My Knees Are Aching: Understanding Your Knee Pain

“Head, shoulders, oh… my knees are aching!” This song should be sung without interruption. Unfortunately, knee pain is all too common. The knee is one of our bodies’ most complex joints and is involved in nearly all of our daily activities. From walking and running to lifting and jumping, with so much action, it’s no wonder knee pain should arise for so many of us.

At the Orthopaedic Center of the Rockies, we want your body to work as it should and that means alleviating your knee pain. If you’re finding yourself frequently complaining, “my knees are aching,” keep reading. Below we will briefly discuss the anatomy of this complex joint and then dig into some common causes of knee pain.

What Makes the Knee So Complex?

The knee joint exists at the intersection of the femur, the patella, the tibia, and the fibula and is actually made up of two parts. (ProfessorAdrianWilson) Between the end of the femur and the top of the tibia exists the tibiofemoral joint, and where the femur and the patella meet exists the patellofemoral joint. These joints are surrounded by synovial fluid, which helps keep all the parts moving nicely.

As we push into the earth, these bones are naturally inclined to compress into one another. To protect them from this pressure, each of the bones is capped with a layer of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber and helps to prevent friction between the bones. As an added protection, there are two menisci between your femur and tibia. To keep these bones from sliding out of place, the knee joint is equipped with muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

  • Your knee employs two sets of ligaments. Ligaments are made of tough tissue that does the hard work of holding our bones together. At the center of the knee joint are found the cruciate ligaments. These two small ligaments control the forward and backward movement of the knee. On the outside and inside of the knee rest the collateral ligaments. They connect the femur to the tibia and the fibula, control sideways movement, and brace the knee against any unnatural movements.
  • Your knee is employed by two major muscles. The quadriceps, a group of four powerful muscles, sit atop the femur and are responsible for straightening your leg. The hamstrings are on the back side of your femur and take care of bending your leg. Without the knee joint, there would be no bending or straightening. 
  • Your knee’s muscles attach themselves to the bones of the knee using three different groups of tendons. Crossing on the backside of the knee are three hamstring tendons. These tendons attach the hamstring to the tibia and the fibula. The four quadricep muscles share one tendon that attaches to the patella. Lastly, the patellar tendon, also known as the patellar ligament, attaches the patella to the top of the tibia.

Common Causes of Knee Pain

It’s plain, now, just how complex the knee joint is. With all its functions and all the moving parts, knee injuries are bound to happen. Oftentimes, what’s causing you to exclaim, “my knees are aching”, isn’t the result of a once-over injury. As with all joints, arthritis is a prowling enemy. Here are some of the most common sources of knee pain.

  • Torn meniscus. This is by far the most common athletic knee injury. A meniscus tear can occur as a result of aggressive twisting or a direct blow to the knee. With this injury, you may notice your knees are aching while at rest and increasing pain while squatting or walking downstairs.
  • ACL tear. This is an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (one of the small ligaments at the center of the knee). Similar to a torn meniscus, this can occur from aggressive twisting or a blow to the knee. An ACL tear is a painful injury and should be evaluated by an orthopedic physician.
  • Osteoarthritis. This is an incredibly common medical diagnosis. It occurs when the cartilage at the end of your bones wears down. Without this protection, your bones will rub together, leaving you exclaiming, “my knees are aching!”

Answers for “My Knees Are Aching” at OCR

Treatments for knee pain include in-home remedies, physical therapy, and medical intervention like surgery. The most effective first step for addressing a “my knees are aching” complaint is to schedule an appointment with your physician. Your doctor will be able to examine your knee – checking for swelling and assessing mobility – and ultimately prescribe the best treatment for your knee pain.

Whether you’ve injured your knee in sports, in a recreational activity, suffered an accident, or have an arthritis-related condition, our knee experts can sort it out. Don’t live in the wonder of “why my knees are aching”, schedule an appointment today, and let’s get to the bottom of your knee pain.

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