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The knee is a complex joint with many structures that work together to provide stability and mobility. It consists of four bones: the patella, the femur, the tibia and the fibula.
The patella is the round bone in front of your kneecap and the femur connects your hip to your knee.
The tibia and fibula are two long bones in the calf that connect to form a hinge joint at your ankle.
When these four bones come together without any cartilage between them, it can create pain in what’s known as bone on bone knee pain or bone on bone arthritis.
This happens when there is no more space for new cartilage to grow because it has been worn away.
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Causes of Bone on Bone Knee Pain
Why does this happen? The common cause of bone on bone knee pain includes but is not limited to the following:
Age is the number one cause of bone on bone pain. As you age, your ligaments and joints dissolve or deteriorate.
When an individual has been carrying excessive weight for a long time, it can cause arthritis and other fat cells to break down into inflammation.
Another main cause of bone on bone knee pain is heredity. In other words, it has been passed down from one generation to another and can be inherited even without direct family members having the same condition. Look around at your aunts’, uncles’, and grandparents’ health history for clues.
Gender can affect bone on bone pain, as there are different ratios of muscle to fat in men and women. Women have a higher proportion of fat under the kneecap, whereas men tend to have more muscle.
That means that the knee may be more flexible in women than men, increasing the pressure on the bones and making them more at risk.
- Repetitive Stress Injuries
A repetitive stress injury like osteoarthritis can cause this as well. Repetitive stress injuries can be caused by constant rubbing or pressure on your joints either from a specific activity, such as running, or by an everyday activity, such as sitting.
A repetitive stress injury typically occurs over a long period of time and causes knee pain that worsens with movement due to the cartilage rubbing together.
How Is Bone-on-Bone Knee Arthritis Diagnosed?
Not all conditions present as knee pain, and not all knee pain is the same. People may experience many different symptoms with bone on bone knee pain, including the following:
- Pain when walking or sitting for long periods of time.
- Sharp pains in the knees after taking steps.
- Pins and needles sensations from staying still for too long.
- Some people notice that their range of motion is reduced, along with a loss in mobility at the joint.
- Inability to fully straighten or bend the knee.
- Swelling and stiffness.
Knee arthritis has wide-ranging effects on people’s daily lives – they cannot stand or walk without discomfort nor can they sit comfortably for very much longer than necessary before having trouble getting out of the chair.
Who is at Risk of Developing Bone-on-Bone Knee?
The most common causes of “bone on bone knee” or arthritic pain in your knees are age, overuse or injury to the knee.
The more you do certain activities and the older you get, the more likely it is that you will experience this type of pain.
Anyone above 50 or who has had a previous injury or surgery on their knee is also at risk for developing this type of pain.
What Can You Do to Get Bone-on-Bone Knee Pain Relief?
If you’re suffering with bone on bone knee problems, there are several ways you can get relief.
Some of them include non-prescription medication such as painkillers and anti-inflammatories which your doctor may prescribe if needed.
A cane or walker to help get around is also recommended along with other kinds of medications for severe cases that don’t respond well to these therapies.
Kidney disease can sometimes be suspected if the pain doesn’t improve after therapy.
When more serious conditions could be at hand, treatment usually includes a combination of therapies and lifestyle choices.
Strengthening your knee is a great way to help with pain relief. To do this, you may need to focus on a range of bone on bone knee exercises. Physical therapy can help you establish good form.
Different types of strengthening exercises will be recommended depending on the cause of the pain.
Flexibility training is also important in order to maintain stability throughout movement patterns such as running or playing a sport.
How to Help Your Bone on Bone Knee Pain Naturally
The natural route includes the following: not letting the knee turn outward, using ice packs, taking vitamin D supplements, and not crossing your legs.
Exercise is also a fantastic natural way to help. Try using an elliptical machine, stationary or recumbent bike and doing some strength training.
Not only can exercise help you build overall health with strength and endurance, but it can also trigger the release of endorphins, giving you a mood boost.
Even without knee pain, who doesn’t want that?
As soon as you feel pain in your knee, it’s essential that you stop whatever you are doing.
It’s also highly recommended that you put a cold pack on the area to reduce inflammation and swelling from within the blood vessels.
Make sure to put it below the knee cap, and wrap it with cloth before putting it on the skin.
If you find that your knee still hurts after two days of not doing anything strenuous, it’s best to go see a doctor to determine if there is something wrong with the bone underneath.
