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Osteoarthritis Health Center

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Knee Injuries and Osteoarthritis

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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.

Chondromalacia refers to a softening of the cartilage under the kneecap (patella). It is a common cause of deep knee pain and stiffness in younger women and can be associated with pain and stiffness after prolonged sitting and climbing stairs or hills. While treatment with anti-inflammatory medications, ice packs, and rest can help, long-term relief is best achieved by strengthening exercises for the muscles of the front of the thigh.

Bursitis of the knee commonly occurs on the inside of the knee (anserine bursitis) and the front of the kneecap (patellar bursitis, or "housemaid's knee"). Bursitis is generally treated with ice packs, immobilization, and anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or aspirin and may require local injections of corticosteroids (cortisone medication) as well as exercise therapy to develop the musculature of the front of the thigh.

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