Women are no strangers to knee pain. Every year, approximately 10 million women end up seeing their doctors for knee pain, often brought on by ordinary activities, such as climbing the stairs or bending while gardening.
Because of differences in anatomy (wider hips), muscle strength, joint flexibility and hormonal influences, women are more likely to have certain knee problems and orthopedic issues than men. Consider:
- Active women are twice as likely as men to suffer a knee injury.
- Studies have shown that female athletes are more prone to knee injuries when their estrogen levels are highest.
- Women older than 50 are at higher risk of developing osteoarthritis of the knee than men.
Knee issues women face
Here is a look at some of the common knee problems women are likely to encounter.
Kneecap pain — The kneecap or patella typically moves straight up and down as you extend your leg. If the kneecap gets off track, it can rub against nearby bone. This can result in pain and swelling both in front of the knee and behind the kneecap.
Meniscus tears — When knees twist suddenly while bearing weight, the meniscus (the cartilage cushioning the knee) can tear. This may happen during sports with quick pivots and stops, such as soccer. When the meniscus breaks down, torn pieces can cause irritation that leads to pain and swelling.
ACL tears — The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is easily injured when it fields a force that surpasses the strength of the ligament. Landing awkwardly, changing direction quickly and taking a contact hit in sports contribute to ACL tears. Female athletes participating in soccer, basketball, volleyball and gymnastics have the highest risk.
Overuse injuries — Repetitive motion can lead to wear and tear on nearly any joint. Since knees are relied on for many activities, they are a prime area of overuse. Aching bones and inflamed muscles can lead to major issues if not allowed plenty of rest.
Tips for avoiding knee injuries
Regardless of their age, there are things women can do to help avoid knee injuries.
- Get a physical before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have not been active for a while.
- Wear well-fitting shoes designed for the activities you participate in and try to minimize wearing high heels.
- Warm up carefully and stretch before and after fitness workouts.
- Strengthen your leg muscles with specific exercises (such as walking stairs or hills) to help support your knees.
- Maintain a healthy weight to reduce stress on your knees and the risk of osteoarthritis.
- Stop exercising or participating in an activity or sport if you experience pain.
When to seek medical attention
If your knee issues do not improve with rest, ice, compression, elevation, or anti-inflammatory medications, it is important to get a thorough evaluation. X-rays may be taken and other diagnostic tests, such as MRIs, performed. Physical therapy or surgery may be necessary to prevent more serious problems.
Is joint replacement an option?
The Joint Rejuvenation Center at Baptist Beaumont Hospital has a team of highly skilled healthcare professionals that consists of physicians, physician assistants, nurses, dietitians, physical therapists, an occupational therapist, case managers, pharmacists, lab technicians and an orthopaedic care coordinator.
The Joint Rejuvenation Center provides a comprehensive and planned course of personalized joint replacement. We offer everything from pre-operative planning to a post-operative rehabilitation exercise plan, which is considered and reviewed with you. You will receive all the information necessary to inform and guide you to a safe and successful surgical outcome. For more information, including answers to frequently asked questions and procedure videos, visit our Orthopaedic Surgery page.
Plan for an overnight stay
The Albert E. and Gena Reaud Guest House, located next door to Baptist Beaumont Hospital, offers patients and their families a place to call home without having to worry about paying for lodging while receiving medical care. The facility has 19 private bedrooms, a dining area with kitchenette and a courtyard with a prayer garden. To learn more, call Beverly McCartney at (409) 212-6500 or email Director@reaudguesthouse.org.