Knee pain is a common problem. The knee joint takes a lot of pounding every day. Some people can run daily and never have any pain or problems. Many others are not so lucky. The most common cause of knee pain is wear and tear on the joint: The cartilage that protects the bones of the joint wears down over time. This can cause pain. The joint may slip out of alignment over time, and this can put stress on the structures of the joint and the ligaments and muscles around it, which causes pain. These common conditions are called degenerative joint disease of the knee.
Less common causes of joint pain include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and infection.
If the pain seems to come from overuse, like after hiking or running, simple treatments can often help. Icing the knee for 15 minutes before and after sports is very helpful. The goal here is to “cool off” the inflammation that is causing the pain. I always remind patients that professional athletes are always seen with bags of ice on problem joints. They and their coaches know how effective ice is! Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also help. NSAIDs like Motrin (ibuprofen), aspirin, and many others can reduce inflammation in the knee. These drugs should be taken with food. In the most extreme cases of knee degeneration, an orthopedic surgeon can replace the whole joint.
If you have chronic knee pain, your doctor can help diagnose and treat you.