That uncomfortable shock of knee pain when climbing stairs or turning too quickly is a sensation that’s all too familiar to many women. And unfortunately, women are more likely to have knee injuries. According to 2016 research from the University of Texas, female athletes are about twice as likely to report a knee injury than male athletes.
Part of this is due to our biology. Women tend to have wider-set hips that put extra stress on their joints, according to WebMD.
Plus, women may have a disadvantage due to hormonal differences. The study from the University of Texas says estrogen may weaken the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. This study found women who took birth control pills that lessened estrogen production reported fewer ACL injuries than women who didn’t.
Some knee pain may be a mild sprain that a few days of ice and rest may fix. But other kinds of knee pain may indicate something more serious. If you feel any lasting knee pain, talk to your doctor to find the right treatment for you.
As mentioned earlier, the ACL is a ligament that connects the top part of the knee to the bottom. A grade 1 injury is a less severe sprain while a grade 3 is a tear. ACL injuries are most common in athletes who play contact sports, but they can happen with anyone who improperly lands from a jump or changes direction quickly.
Severe pain, rapid swelling, and an audible “pop” may accompany an ACL injury. People who have injured their ACL have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, and treating it may require surgery.
The meniscus is the cartilage that acts as a shock absorber for the bones connecting the knee joint. That cartilage weakens and wears over time, according to OrthoInfo, a website run by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Aged, worn tissue is more prone to tears, so just an awkward twist when getting up from a chair may be enough to cause a tear.
You might hear a “pop” when tearing the meniscus, but stiffness and swelling may not occur until two or three days later. Pain, weakness in the knee, and difficulty moving it may also accompany a meniscus tear. If the injury is mild, rest may treat it; otherwise, the tear might require surgery.
This is a colloquial term for knee bursitis. Bursitis is when a fluid-filled sac (the bursa) becomes inflamed due to injury or overuse. Kneeling on a hard floor or running can irritate bursitis, according to the medically-reviewed website Patient. It may also be aggravated by arthritic inflammation or by a bacterial infection.
For the most part, bursitis pain goes away after resting and icing the knee. If it’s caused by infection, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics or drain excess fluid.
Chondromalacia patella, or “runner’s knee,” is the softening and breakdown of the cartilage on the underside of the kneecap (patella), according to Cleveland Clinic. Runner’s knee feels like a dull, aching pain when the knee is flexed and when the knee and the thigh bone rub together.
As the name suggests, this often happens with runners who have weaker hamstrings and surrounding muscles, but it can also happen with people who are overweight or are older. The most common way to treat symptoms of chondromalacia patella is to rest the knee.
This is a common form of osteoarthritis that is caused by a previous injury or other form of trauma, according to the Arizona-based Hedley Institute. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the lifetime risk of knee osteoarthritis among people who have had a prior knee injury is 57 percent.
Pain, swelling, stiffness, or instability may indicate post-traumatic arthritis. There might also be deformities, bone spurs, or lumps in the joint.
If you suspect any of these types of injuries, talk to your doctor. A medical professional can help diagnose the injury and determine the safest treatment plan for you.