loss of flexibility. The root cause of knee osteoarthritis ranges widely, from past injuries to obesity, resulting in the painful wearing away of protective cartilage.
This form of arthritis means there is no cushion between the knee joint bones, and while there is no known cure the right treatment can provide effective pain management.
Bursitis and Tendinopathies
Within the knee, small sacs of fluid known as bursae prevent friction and aid ligaments and tendons to move smoothly between the bones. Bursitis is the inflammation or irritation of the bursae, typically due to repetitive movements or overuse.
Tendons are the white shiny tissue that joins the muscles to the bones. These tissues can become swollen and irritated often due to load management problems. That is, either underloading and weakness, or overloading the tissue. The tendon starts to undergo tissue modifications due to not being able to cope with the load being asked of it, and this leads to pain and swelling. In the knee area, the most commonly affected tendons are the patella tendon (often known as runners knee pain), the ITB (often known as ITB friction syndrome, although this is a misnomer!), and hamstring tendons.
Diagnosing Knee Pain Without an Injury
There are many types and causes of knee pain, ranging greatly in severity of discomfort and location. However, if you suffer from any of the following symptoms its imperative to visit a professional physiotherapist for an expert diagnosis:
- Stiffness or swelling
- Instability or weakness
- Crunching or popping noise
- Warm to the touch
Strengthening, range of motion exercises, and physiotherapy are highly effective solutions for knee pain, providing consistent care, strengthening and support to the area. While severe knee pain may require additional medical procedures, physiotherapy including a targeted strengthening program has been scientifically proven to be effective at managing pain and maintaining/improving function even in osteo-arthritis.
If you’re suffering from unexplained knee pain book an appointment with expert physiotherapists, or a doctor if there is an emergency. From an inability to straighten or bend your leg, difficulty walking or sitting for longer times and swelling to visible deformities and redness, it’s crucial to get a professional diagnosis if you have serious knee pain.
Contact Miami Physio today to book an appointment and access expert knee pain care, or with any queries.