Your Knee and Your Pain
Your knees are the two largest joints in your body. When your knees are healthy, simple activities like walking, turning, and bending are easy and effortless. When they’re not, those simple movements become extremely painful. A complex network of bones, cartilage, ligaments, muscles, and tendons work together to keep your knees flexible and pain free. If there is a problem with any of these components, pain is typically the very first symptom.
What your knee looks like
Your knee joint is made up of three bones: a thighbone (femur), a shinbone (tibia), and a kneecap (patella). When you bend your knee, the rounded end of your thighbone rolls and glides across the relatively flat upper surface of your shinbone. Your kneecap is attached to the muscles that allow you to straighten your knee.
Cartilage is a connective tissue found between bones that also acts as a cushion and helps to reduce friction. It is softer than bone, but harder than ligaments. Healthy cartilage allows the joint to move smoothly and easily without pain. The crescent-shaped cartilage in your knee is known as meniscus.
What’s causing your pain?
Arthritis is your knee’s biggest enemy. It can be caused by injury, disease, or the passage of time. There are more than 100 diseases in the arthritis category that cause pain, stiffness, and swelling from the inflammation of a joint or the area around joints. It affects nearly 40 million Americans. Could you be one of them?
Women’s knees are different than men’s knees
Your knees are shaped differently than men’s knees. Doctors are just beginning to understand how three unique characteristics of the female anatomy affect treating knee pain.
Have you thought about how much knee pain affects your life?
A self-assessment quiz can help you and your doctor gain a better understanding of how the pain in your knee or knees shapes your everyday activity.
Diagnosing the root of your knee pain?
X-rays and MRIs are two of the main tests your doctor may use to diagnose the source of your knee pain. Though similar in many ways, these two procedures give healthcare professionals different ways of looking at joint health.
What’s Different About Your Knees?
- The bone in the front of a woman’s knee is typically less prominent than in a man’s knee.
- The angle between the pelvis and the knee affects how the kneecap moves over the end of the thighbone as the knee goes through a range of motion; women tend to have a wider angle than men because of the unique shape of the female anatomy.
- The end of a woman’s thighbone typically has a narrower width and a different contour than a man’s thighbone.
When you consider that women suffer
from more knee pain and disability than men, these differences become even more critical in the decision to have treatment. Diagnostic Tests Help Determine the Root of Your Knee Pain.
X-rays and MRIs are the two main tests your doctor may use to determine the root of your knee pain. Though similar in many ways, these two procedures give your doctor different ways of looking at joint health.
An x-ray film is a simple, two-dimensional picture of the bones in the knee. The picture is generated on a piece of film by a radiation beam that passes through the knee from an x-ray machine.
Only bones show up on an x-ray image, so the picture can tell your doctor if you have a broken bone, bone fragments, or the later stages of osteoarthritis. An x-ray image doesn”t show muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissues, so it can not diagnose things like a ligament tear or meniscal injury.
In magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), magnetic waves (rather than x-rays) stimulate tissues of the knee to produce signals. These signals are picked up by a scanner and analyzed by a computer to create a series of cross-sectional views. An MRI is particularly helpful in detecting damage, disease, or inflammation of soft tissues, such as ligaments and muscles. The procedure is extremely safe, but requires you to remain motionless for a long time—usually 10 to 45 minutes.
People who feel uncomfortable in confined spaces sometimes find a standard tunnel-like MRI machine upsetting. Some newer models have a more open design—the scanner itself is overhead, but there are no walls on either side of the table to make you feel closed in.
An MRI is painless. It usually does not require an injection with special dyes. If you have anything magnetic in your body, such as a pacemaker, an MRI may not be appropriate. Make sure to tell your doctor about this.
Getting ready for your MRI scan
Some people do need to have a dye injected in order to improve the clarity of the images. If you’re one of these people, don’t eat or drink anything for 4 to 8 hours before the test. Even if you aren’t being injected with dye, cut back on caffeine before the exam. You won’t be able to get to the bathroom during the scan. Since you’re not allowed to wear any metal during the scan, leave your watch and other jewelry at home. If you are uncomfortable in cramped spaces, your doctor can prescribe medicine to help you
relax during the scan. If you’re pregnant, tell your doctor. An MRI should not harm the baby, but the doctor still needs to be aware of your condition. Many MRI machines tend to be noisy. Ask about earplugs or headphones to block out the sound.
During the scan
After putting on a gown, you’ll lie down on the scanner’s table. The table will then slide into the machine. Typically, you’ll hear knocking sounds when the procedure is going on. Despite the loud noise, the technicians operating the machine in the other room can hear you if you need to talk to them.
After the scan
If you were given medicine to relax during the test, have someone drive you home afterwards. Otherwise you can drive home yourself. Your doctor will review the pictures and call you with the results, or review the results with you at your next office visit.
Surgeon’s Advice | Leon Mead MD Orthopedic Doctor | 730 Goodlette Road North, Suite 201 Naples Florida 34102 | Phone: (239) 262-1119