Monday, August 1, 2011

Ask Us Anything: What's Causing My Knee Pain?

"I run about 1 mile four days a week. I experience pain in my knee when I run and also when I walk upstairs or downstairs. What could be the cause? Will the pain go away on its own? Is there anything that I can do to speed up the healing process?"

Physical Therapist Richard Szabala Responds:

Physical Therapist Richard Szabala
Generally, the knee pain that you are describing can come from one of two different things.

First, it could be a mild tendonitis. A tendonitis will usually get sorer with activity such as running and jumping. If this is the case, rest and ice, along with gentle stretching of your quadriceps muscles for 2-3 weeks will allow it to heal.

The other source of pain could be from wear and tear of the cartilage in your knee.

Cartilage soreness feels more like a constant toothache and is affected more by squatting and bending activities.

In your knee, you have two types of cartilage:
  • a thick piece of cartilage called the meniscus that lays on the surface of your tibia bone and acts as a shock absorber for your knee;
  • and articular cartilage which covers the surface of your bones and acts as the lubrication system for knee.
If either of these are involved, again, rest and ice is in order. However, you may benefit from a specialized exercise program designed by a physical therapist.

Cartilage damage can take a long time to heal and is very prone to becoming worse if not handled properly. Cartilage injuries may require a doctor's visit, especially if  they do not respond to conservative treatment.

Sometimes surgery may be required if the damage to the cartilage is severe.

– Richard Szabala PT, OCS

Richard Szabala is the senior physical therapist at AthletiCare Orchard Park.

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