If you find yourself avoiding the stairs, popping a daily pain reliever, or skipping workouts because of knee pain, there might be something bigger going on with your overall health. Here, 4 conditions that your problem patella could be trying to warn you about.
Symptom: Pain while climbing stairs
It could be: Early osteoarthritis
Recent research found that knee pain while climbing up stairs could be an early sign of knee osteoarthritis—a common chronic joint disease that affects mostly cartilage. The study, which asked participants to answer annual questionnaires about knee pain, found that even in otherwise pain-free individuals, climbing stairs was the first sign of osteoarthritic knee discomfort. Normally, osteoarthritis occurs in the 40+ crowd, but as people become more active, arthritis sets in earlier and earlier.
Symptom: Clicking, catching, or locking while walking
It could be: Torn meniscus
The joints in your knee should move pretty smoothly while you're walking, so if you find yourself having to shake out the joint to unlock it, or if it feels like your knees are constantly giving out from underneath you, you could have a torn meniscus. The meniscus is a C-shaped disc that cushions your knee, and meniscus tears are commonly caused by twisting or bending the knee too far back (maybe you went a little too far into downward dog) and most people don't remember exactly when they did it. See an orthopedic surgeon if you're experiencing any of these sensations, as more serious meniscus tears normally require surgery.
Symptom: Numbness or tingling in the back of the knee
It could be: Sciatica
Discomfort in the back of your knee could be a sign of an injury to your sciatic nerve—a major nerve extending from the lower end of the spinal cord down the back of the thigh. Any tingling or numbing in the back of the knee is usually caused by nerves in the back. Achiness from sciatica can also spread from the lower back all the way down to your toes. In most cases, sciatica goes away with minimal home care or physical therapy, but it can commonly return.
Symptom: Warmth or pain in the back of the knee while traveling
Condition: Blood clot
It's important to always keep your legs and calf muscles moving while flying. Small clots in the knee are pretty common while traveling by plane (because of cramped leg room and limited mobility) and warmth and pain directly on the back of the calf or knee can be an indication of a clot. Once you have a clot, which can be dangerous and life-threatening, the only way to get rid of it is with an anti-coagulant. So the best defense for blood clots while traveling—most commonly known as DVT (deep vein thrombosis)—is a good offense. If you're at an increased risk for blood clots (those who have had major surgery or are taking birth control pills) consult your doctor before flying. Wearing compression stockings in-flight is also advisable or, in more serious cases, prescribe blood-thinning medication.
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