There are a number of conditions that result from the inflammation of the tendons and ligaments in the knee and the knee joint itself.
Click on one of the conditions below to learn more.
Bursitis is the inflammation of the fluid-filled sac or bursa that helps cushion the knee joint. It develops most often because of pressure on the front of the knee.
Treatment may include anti-inflammatory medicines to relieve pain and inflammation or an injection of a steroid drug. Bursitis usually lasts between two and three weeks.
Sometimes, if the condition is recurring in the same area, surgery may be recommended to remove the bursa.
Tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendons that connect the muscles to the knee joint. The most common is patellar tendinitis, in which the tendon that connects the patella to the tibia becomes inflamed. Most often this condition results from overuse, but it also can be the result of an injury.
Very common in sports requiring jumping, this type of injury is sometimes referred to as “jumper’s knee.” Symptoms often include tenderness where the patellar tendon and the tibia connect. There may also be pain during weight-bearing movements, such as running or rapid walking.
A complete rupture of the quadriceps or the patellar tendon also makes it difficult to bend or extend the knee or to lift the leg against the force of gravity. An orthopedic specialist may be able to feel a defect in the tendon near the tear, and an x-ray will demonstrate abnormalities in the position of the patella depending on which tendon is affected by the injury. The doctor may use an MRI to confirm a partial or total tear.
Tendinitis may respond well to first aid measures, such as rest, elevation, ice therapy, aspirin or ibuprofen. However, a torn tendon may require surgical repair, followed by stabilization with a cast for several months. An incomplete tear may be treated without surgery, although stabilization with a cast may be required until the tendon is healed.
Arthritis is a general term for numerous diseases, usually affecting the joints. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, the wear and tear that most people associate with the normal aging process.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disorder in which the immune system attacks the body’s tissues, particularly the joints. In both types of arthritis, the joints become inflamed and cartilage may be destroyed. In rheumatoid arthritis, however, the immune system affects not only the joints, but also the supporting structures such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Although aging is most often associated with osteoarthritis, the risk of developing the condition may be increased by excess stress on the joint, such as from repeated injury, deformity, or if a person is overweight. Osteoarthritis most often affects middle-aged and older people. A young person who develops osteoarthritis may have an inherited form of the disease or may have experienced continuous irritation from an unrepaired torn meniscus or other injury. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects people at an earlier age than osteoarthritis.
The symptoms of arthritis in the knee include pain, swelling, and a decrease in knee motion. Morning stiffness that lessens after moving around is very common. Sometimes the knee joint locks or clicks when the knee is bent and then straightened, but these signs may also occur in other knee disorders.
A diagnosis of arthritis may be confirmed by physical examination and various imaging techniques. Blood tests may be included to determine whether the condition is rheumatoid arthritis. Other tests may be needed as well. Analysis of fluid from the knee joint may be required in some cases, and arthroscopy may be used to permit visualization and evaluation of the extent of damage to cartilage, tendons, and ligaments, as well as to confirm a diagnosis.
There are a number of treatments that can be used to help relieve arthritis pain. Non-prescription pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin can be helpful. Cold and heat therapy, splinting or bracing, and massage also may be recommended. Weight reduction may be recommended to limit stress on joints, and an exercise program may be prescribed to maintain and increase range of motion and strength. Surgery may be an option if the condition does not respond to other treatments. Arthroscopic procedures, removal of the synovium, osteotomy, and total joint replacement are among the surgical treatments that may be helpful.