Knee Pain

Part of: Bone Health

Common knee conditions

The knee is an important structure in the body that is responsible for movement and weight-bearing. It is one of the largest joints in the body and consists of an extensive network of cartilage, ligaments, menisci, and surrounding muscles and tendons. The knee joint consists of 3 bones:

  • Thighbone (femur)
  • Shinbone (tibia)
  • Kneecap (patella)

A knee injury can be a result of sports or recreational activities, accidental falls, and daily wear and tear. Minor injuries may heal on their own but certain knee injuries can lead to serious conditions that affect knee function in the long run.

Knowing how to spot the symptoms of a knee injury can prevent it from worsening. Learn about common knee conditions and orthopaedic treatments available at Mount Elizabeth Hospitals.

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The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the main stabilising ligaments in the knee. ACL tears are common in sports that involve start-stop movements, pivots or sudden changes in direction. Examples of these sports include football, netball, tennis, dancing and skiing.

If your ACL ruptures, you may:

  • Feel immediate pain
  • Hear a popping sound
  • Find it difficult to move your knee
  • Experience instability in your knee
  • Experience early swelling that may be immediate or within a few hours

Learn more about ACL tears and their treatment options.

The meniscus is a small, C-shaped cartilage that acts as a cushion in your knee joint. There are 2 menisci that protect the knee joint from wear and tear and help to stabilise it.

The meniscus can be injured or torn. This may happen during movements that forcefully rotate the knee while the foot is firmly planted, such as when you play basketball or football.

Symptoms of a meniscus tear include:

  • A clicking or popping sounds during movement
  • A locking sensation (inability to straighten the knee)
  • Swelling or tenderness at the joint line
  • Pain on either side of the knee
  • Limited range of movement

Learn more about meniscus tear and its treatment options.

What is anterior knee pain?

Anterior knee pain is pain and inflammation on the underside of the kneecap (patella), at the front and centre of your knee.

What causes anterior knee pain?

Anterior knee pain can be caused by many different reasons. It can result from:

  • Injury or trauma to the kneecap, such as a dislocation or fracture.
  • Repetitive stress on your knee joint due to overuse (e.g. prolonged long-distance running or jumping sports)
  • Weakened muscles around the hip and knee.

It often affects young people who play sports and older people who overwork their knees.

What are the symptoms of anterior knee pain?

Common symptoms include a dull aching pain in the front of the kneecap. This pain can be aggravated by kneeling, squatting, running, sitting cross-legged, and stair climbing.

How is anterior knee pain diagnosed?

Your doctor will perform a physical examination to check for bone alignment, muscle strength and joint stability.

How is anterior knee pain treated?

Anterior knee pain often improves with rest, changes to your activity and exercise. Surgery is rarely needed. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Exercises to strengthen your muscles, especially your quadriceps
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain
  • Taping your knee to realign the kneecap and wearing a knee brace
  • Losing weight if you are overweight

Speak to our orthopaedic surgeons to diagnose and treat anterior knee pain.

The patellar tendon connects the shin bone (tibia) to the kneecap (patella). It works with the muscles in front of the thigh area to straighten the leg. Patellar tendonitis, also called jumper's knee, is an injury to the patellar tendon.

Patellar tendonitis is characterised by:

  • Pain and tenderness just below the kneecap
  • Pain and swelling when kneeling.

Learn more about patellar tendonitis and its treatment options.

The patellar tendon connects the shin bone (tibia) to the kneecap (patella). It works with the muscles in front of the thigh area to straighten the leg.

Patellar tendon ruptures or tears may occur due to injuries or age-related wear and tear

You may experience a tearing or popping sensation when a patellar tendon tears. Other common symptoms include:

  • Pain and swelling
  • Inability to straighten the knee
  • A dent at the bottom of the kneecap
  • The kneecap shifting up to the thigh
  • Tenderness at the bottom or just below the knee cap
  • Cramping around the knee cap
  • Difficulty walking

Learn more about patellar tendon rupture and our treatments.

Arthritis refers to an inflammation of the joints. Knee arthritis can cause the knee joint to become stiff or deformed. There are 3 types of knee arthritis:

  1. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that may occur as you age. This is the most common form of arthritis where the cartilage (cushions between the bones) of the knee joint becomes thinner due to wear and tear. As a result, the bones rub together and cause pain, swelling and decreased motion.
  2. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which your body’s immune system attacks the knee joint.
  3. Post-trauma arthritis is caused by a direct impact to the knee that damages the cartilage and changes the joint mechanics.

Symptoms of knee arthritis include:

  • Having bumps or ‘nodes’ around the knee
  • Cracking or grinding when moving your knee
  • Joint instability or a feeling that your knee is ‘giving way’
  • Knee pain that develops gradually and worsens with prolonged walking or standing. Your knee may also feel stiff or swollen in the morning.

Learn more about knee arthritis and our treatments.

As you age, your bone strength decreases. Osteoporosis is a condition in which your bone tissues break down faster than your body can rebuild them, leading to brittle and weak bones.

Hip fractures are generally caused by accidents. Older people with osteoporosis have a higher risk of hip fractures as their bones are generally weaker.

If you have a hip fracture, you are likely to experience:

  • Pain in your thigh, outer hip, pelvis and groin area.
  • Difficulty standing or walking, and extreme pain when you put weight on your leg.
  • Physical changes, such as bruising, deformity or a short appearance in the affected leg.

Learn more about osteoporosis, hip fractures and our treatments.

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