Once you’ve been diagnosed with a condition that causes pain in your knees, fill your diet with foods rich in vitamin C and D.
You can also try taking glucosamine supplements as it helps reduce swelling around the joint while protecting cartilage from further damage.
Bone on Bone Knee Exercises
There are many exercises that you can do to alleviate some of the symptoms from bone on bone knee pain:
Bone Strengthening Exercises:
1. Straight Leg Raise
- Lie down flat on the floor with one knee bent & one leg straight.
- Tighten your abs and slowly raise the straightened leg off the floor by tightening the muscle on the top of your thigh.
- Lower the leg and repeat it 10 times. Switch legs.
2. Side Leg Lifts
- Lie on your side with your knees bent.
- Straighten your top leg and slowly lift your leg towards the ceiling. You should mainly feel this in your outer thigh.
- Keep your hips and shoulders square to the wall in front of you — there may be some slight cramping in your top hip and that’s okay. Only lift the knee as far as is comfortable.
- Repeat 10 times before switching sides.
3. Standing Hip Extension
- Stand tall with your hands placed on a steady surface. You can use a counter, sink, or chair without wheels to hold on to for balance.
- Shift your weight onto your left leg, keeping a soft bend in your left knee to keep it from locking out. Locking your knees can cause you to pass out!
- Then, keeping your toes pointed forward and your right leg straight, lift your right leg back a few inches then lower back down. This works your glutes and hamstrings.
- Repeat 10 times, then switch legs.
4. Standing Hamstring Curls
- Stand tall with your hands placed on a steady surface. You can use a counter, sink, or chair without wheels to hold on to for balance. Shift your weight onto your left leg, keeping a soft bend in your left knee to keep it from locking out.
- Line your knees up, then bend your right knee. Lift your heel as high as you can towards your buttocks while keeping the foot flexed. Lower back down and repeat on the other side.
- Really, make sure those knees stay lined up through the whole movement. If your knee moves forward while you perform the exercise it becomes more of a quad exercise. Keeping your knees lined up allows you to target your hamstrings.
Best Mobility Exercises
1. Heel Prop
- Start by sitting on your bed with your back supported and your legs stretched out in-front of you. Alternatively, you can also perform this laying down on your bed or couch.
- Then, place a towel under your heel so that it is propped up.
- The next step is to just relax your leg in that position while your knee stretches into extension.
2. Heel Slides with Rope to Increase ROM
- For this exercise grab a dog leash, belt, or rope. Really anything you can find that you can loop around your foot and hold in your hand will work.
- Sit down on the floor or your bed with your legs stretched out in front of you. Place the rope around one foot then lay back holding the other end of the rope in your hand.
- Begin the exercise by bending the knee of the leg in the rope while using your arm or arms to pull the rope towards you. This will make it easier for you to bend your knee more.
- Keep bending your knee till you reach the end of your range of motion. This exercise may be a little uncomfortable but shouldn’t cause significant pain.
- Hold your knee in that bent position for two seconds, then slowly take the pressure off by loosening the rope, and straighten your leg back out.
3. Kneecap Shaking
- Sit in a chair or couch with your leg straight in front of you.
- Place your thumb and finger of your left hand on each side of your patella (knee cap).
- Shake vigorously from side to side for 10-20 seconds.
- Repeat with your thumb and finger on the superior and inferior portions of your patella (knee cap).
- Shake vigorously for 10-20 seconds.
Posture Correction Tips
- When sitting in a chair, keep your feet flat on the floor, and don’t cross your legs. Keep your knees in line with your hips.
- When standing, use soft knees, no hyperextension, and try to keep weight even between both legs
- When sleeping, put a pillow between your knees when lying on your side and under knees when on your back.
Can I Regrow My Knee Cartilage?
If the cartilage on your knee is damaged, it cannot be regenerated.
Luckily though, there are doctors who know how to stimulate new growth by making small cuts and abrasions in nearby bone tissue.
In some cases where a lot of damage has occurred–or if almost all of the meniscus needs removing–surgery might be required for full recovery.
Simple Tips to Prevent Bone-on Bone Conditions
Bone-on-bone knee pain is caused by wearing away cartilage between joints which creates less space for new cartilage to grow.
To prevent this from happening, decrease the pressure on your knees and wear a brace when going up and down the stairs.
You should also try exercising in ways that do not put pressure on your knees such as dancing or cycling depending on your comfort level.