Diminished or loss of sensation around the knee is a common clinical finding and can be caused by a number of different factors. Trauma and nerve injury are the most common causes. Some diseases that may result in knee numbness include diabetes, gout and lupus.
Nerve injury can occur when the nerve that supplies the area around the knee is injured or pinched. The nerve fibers that supply the side of the knee arise from the spinal cord in the lumbar region (L4, L5) and enter the leg through the sciatic nerve which is present below your hip muscles. This injury can occur due to a fractured bone, torn ligament, strains or sprains that may damage the nerve fibers anywhere in their path.
Back problems may be the cause of knee numbness and pain. The nerve fibers supplying the knee come from the lumbar region (L5) of the spinal cord in your lower back. They can get pinched by any problem in your vertebral column including trauma, disk prolapse or spinal stenosis. This may cause numbness along with referred pain on the side of your knee or lower leg. Talk to a spine specialist if you have back pain associated with leg pain and numbness around the knee.
Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae. A bursa is a fluid filled sac which is present around the joints and acts as a cushion to facilitate frictionless movement at the joint. The inflamed bursa may compress an adjacent nerve and cause numbness and tingling. Tendonitis is the inflammation of the muscle tendons around the knee and can also cause numbness along with pain. Both these conditions occur due to overuse or rather misuse of the knee joint and are common in runners, cyclists and other sports involving injury.
Dislocated kneecaps can also cause nerve injury, resulting in numbness and pain around the knee. Kneecaps can be dislocated due to trauma or sudden pressure on the knee, which is common in activities that misuse the knee joint like running, jogging and jumping. An orthopedic surgeon should be consulted immediately.
Certain diseases that decrease blood circulation in the area can lead to numbness. Examples include diabetes and lupus.
Diabetes can block small blood vessels in the leg, which can lead to loss of sensations around the knee joint. It can also directly affect the nerves of your legs resulting in numbness (Diabetic Neuropathy). You must check your blood glucose levels and exclude diabetes in that case. Proper control of diabetes will improve the circulation and sensations around the knee.
What Should You Do If You Suffer From Knee Numbness?
The specific treatment of knee numbness depends on the underlying cause. In simpler cases like sprain, strains, tendonitis, bursitis or local injury, get a lot of rest and apply ice packs to relieve the pain. The sensations will come back as the swelling or injury heals.
In more complex cases like dislocated kneecaps, fractures or disc prolapse, more extensive treatments and therapies are required accordingly and an orthopedic surgeon should be consulted immediately. If you are a diabetic, proper glycemic control will decrease the numbness gradually.
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