Often at this time in the ski season, many of us start to notice a little annoying knee pain.  It may start out as pain around the kneecap going up and down stairs.  Sometimes we experience increased pain after a long day on the ski slopes.  We start to notice a dull, achy sensation around the front of the knee. Without any intervention, the pain may get worse, occur more frequently or start radiating to the back of the knee.  This is often caused by patello-femoral joint dysfunction, and left untreated, can lead to arthritis in the knee.

            Patello-femoral joint dysfunction is caused by improper tracking of the kneecap.  When the kneecap tracks incorrectly, inflammation and irritation develop under the bone.  Pain will be felt mainly in the front of the knee and usually exercise will make the pain worse.  You may hear crepitus (or a crunchy sound) when flexing and extending your knee.   Pain gets worse gradually and with increased activity levels.  Sometimes pain will also be felt at the patellar tendon, right below the kneecap, indicating that tendonitis has also set in. 

Patellar tendonitis can cause sharper pain below the kneecap, especially with exercise.  There may also be swelling and tenderness below the kneecap.  It results from repeated jumping or landing downhill, so if you are a pretty aggressive skier or snowboarder, this can definitely happen over the course of a ski season. 

            Acupuncture is an effective treatment method for healing knee pain.  It can reduce the inflammation in the knee joint and speed up healing of the irritated tissue.  Ultra-fine needles are placed around the knee to decrease pain. The muscles surrounding the knee are also treated to help strengthen the joint.  Physical therapy is an important adjunct treatment, as the imbalance in muscle strength needs to be addressed so that the injury does not return. 

            Chronic knee pain and arthritis are usually seen after prolonged “abuse” of the knee.  Over the years, micro injuries compound the stress on the joint and result in degeneration and chronic inflammation. This is commonly referred to as osteoarthritis of the knee. With this type of knee ailment, one will feel a constant ache in the joint and stiffness in the morning.  This is due to wear and tear of the joint from years of enjoying Summit County’s outdoor activities, without doing any preventative maintenance treatments like acupuncture. 

            It is important to address these knee pain syndromes before arthritis becomes an issue.  Acupuncture, physical therapy, massage therapy and stretching daily can help reduce knee pain and inflammation caused by these syndromes.  With proper care of your knee joint, you can expect many more years of activity without pain.  Even if you have already reached the point of arthritis in the joint, acupuncture can still help manage the pain so you can be active.  Take care of your body and try alternative medicine today!

Jane Matthews is a Licensed Acupuncturist specializing in the treatment of pain and sports injuries.  She can be reached at 970-470-3347 for more information.