What is knee pain?
Knee pain includes any type of pain or discomfort involving the knee. The knee is the joint where the kneecap (patella), thighbone (femur), and bones of the lower leg (tibia and fibula) meet. Your knees are also comprised of skin, muscles, tendons, cartilage, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels, all of which are subject to injury, infection, and other painful conditions.
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Ligaments hold together the bones that make up the knee joint. Cartilage is a protective, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones and allows the knee joint to move smoothly. Nerves control sensation and movement, and blood vessels ensure continuous blood circulation to and from the knees and legs. Healthy knees ensure stability and flexibility of the leg and enable movement of the lower leg. Knee pain can seriously affect your life and is one of the most common reasons for doctor visits.
Knee pain can be acute, develop suddenly, and disappear quickly, or it may build gradually over a long period of time. Chronic knee pain can last for several weeks to months or longer. Knee pain may feel dull and achy, throbbing, piercing, or tingling. You may also experience knee stiffness or paresthesias, pain-like sensations often described as pins and needles, prickling, or burning. Knee pain may be simply irritating and uncomfortable or so debilitating that you cannot put weight on your leg or walk.
The severity of knee pain may vary, depending on the cause. Knee pain can be caused by a very wide variety of conditions including normal growth and aging. Knee pain caused by a minor sprain or contusion may disappear with home treatments, such as rest, ice, elevation of the leg, and medications.
In some cases, knee pain may be caused by a serious or life-threatening condition, such as deep vein thrombosis, knee infection, fracture, or dislocation. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have difficulty moving the leg or walking; deformity of the knee, lower leg, or thigh; severe pain; severe swelling; or color changes in the knee or leg.
What other symptoms might occur with knee pain?
Knee pain can develop along with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Additional symptoms can involve other body systems or areas, such as the cardiovascular and neurological systems. Other symptoms that may accompany knee pain include:
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What causes knee pain?
There are many diseases and conditions that can cause knee pain, but the leading causes are typically related to physical activity, such as overuse, injury, and age-related wear and tear on the muscles, cartilage, tendons and ligaments of the knee.