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Knee Injuries and Osteoarthritis

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Tendinitis of the Knee

Tendinitis of the knee occurs in the front of the knee below the kneecap at the patellar tendon (patellar tendinitis) or in the back of the knee at the popliteal tendon (popliteal tendinitis). Tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendon, which is often produced by events, such as jumping, that strain the tendon. Patellar tendinitis, therefore, also has the name "jumper's knee." Tendinitis is diagnosed based on the presence of pain and tenderness localized to the tendon. It is treated with a combination of ice packs, immobilization with a knee brace as needed, rest, and anti-inflammatory medications. Gradually, exercise programs can rehabilitate the tissues in and around the involved tendon. Cortisone injections, which can be given for tendinitis elsewhere, are generally avoided in patellar tendinitis because there are reports of risk of tendon rupture as a result. In severe cases, surgery may be required. A rupture of the tendon below or above the kneecap can occur. When it does, there may be bleeding within the knee joint and extreme pain with any knee movement. Surgical repair of the ruptured tendon is often necessary.

Fractures of the Knee

With severe knee trauma, such as motor vehicle accidents and impact traumas, bone breakage (fracture) of any of the three bones of the knee can occur. Bone fractures within the knee joint can be serious and may require surgical repair as well as immobilization with casting or other supports.

What are diseases and conditions that can cause knee pain, and how are they treated?

Pain can occur in the knee from diseases or conditions that involve the knee joint, the soft tissues and bones surrounding the knee, or the nerves that supply sensation to the knee area. The knee joint is commonly affected by rheumatic diseases, immune diseases that affect various tissues of the body including the joints.

Arthritis is associated with pain and swelling of a joint. The causes of knee joint pain and swelling range from noninflammatory types of arthritis such as osteoarthritis, which is a degeneration of the cartilage of the knee, to inflammatory types of arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout). Treatment of the arthritis is directed according to the nature of the specific type of arthritis.

Infections of the bone or joint can rarely be a serious cause of knee pain and have associated signs of infection including fever, extreme heat, warmth of the joint, chills of the body, and may be associated with puncture wounds in the area around the knee.

Tumors involving the joint are extremely rare. They can cause problems with local pain.

The collateral ligament on the inside of the knee joint can become calcified and is referred to as Pellegrini-Stieda syndrome. With this condition, the knee can become inflamed and can be treated conservatively with ice packs, immobilization, and rest. Infrequently, it requires a local injection of corticosteroids.

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