Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, patellofemoral pain syndrome and other causes of knee pain in young adults

If someone in their twenties starts experiencing knee pain, taking them to see a specialist and getting a proper diagnosis of the underlying cause is very important.

Myupchar December 14, 2020 23:24:01 IST
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Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, patellofemoral pain syndrome and other causes of knee pain in young adults

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One usually expects a complaint about pain in either one or both knees to come from an older adult or aged person. Pain in the major joints of the body is, after all, associated with the incidence of different types of arthritis or age-related joint and bone diseases. However, knee pain is also an increasingly prevalent complaint made by young adults starting from adolescence to the mid-to late-30s.

Why young adults have knee pain

The simple complaint of knee pain made by a young adult may seem unalarming and may feel similar to the symptoms experienced by older adults but knee pain in younger people has very different causes. If someone in their twenties starts experiencing knee pain, taking them to see a specialist and getting a proper diagnosis of the underlying cause is very important. This is primarily due to two reasons: First of all, neglecting knee pain at a young age can lead to the issue progressively worsening over time and turning into a debilitating condition. Secondly, the treatment for knee pain at a young age is not likely to be the same as in old age, so getting the right treatment to mitigate the symptom is also vital. The following are some of the most common types and causes of knee pain among young adults.

1. Anterior knee pain

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), pain in the front and centre of the knee — usually under the kneecap or patella — is known as anterior knee pain. It’s sometimes referred to as adolescent anterior knee pain since it commonly occurs in healthy young athletes, especially girls.

The exact cause of this type of pain is not known but the AAOS suggests that it’s caused by overuse or straining the knees. The anatomy of the knee joint is complex and extremely sensitive to problems in alignment, training and activity, especially if done with improper form. Stopping the activity that causes the pain, rest, physical therapy and getting back in proper form gradually can help alleviate this type of knee pain.

2. Obesity and sedentary lifestyle

If overuse can hurt the knees, then so can underuse. A study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders in 2019 suggests that knee problems in young adults are becoming increasingly prevalent due to the rise of obesity and physical inactivity as major concerns among this demographic. As per the study, the odds of having structural deformities and knee pain almost doubled for every increase of the BMI by 10 kilos per metre square.

The higher your weight, the more pressure your knee joints — and even the feet — are likely to endure. This is also more likely to speed up the wear-and-tear of the knee muscles, tendons and bursae, making tendinitis and bursitis common complaints too. Being obese or inactive also raises the risk of developing osteoarthritis in later years. Losing weight and being active is likely to help reduce this type of knee pain.

3. Patellofemoral pain syndrome

According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), when the patella and cartilage of the knee joint are affected by imbalances in the surrounding muscles, it’s known as patellofemoral pain syndrome which is a common cause of knee pain among young adults. Usually, a grinding or clicking sensation is also experienced in this type of knee problem.

The NHS says that one in every three young adults is likely to have this condition and it’s commonly related to the thigh or buttock muscles, tight hamstrings and short ligaments around the knees. Thankfully, this is a highly treatable condition and requires simple painkillers, exercise and physiotherapy for just a few weeks. What’s more, having this syndrome at a young age is not linked to a high risk of developing arthritis at a later age.

How to prevent knee pain

Keeping clear of these major causes of knee pain at a young age can help you lead a full and healthy life without impairing your mobility. The following are some ways you can prevent knee pain from occurring:

  • Keep your weight in check so that your knee joints and muscles don’t have to bear any extra strain that leads to pain.
  • Improve your flexibility and keep your muscles strong. This can help you prevent injuries and knee pain to a large extent.
  • Exercising in perfect form is a must as this can avoid excess strain or injuries that can lead to knee pain.
  • If you want to play a sport, do so only after you’re in proper shape for it so that your knee joint and muscles can cope with the demands of the game. Involve a coach and trainer in your process.
  • If you already have knee pain due to sports or exercises, then shift to a low-impact form. Exercises like swimming or water aerobics can reduce the strain on your knee while keeping them active too.
  • Be smart and responsible about your health and don’t ignore pain. If you have knee pain then visit an orthopaedic specialist earlier rather than later.

For more information, read our article on Knee pain

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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