Knee pain is the musculoskeletal equivalent of the common cold: it is the most common type of pain people see a doctor for. Because the knee is a load-bearing joint, severe pain can be crippling on a wide scale. When something as basic as walking becomes painful, quality of life is affected dramatically.
There is hope, though. Pain on the inside of the knee usually responds well to treatment. Pain should not make the agenda. The following information will hopefully help keep that from happening by providing some means of relief.
Knee Pain Described
Pain may occur in nearly any part of the knee, but one of the most common sites is the inside of the joint. This type of pain is called medial knee pain after the medial collateral ligament. Located on the inner side of the knee, the medial collateral ligament provides medial stability to the knee; in other words, it aids in sideways movement and balance. Because of this, an injury to the inside of the knee can be quite serious.
The extent and severity of the injury are widely varied, as are the causes of the injury. The ligament can be sprained, torn, or completely ruptured. The sprain is the least severe of these. Patients can get this from running, cycling, or even walking. Tears are a bit more serious. These usually involve more strenuous exercises; however, it could be something as simple as a wrong step on a flight of stairs that causes a torn ligament. This is especially true of the elderly or particularly frail individuals, who may develop a sprain or tear after sitting under the right circumstances. A ruptured medial ligament is a very serious injury and will likely require surgery. Those types of injuries are usually traumatic injuries involving great heights or other sorts of accidents.
Regardless of the type of injury, the first thing injured people will experience is a very sharp pain. It will be difficult or impossible to put any weight on the knee, even if the injury is just a sprain. Because it is a joint, the knee is in constant motion, even while sitting or lying down. The knee cap itself moves so easily that it can be manually palpated. It is therefore nearly impossible to completely halt the motion of the knee, so swelling begins almost immediately. It will be accompanied by throbbing and sometimes severe pain in both the ligament itself and the surrounding muscles.
Initial Treatment of Inner Knee Pain
The most important thing to do directly after a knee injury is to take the weight off it. A sprained medial ligament hurts, but putting more weight on it or trying to “walk it off” may lead to a torn ligament, a longer recovery time, and far worse pain.
Immediately “walking it off,” in fact, is one of the worst things to do upon an injury to the knee. The human body is very adept at balancing itself and adjusting for things like pain or swelling, so the body will respond automatically even if a conscious effort is made to ignore the pain. This can mean that more pressure will be put on the front side of the joint toward the knee cap, causing further injury in surrounding areas.
After immobilization, the next goal is to decrease swelling. The person should remain immobilized while ice is applied to the knee. Anti-inflammatory medicines can help with the swelling and the pain. The relief will not come immediately, but should eventually make it possible to move into further treatment.
Secondary Treatment of Inner Knee Pain
There is an injury management regime known as RICE that should be used for the first three days or so following an injury to the musculoskeletal system. RICE stands for Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation. The goal is to minimize pain and inflammation as much and as quickly as possible.
Rest is the key for fast recovery. While there is not necessarily a need to spend the first three days lying down, it is best to stay off the knee as much as possible. Avoid high-impact exercises.
Ice is the key for reduction of swelling, and can even help alleviate some pain by numbing the area. Do not apply ice directly to skin. Wrap the ice in a towel and apply it for only a few minutes at a time. A good rule of thumb would be 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off.
Compression is intended to assist in the swelling as well, but will also stifle some of the knee’s involuntary movements. Wrap the knee carefully in an elastic bandage or a cloth strip. Be sure it’s not wrapped too tightly; the leg should be able to bend without cutting off blood flow.
Elevation of the knee can help provide relief in less severe injuries. If elevating the knee causes severe pain, it should not be elevated. A slight throbbing sensation is normal. Try to elevate the knee above the heart to help with swelling.
Continuing Treatment of Knee Pain
While it is best to stay off the knee during the first few days after an injury, it is equally necessary to be sure not to let any kind of atrophy set in. The medial ligament is responsible for carrying a large percentage of the body’s weight and can weaken very quickly. This is the reason it takes so long to recover from a ruptured ligament. It isn’t the recovery from the surgery that takes so long; it is the physical therapy required afterward to get back to normal.
All that said, there are strengthening exercises that should be done to aid in recovery. It is important to make sure the knee is ready for the exercises first. The injury should be minimally painful when strength training begins. It should not hurt in the morning, while stretching, or during exercises, and it should not be painful to the touch. Strength training should begin when this is the case. Stationary bicycles and stretching are the most efficient for this purpose. If there are any burning sensations, immediately cease the exercise.
A knee injury doesn’t have to create a drastic change in lifestyle. With the right plan to follow, prognosis is usually very good for a sprained or slightly torn medial ligament. Taking proper care of the knee after an injury will put a person back on his feet as soon as possible.