Problem: Meniscus tears
The meniscus is a crescent-shaped piece of cartilage acts as the cushion for the knee. You have two menisci in each knee. When the meniscus breaks down, the torn pieces can cause irritation that leads to pain and swelling on either the inner (medial) or outer (lateral) side of the knee, depending on which meniscus is torn.
If you have meniscus pain, be sure to ice your knee and take an anti-inflammatory to keep the swelling down. Work on stretching and strengthening your legs. If pain persists after long bouts of activity, it's best to see your doctor for a full evaluation.
Problem: ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) Tears
The ACL is one the most commonly injured ligaments of the knee. Most injuries occur in the young, athletic population. The ACL is injured when it sustains a force that exceeds the strength of the ligament. This may result from non-contact injury (landing awkwardly, cutting or changing direction) or from contact such as getting tackled during a football game. The risk of ACL injury is highest in sports that require pivoting, jumping, cutting or a rapid change of direction. For women, that means participating in sports like soccer, basketball, volleyball and gymnastics. It's also a common problem when athletes have poor physical conditioning and lack strength or flexibility.
Individuals who experience ACL tears usually describe a feeling of the joint "giving out" or buckling. Many patients also often hear or feel a "pop" at the time the knee is injured. Other signs and symptoms may include an inability to continue to play after the injury, a large amount of knee swelling noted 2-12 hours after the injury, an inability to fully straighten or bend the knee and repeated "giving way" episodes of the knee with sports activities.
Recent research has shown that the risk of ACL injury may be reduced through conditioning and training programs designed to increase balance and flexibility, and improve muscle strength and endurance. If you have an injury that you suspect may have caused an ACL tear, it is best to see your doctor for a full evaluation.
Problem: MCL (Medial Collateral Ligament) Tears
The MCL is usually injured when the outside of the partially flexed knee is struck with the foot fixed to the ground. Injury to the MCL can also occur with excessive lateral rotation (outside twisting) of the knee. This force causes the medial aspect of the knee to widen, creating a stretch, partial tear or complete tear of the ligament. An injury to the MCL may be isolated or a component of a more complex knee injury. The injuries that frequently occur in combination with MCL tears are ACL and meniscus (cartilage) tears. The most common symptom following an injury to the MCL is pain directly over the ligament on the inner portion of the knee. If only the MCL is injured, most patients are able to continue walking after an acute injury, however they often have difficulty with activities involving pivoting and twisting. Pain and stiffness in the joint are localized to the inner part of the knee and the area may become swollen. More significant MCL tears may give the patient a sense of instability.
If you have an injury that you suspect may have caused an MCL tear, it is best to see your doctor for a full evaluation.
Problem: Overuse Injuries
Repeating the same motion can lead to wear and tear on almost any of your joints. Overuse injuries are especially common on the knees since you rely on your knees for many activities. Nagging injuries and aching bones or inflamed muscles can develop into bigger problems.
If you suspect you have an overuse knee injury, consult your doctor and be sure to take plenty of rest until your knee isn't sore anymore.