Most people have had a minor knee problem at one
time or another. Most of the time our body movements do not cause problems, but
it's not surprising that symptoms develop from everyday wear and tear, overuse,
or injury. Knee problems and injuries most often occur during sports or
recreational activities, work-related tasks, or home projects.
knee is the largest joint in the body. The upper and lower bones of the knee
are separated by two discs (menisci). The upper leg bone (femur)
and the lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) are connected by
tendons, and muscles. The surface of the bones inside
the knee joint is covered by
articular cartilage, which absorbs shock and provides
a smooth, gliding surface for joint movement. See a picture of the
structures of the knee.
Although a knee problem is often caused by an
injury to one or more of these structures, it may have another cause. Some
people are more likely to develop knee problems than others. Many jobs, sports
and recreation activities, getting older, or having a disease such as
osteoporosis or arthritis increase your chances of
having problems with your knees.
Injuries are the most common
cause of knee problems. Sudden (acute) injuries may be caused by a direct blow
to the knee or from abnormal twisting, bending the knee, or falling on the
knee. Pain, bruising, or swelling may be severe and develop within minutes of
the injury. Nerves or blood vessels may be pinched or damaged during the
injury. The knee or lower leg may feel numb, weak, or cold; tingle; or look
pale or blue. Acute injuries include:
Overuse injuries occur with
repetitive activities or repeated or prolonged pressure on the knee. Activities
such as stair climbing, bicycle riding, jogging, or jumping stress joints and
other tissues and can lead to irritation and inflammation. Overuse injuries
directly related to an injury or overuse may occur in or around the
Treatment for a knee problem or injury may
include first aid measures, rest, bracing, physical therapy, medicine, and, in
some cases, surgery. Treatment depends on the location, type, and severity of
the injury as well as your age, health condition, and activity level (such as
work, sports, or hobbies).
Check your symptoms to decide if and when
you should see a doctor.
Major trauma is any event that can
cause very serious injury, such as:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur
after a sudden illness or injury.
Symptoms of shock (most of which will be present) include:
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The
problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical
When an area turns blue, very pale, or cold, it can mean that there has been a sudden change in the blood
supply to the area. This can be serious.
There are other reasons
for color and temperature changes. Bruises often look blue. A limb may turn
blue or pale if you leave it in one position for too long, but its normal color
returns after you move it. What you are looking for is a change in how the area
looks (it turns blue or pale) and feels (it becomes cold to the touch), and
this change does not go away.
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly
after a sudden illness or injury.
Symptoms of shock in a child may include:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and
illness. Some examples in adults are:
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
With severe bleeding, any of these may
With moderate bleeding, any of these may
With mild bleeding, any of these may be
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
Pain in children 3 years and older
Based on your answers, you need
or other emergency services now.
Put direct, steady pressure on the
wound until help arrives. Keep the area raised if you can.
Based on your answers, you need
Symptoms of infection may
Home treatment may help relieve
pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Do not smoke. Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood
supply and delays tissue repair. For more information, see the topic
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
The following tips may prevent knee
recommend training programs that help women learn to run, jump, and pivot with
knees bent to avoid knee injuries. In sports such as soccer, basketball, and
volleyball, women who bend their knees and play low to the ground have fewer
knee injuries than women who run and pivot with stiff legs.
Some people use knee braces to prevent
knee injuries or after a knee injury. There are many types of knee braces, from
soft fabric sleeves to rigid, metal hinged braces, that support and protect the
knee. If your doctor has recommended the use of a knee brace, follow his or her
instructions. If you are using a knee brace to help prevent problems, follow
the manufacturer's instructions for use.
Knee injuries such as bruises, burns, fractures, cuts, or punctures may be caused by abuse. Suspect possible abuse when an injury cannot be explained or does not match the explanation, repeated injuries occur, or the explanations for the cause of the injury change. You may be able to prevent further abuse by reporting it and seeking help.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
May 23, 2013
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& David Messenger, MD
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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