Pain in the knee joint is a very common complaint. It occurs among athletes due to injury, or in the elderly caused by osteoarthritis. It many ways it is a poorly designed joint, and hence there is a long list of injuries that can occur to it.
The most common causes of knee pain I see in clinic are:
- Torn Meniscus
- arthritis of the knee
- Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament
- Baker’s Cyst
- Inflammation of the knee joint
Depending on how much damage has been caused to the knee impacts how good a result we can achieve. Often serious tears to ligaments and meniscus will require surgery. Acupuncture may help with recovery and pain management both before and after surgery. Generalized knee pain from soft tissue injuries and tight muscles around the knee is often more receptive to Acupuncture. As no major structural damage has occurred, the prognosis is often very good. As the knee is a weight bearing joint, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible, as the joint rarely gets rest, so causing further deterioration is quite likely.
Common Causes of Knee Pain
I often see knee injuries occur from:
- poor lifting technique
- excessive exercise/lack of stretching
- old age and wear and tear to the joint
- Excess weight
- Direct trauma such as motor vehicle accidents
Many causes of knee pain come from tight muscles, which left unmanaged transfers the load to the joint. This can lead to inflammation of the tissues in the knee and the fluid filled sacs. This is how a Baker’s Cyst develops, which may show on the back of the knee when standing. There are several fluid sacs within the knee joint, they provide cushioning. If one becomes inflamed it can become a cyst and cause pain. Sometimes surgery is required to drain the sac of the excess fluid, or a cortisone injection is used to try and reduce the inflammation.
How I Treat Knee pain with Acupuncture
From an Acupuncture view, there are multiple diagnosis behind knee pain, its very different to Western Medicine. Often traumatic injuries are called Qi and blood stagnation, as there is a mix of sharp and dull pains. Arthritic knees are more caused by cold or hot damp, as they often respond to the weather and swell. The overall goal is to remove the blockages, so fresh blood and nutrients can get in and repair the damage.
With conditions where the knee has had serious structural damage, like torn meniscus and arthritis. It is about pain management and slowing the deterioration. Despite all the surgical options, they don’t offer a fool proof solution. Realise too that surgery is often a last resort, but doesn’t mean you will have a brand new knee afterwards, it is merely the best way to mediate the problem. There is strong evidence showing Acupuncture is a good form of therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee, as shown in the Acupuncture Evidence Report. This is the only area of knee pain which has scientific investigation undertaken in regards to the effectiveness of Acupuncture at this time.
Ways of Preventing Knee Pain
One of the best things to do to avoid knee pain is to be active. The best advice I can give to avoid knee pain is:
- Do regular exercise (especially core strengthening)
- Do regular stretching to prevent tight leg and hip muscles
- Reduce excess weight if you are obese
- Don’t ignore knee pain, seek medical advice if it persists