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Are your knees feeling sore? Or perhaps a bit stiff?
If you answered yes, you are not alone. Many Americans suffer from knee pain for various reasons, and the numbers keep growing.
So let’s look at what might be causing your “creaking” knees.
The knee is the body’s workhorse joint
The knee is not only one of the largest joints in the body, but it also is one of the most complex. Its anatomical structure is such that it moves like a hinge, allowing us to walk, jump, squat, and sit, and it can withstand some serious heavy lifting.
However, that same structure also makes it very prone to wear and tear, pain, and injury.
The most common cause of “creaky” knees: Osteoarthritis
“Osteoarthritis of the knee is one of the most common problems that orthopedic surgeons see daily,” says Dr. Matthew Hess, an orthopedic surgeon.
Often called a degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis, it is the most common form of arthritis, affecting over 30 million adults nationwide.
Certain risk factors exist that are fueling the rise in osteoarthritis cases.
“The most common predisposing factors for knee pain are previous injury to the knee, repetitive impact activities on the knee joint (overuse), and a high body mass index (being overweight),” explained Dr. Hess.
Other risk factors include:
- Age – The risk increases with age.
- Gender – Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than men, especially after age 50.
- Genetics – People with a family history are more likely to develop the disease. Additionally, people with osteoarthritis in hands are more likely to develop it in other joints.
When to see a doctor
“A patient should seek an opinion from a professional if they are having pain unrelieved by rest, ice, elevation, and anti-inflammatory medicines, or if the pain is severe and preventing them from putting weight on the lower extremity,” said Dr. Hess.
Thankfully, Dr. Hess says that the majority of knee pain can be treated non-surgically with things such as physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medicines, ice, rest, and injections into the knee joint.
Jennifer Ambos, a physical therapist with Kettering Health Sports Medicine, says that there are many things individuals can do on their own to help prevent future or treat current knee pain.
- Range-of-motion exercises often prescribed by a physical therapist can be done at home
- Non-impact exercises such as biking, swimming, and elliptical machine
- If overweight, seek guidance on proper nutrition and weight loss
- Drinking plenty of water and decreasing sugary drinks, which have been shown to increase joint pain and osteoarthritis
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