Between your joints is an elastic substance called cartilage that helps keep the joint friction-free. If this elastic cartilage is broken up, or damaged by any reason like a gradual degeneration, obesity, overworking, sports, types of arthritis, it may cause a grinding kneecap.
Grinding kneecap will not let you move properly, or if the damage progresses may leave you disabled.
In this article we will discuss about the causes, and what to do with the sensation of grinding kneecap.
We will first talk about the symptoms of cartilage degeneration or damage, that causes grinding kneecap.
The causes that are going to be discussed in this article are:
- Knee pain, particularly when you move or work.
- Swelling of the knee joint.
- Stiffed knee joint.
- Grinding kneecap.
- Locked knee joint.
In case of any injury, like a sudden fall, or an accident, the cartilage or the elastic substance around and between your joints might be damaged. This causes the joints to grind over each other, causing grinding kneecap.
Apart from grinding kneecap, trauma will cause of severe knee pain, trouble moving around, and swollen knee joint.
Even though a mild injury will get better on its own, but it is important to see a doctor if you have a severe injury.
Your doctor will have to run some tests like an X-ray, MRI, or an arthroscopy to diagnose and check for the damage.
In case you are an athlete, or someone who dances, or is a gymnast, or any kind of job where you put a lot of pressure on your knee, your knee cartilage or the elastic between the joint will be damaged, thereby causing a grinding kneecap.
Symptoms of overuse are:
- Dull or sharp ache in your knee.
- Swelling of knee joint,
- Instability of knee.
- Grinding kneecap.
The symptoms of overuse are usually mild, but that does not rule out the possibility of a severe damage.
In case of mild injury, you can take rest, reduce the work load, and use pain killers if needed. In case the grinding kneecap doesn’t get better, see a doctor for better diagnosis.
Inflammatory Diseases (types of Arthritis)
Our body show inflammation towards external factors that may affect our bones. There are many diseases that may affect our bones in such a manner like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Seronegative Arthritis, Inflammatory Arthritis, or many more.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a condition where your immune system attacks your body. It might include joints, or other body parts.
Once the immune system attacks your body parts, it can involve every little piece of them. Like in joints, it may attack the cartilage or the elastic substance between your joints, and your bones will run over each other and you’ll have grinding kneecaps.
Symptoms of Inflammatory Diseases include:
- Joint pain.
- Swelling around affected joint.
- Warm joints.
- Grinding kneecap.
You should always see a doctor if your pain doesn’t go away, or gets worse. Grinding kneecap should get better soon if it’s because of some mild cause. Visit a doctor if it doesn’t get better or worsens.
In this disease the cartilage of knee breaks down, which leads to grinding kneecap. The cartilage first weakens, then is damaged. Even though it attempts to heal, but it fails to produce a new cartilage.
This disease doesn’t necessarily cause knee pain, but because of the damaged cartilage it causes grinding kneecap to form.
- Knee pain in some cases.
- Knee stiffness.
- Redness of the joint.
- The joint will feel warm.
- Worsening pain with inactivity.
- Limitation in moving.
Your doctor will ask you questions about your condition, do a physical examination, and run a few tests.
Physical examination might be uncomfortable, and may pain a little, but it is a necessary step to get diagnosed, and treated.
This condition is also known as “runner’s knee”. Here the cartilage under kneecap softens and degenerates. This is more commonly seen in athletic people, and those who have a history of knee arthritis.
This happens for a number of causes including weak leg muscles, overworked knees, or trauma to the knee.
You’re at a risk of getting Chondromalacia if you’re young and athletic, if you’re female (as that would mean you have less muscles), if you work too much, if you are obese, or if you have a history of arthritis.
- Pain in knee.
- Grinding kneecap.
- Cracking sound when you move your knee.
Never ignore a pain if it lasts long, and doesn’t go away with home care. Your doctor will check for the damage with imaging tests, and arthroscopy if needed.
Chondromalacia has 4 grades starting from mild condition to the severe one. Based on the stage of your condition your doctor will suggest treatment. Treatment ranges from pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, exercises, and physical therapy, to surgery if needed.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome
It is a syndrome where, because of more stress on the knees, you feel pain in your knees. Sometimes, with patellofemoral pain syndrome, your cartilage between the knee joint breaks down, which causes grinding of the knee.
