If it cracks and hurts with every movement: How to get knee problems under control

According to the “Journal of Health Monitoring” from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), pain in the joints is one of the most common limitations worldwide that can reduce the quality of life and limit everyday activities. When it cracks, stings and throbs, most people only realize how important their knee joints are. Because then everyday movements like climbing stairs suddenly become difficult.

Wear and tear often leads to knee pain

Knee pain is common. The RKI collected comprehensive data from 2008 to 2011 as part of the Study on Adult Health in Germany (DEGS1). One of the results: 57.9 percent of women knee problems and 52.2 percent of men said they had had joint pain in the past twelve months – most often in the knees. 17.3 percent of women and 15.1 percent of men complained of pain in this area. “With increasing age, the proportion of people reporting acute joint pain increases,” says the Journal of Health Monitoring.

A fact that does not surprise physiotherapist Sydnee Ingendorn from North Rhine-Westphalia. The knee joint is a constant construction site when working with patients. “The most common causes of knee problems are probably due to wear and tear,” he says. This particularly applies to people who do physical work. The degenerative disease osteoarthritis, which increases with age, also plays a major role. An assessment that the RKI confirms: In the group of people aged 65 and over, almost half of the women (48.1 percent) and almost a third of the men (31.2 percent) are affected by osteoarthritis.

Exercise can temporarily increase pain

Other triggers for pain in the knees can be acute sports injuries to the menisci or ligaments, says Ingendorn. It is easy to see whether it is due to wear and tear, arthrosis or an injury. “An acute injury is always accompanied by trauma and the person affected notices relatively quickly that structures in the joint have been injured,” he explains. So if your knee hurts after an abrupt movement, there is definitely something wrong.

Certain sports such as jogging, handball, football and skiing are also reputed to damage the knees. An assumption that Ingendorn does not want to leave standing. “I don’t want to and can’t make a general statement about whether a sport is harmful or not,” says the physiotherapist. “From my experience, sports that involve a lot of hard stops and changes of direction can, at least temporarily, increase the pain.” However, some  knee problems cracking in the knee may not be a problem at all. “The causes are varied. Often only small folds get trapped in the mucous membrane or they slip over a bone edge,” says Ingendorn.

Moderate exercise can help

If you experience pain, swelling or other complaints, you should definitely seek medical advice. “If knee pain persists for several weeks, I recommend getting it checked out. This also applies if the function of the joint is restricted or if there is redness and swelling,” emphasizes Ingendorn. There could be an inflammatory process behind some pain that needs to be counteracted. In other cases, stabilizing muscle building training could relieve an overstressed joint and help you to do sports again without pain. Such training therapy also has “significantly fewer side effects” than surgery or treatment with medication.

Moderate exercise can also help reduce the risk of osteoarthritis. This is shown by studies by researchers from the USA. They followed around 1,200 people at risk of osteoarthritis over a period of ten years. The result: 13 percent of all participants developed osteoarthritis during this time. However, those test subjects who were physically active in their free time showed a lower risk of the degenerative disease. Those who did not exercise had a risk of osteoarthritis that was 15 percent above average. But here too,  knee problems the right amount is crucial: For people who had done intensive exercise, the sport no longer had any effects – neither in a negative nor in a positive way.


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