Painful knee joint: what is going on?
August 20, 2014 4:20 AM   Subscribe

I have had a knee problem for two/three years now. If I sit with my right knee bent for a long period of time the joint starts to hurt, not much at first, but the pain can become quite uncomfortable after a while. If I fully extend my leg my knee joint clicks, just like when you crack your knuckles, and the pain goes away. What is up with my knee?

The pain is centered on the knee area exclusively. It starts as a very dull throb and builds to a warm, intense pain throughout my knee. If I can't extend my leg fully, say I am sat in a cramped location for a long time, the pain can become really unbearable.

I would say I am generally a healthy person. I am 32, 6 ft tall, 10 stone, slim build. I don't exercise intensively, but I walk a lot which includes a 1 - 2 hour dog walk every day. When I am walking my knee is usually fine anyway. It is possible that the problem is worse in warmer weather, though this might be something I have convinced myself this summer.

Is there anything I can do to alleviate the symptoms without doctors, physios and surgery?
posted by 0bvious to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Your knee is telling you, it wants to see a doctor.

This being said, make sure you wear good shoes. DocMartens aren't bad for this with their "bouncing sole".
posted by yoyo_nyc at 5:09 AM on August 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

(I'm not a doctor, and it's worth talking to a physio or doctor about this if you can.)

I've had similar issues, and it sounds like it's essentially just mild joint damage or wearing. It's not necessarily a specific injury, but more to do with how your knee is being stressed over time. Especially if you walk a lot, your gait/pronation might be exerting stress in less than ideal ways... not enough to cause pain normally, but enough to cause pain if the knee is set a certain way for a long time.

A physio should be able to assess this and offer advice on physical excercises to do, ways to adjust how you use your knees, and different shoes or shoe inserts to help solve the problem. Swimming and cycling, when done properly, are also often used to help strengthen the muscles around the area to provide better support. Over time, the damage should heal and the pain will go away.

Bear in mind that some types of knee damage do not heal much over time, and simply get slowly worse as we age, so it's important to take care of them. It's worth getting professional help on this issue to avoid causing yourself more damage later on, as it can be difficult to fix with or without surgery. But if it's mostly just inflammation and stressed tendons, it should go away easily enough.
posted by Drexen at 7:06 AM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

.. but to answer your question about what to do on your own to help:

* Take up low-intensity swimming or cycling, making sure to use proper form and not over-exert.

* Wear a decent flexible knee support/brace.

* Pay attention to the way you walk; if your knees aren't 'straight' then that may be causing problems.

* If you're regularly lifting heavy objects, going up flights of stairs, or other knee-stressing things then try to reduce that or make sure you're using good form.

* Make sure your shoes fit and offer decent support.

* Find some low-intensity knee excercises, like sitting in a chair and raising your foot out straight.
posted by Drexen at 7:14 AM on August 20, 2014

I have the same problem and an orthopedist diagnosed me with Patellofemoral pain syndrome ("moviegoer's knee"). The prescription was regular exercise, massage therapy, and stretching meant to target and strengthen a tight iliotibial (IT) band. A foam roller is great for this. Daily stretching definitely provides me relief from the pain.
posted by theraflu at 8:11 AM on August 20, 2014

Seconding theraflu. It's also called "runner's knee." I find it supremely ironic that I have "runner's knee" as a result of sitting in an office chair all day.

You can find lots of stretches and exercises online, and they do help if you do them regularly. My doc says you want to focus on strengthening your quadriceps, because they help stabilize the knee.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:03 AM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

As a bad knee sufferer for many years, I'm going with theraflu and mudpuppie on patellar problems. I've got it bad, and the pain of it is kind of misleading. Seeing a doctor would be a good start. Physical Therapy is great.

Most knee braces do nothing for patellar issues, but taping with KT tape has helped when I've been desperate. There are videos all over. Can't find one for the method I use, a single section stretched as a U shape under the kneecap, but you might find something better. I've only done this when I've been dumb and worn a shoe with any kind of heel, which throws my kneecap right out and then hurts for weeks.

I did physical therapy for my shoulder a few years ago, and when the PT found that I can't pedal any kind of bicycle with my legs he had me do inclined squats on a Total Gym to warm up and strengthen the muscles around my knees. It helped a lot and was safer and easier than anything involving full body-weight.

Also, shoes with as little heel-toe drop as you can find are good. Stability is good too.

But talk to a doctor before doing anything too drastic, because it could be something else and you could make it worse.
posted by monopas at 4:54 PM on August 20, 2014

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