This syndrome is usually seen in people who are into sports, but not exclusive to them and can occur in anyone who puts more stress on knees.
Symptoms would include pain and stiffness, grinding of knees, and popping sound of knees.
This condition is itself mild, and improves by home care, like resting, over-the-counter medicine, and reducing the activity. But if it is accompanied by damage cartilage, you may to see a doctor.
Take a note of pain that doesn’t go away, new-onset pain, severe grinding of kneecaps, and pain that leaves you disabled.
Pigmented Villonodular Synovitis
We have a thin layer that covers our joints called synovium, if you have Pigmented Villonodular Synovitis or PVNS this layer is thickened and usually grows as if a tumor. If it is left untreated it will grow more and more and cause damage to the bone.
- Grinding kneecap.
- Locking of knee joint.
See a doctor for this condition. Your doctor will perform a few tests and start the treatment.
Treatment usually includes surgery to remove the mass and the areas it has damaged.
In cases where it has become severe, you’ll have to undergo radiation therapy and a total joint replacement.
- Increased age.
- Female sex.
- History of knee arthritis.
- History of auto-immune disorders.
When to see a doctor?
In case of mild pain, and grinding kneecap, try home remedies at first. That would include taking over-the-counter pain relievers, RICE method (rise, ice, compress, and elevate), decrease in physical activities, and maintaining a healthy weight.
In case the pain doesn’t go away or increases, if there is a severity in the feeling of you having a grinding kneecap, or if the pain leaves you disables and interferes in your daily activities, see a doctor.
Treatment is done to reduce the stress on your knee joint and the kneecap. RICE is the initial method of treatment for immediate relief. RICE includes:
- Rest- not overexerting, or doing the activities that put stress on your kneecap, or the knee joint.
- Ice- applying ice wrapped in a towel is done to reduce pain and swelling.
- Compression- wrapping the area with something tight, like a band, will help reduce the swelling.
- Elevation- this helps the above things to reduce swelling, and thereby reducing the pain.
Along with RICE method, your doctor will prescribe pain relievers, and anti-inflammatory drugs.
If these methods do not work, your doctor will recommend physical therapy and based on the severity of your condition an invasive method, like a surgery.
With every method of treatment, you will have to work on yourself, like by maintain your weight, doing healthy exercise, and taking care of how you work.
Doctor will ask you a number of questions to get a better and full view of your condition. After talking to you and taking a full history, your doctor will do a proper physical examination. They will ask you to move your knee in different positions, ask you to walk, and move around. This is going to cause you some pain, but it is to get a better look at your grinding kneecap and thereby making a proper diagnosis.
To be sure of what the problem is, you doctor will order some tests like X-rays or MRIs, blood tests for arthritis and inflammation, or an Arthroscopy. Arthroscopy is an invasive procedure used to take a look at the cartilage of your knee.
All this will help your doctor diagnose your condition, and then treat you accordingly.
Damaging your cartilage and the feeling of having grinding kneecap can be prevented by following some simple things, like:
- Avoiding activities that cause extra stress to your knee joint, and kneecap.
- Exercising to keep your leg muscles strong.
- Maintaining healthy weight, or reducing weight if you are obese.
- Wearing proper shoes if you are an athlete.
Damaged cartilage which causes grinding kneecap is not an irreversible condition. Your recovery is going to be based on the severity of the damage that has happened to your kneecap or the knee joint. It usually improves within months of damage, but may sometimes take a lot more time than that.
That being said, the symptoms gradually improve, and you’ll feel better with proper diagnosis and treatment.
Any damage to cartilage can cause grinding kneecap, which is an uncomfortable condition, and may cause pain as well.
Mild damage to your cartilage might even improve spontaneously, with you only taking care of the symptoms. You can always go for home care, like RICE method, over-the-counter pain killers, and taking care of your health.
In case of severe damage, and symptoms that don’t go away with basic home care, it is recommended to see a doctor to save yourself from further damage.