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3 Possible Reasons Your Knee Is Stiff and Painful

3 Possible Reasons Your Knee Is Stiff and Painful

Few things can slow you down like knee pain and stiffness, which is especially challenging for those of us who live in a walking city like New York.

If you’re looking for answers about what might be causing your symptoms, you’re in the right place. Here at William Schell, MD, Dr. Schell is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in knee pain

Below, we dive into why knees are so vulnerable to painful problems, what might be causing the discomfort, and how we can help put that spring back in your step.

A quick word about your knees

Your knees are the largest joints in your body, which is a good thing given their huge workload. Your knees not only support most of your body, they also propel you through life and provide you with range of motion.

Given their big jobs, it’s little wonder that problems can arise, most of which stem from:

Now let’s take a look at some more specific issues that can lead to pain and stiffness in your knees.

What can cause knee pain and stiffness

There are many issues that can lead to knee pain and stiffness, but we’re going to stick with the most common, which include:

1. Knee osteoarthritis (OA)

One in 5 American adults has arthritis and, far and away, the most common type is OA. And some of the most common joints to develop OA are your hard-working knees. 

When you have knee OA, the protective cartilage inside the joint breaks down, which allows the bones to rub together. While this alone can lead to pain and stiffness in your knees, when OA progresses, the more vulnerable you are to painful bone spurs inside the joint, which can exacerbate your symptoms.

2. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries

ACL problems are common among active people and affect 1 in 3,500 people in the United States.

Your ACL is a stabilizing ligament that diagonally crosses the front of your knee, and this connective tissue keeps the bones in position and provides you with rotational stability. If you tear your ACL, either partially or completely, the injury can lead to knee pain, stiffness, instability, and loss of range of motion.

3. Meniscus tears

In each of your knees, you have two wedge-shaped pieces of cartilage that act as shock absorbers inside the joint. Like ACL tears, meniscus tears are common among athletes, but they can also occur in older people thanks to degenerative changes over time. So, this means you can tear your meniscus in an acute injury or it can tear gradually.

In either case, you’re left with the hallmarks of a meniscus tear, which include pain and stiffness in your affected knee.

Of course, there are other issues that can lead to pain and stiffness, but the above three represent the most common.

Finding relief from your knee pain and stiffness

If you’re hobbling around on a painful and stiff knee, it’s time to have us examine the joint. After reviewing your symptoms, we then use advanced digital imaging to get a closer look inside your knee. 

Once we identify what’s causing your knee pain and stiffness, we can come up with a treatment plan that might include one or more of the following:

While we try to solve knee issues without surgery, the knee conditions we outlined above don’t typically get better on their own. This means that surgical intervention is often the best path forward to repair and reconnect the soft tissue inside your knee, such as your ACL and meniscus, so you can move again without pain and stiffness.

If you’d like to get to the bottom of your knee pain and explore your treatment options, please contact our New York City office, which is located on Columbus Circle on the Upper West Side.

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