Why Do It Feels Like Broken Glass in My Knee?

The knee joint is a complex and one of the largest joints of our body formed by the lower part of the skeletal system. This joint allows the most extensive movement of your legs. And it is one of the most used joints in the body too.

You won’t love to have any issues in that joint, especially chronic pain. But such pain can show up. The type of pain varies in different individuals. Some may experience minor aches, while it can be a nightmare for others.

And when I say nightmare, I mean it. Some of my patients describe it as “it feels like broken glass in my knee.” Stay with me here if you want to know more about the pain and ways to keep it under control. 

feels like broken glass in my knee
Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels

What Makes You Feels Like Broken Glass in My Knee? 

Many reasons can make your knee uncomfortable and sometimes severely painful. No matter how severe the pain is, they are symptoms of different medical conditions that you shouldn’t ignore at all.  

Let’s look at some of the reasons that can make your knees feel uncomfortable. 

Prepatellar Bursitis or Housemaids Knee

The knee joint consists of four bursas. All of them are susceptible to inflammation. The inflamed condition of the bursa is called bursitis

Generally, the bursa located between the prepatellar bursa (kneecap) and the skin is harmed. However, it is called housemaids knee when the prepatellar bursa is inflamed. 

Symptoms

Pain that feels like broken glass on the knee is a symptom of prepatellar bursitis. This is one of the symptoms of this disease. 

Other symptoms include:

  • Redness of the skin
  • Tender kneecap
  • Difficulty in bending the knee
  • High temperature if infection occurs

Causes

Inflammatory disease

Bursitis itself is an inflammatory disease. Yet, it can be triggered by another inflammation. Most commonly, rheumatoid arthritis increases your risk of bursitis as arthritis causes inflammation. It also results in swelling and pain in the joints that will make you say, “it feels like broken glass in my knee.”

Sudden knee injury

Sudden injuries are one of the prime reasons behind bursitis. Sudden fall on the ground or a direct blow on the knee may cause this. 

Gout

Pseudogout or gout may enhance the risk of housemaid’s knee. Uric acid crystals accumulate and cause gout. 

Generally, uric acid passes away along with urine. But in the case of gout, it builds up in the joint. This causes swelling and inflammation in the joint.

Infection

There is the presence of fluid in the prepatellar bursa sac. If the fluid gets infected, then there might be inflammation. It is more commonly seen in children.

This generally happens after any scratch, injury, or cut on the knee. Injury on the skin creates the path for germs. Consequently, inflammation occurs. 

Repeated minor injury

Kneeling for a long time puts pressure on your patella. This causes minor injury on the knee repetitively. 

This gradually causes swelling of the joint and results in pain. 

Prepatellar Bursitis Treatment

The treatment depends on the severity of the situation. It also depends on the cause of the disease. 

Here are the types of treatment your doctor can recommend.

Supportive treatment
  • Take optimum rest
  • Apply ice packs on your knee
  • Use knee pads or cushions while kneeling. This will protect your knee from further harm.
  • Learn some exercises from your therapist.
  • Take the help of a stick if you feel difficulty while walking.
Medicinal treatment
  • NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen can be used.  They help in relieving mild to moderate knee torment. 
  • Steroid medicine can be injected into the bursa. This will counteract the inflammation.

Surgical treatment

Surgery is done if the knee bursitis becomes unbearable. The doctor may also recommend surgery if the inflammation doesn’t go away. 

Keyhole surgery is most commonly used to treat this. The bursa is removed during the surgical procedure. But your knee will be able to function just as before. You will also not have any long-term side effects. 

Dislocated Kneecap

Patella covers the knee joint and works as a kneecap. If this patella moves out of place, it is called a dislocated kneecap. 

The tendons around the kneecap connect it to the surrounding muscles. This keeps the patella in place. Dislocation can disrupt the arrangement due to specific reasons. 

Symptoms

In this case, you feels like broken glass in my knee. Other symptoms with this might include:

  • You may hear a tear or pop sound during dislocation
  • Extreme pain in the knee. 
  • Tender knee
  • Difficulty while bending
  • Swelling of the knee in some cases
  • Visible abnormal knee joint position

Causes

There might be different causes behind the dislocated kneecap. Take a look at them:

Knee Hyperextension

In some cases, your leg may get stretched more than usual. This causes hyperextension and eventually dislocation of your knee. 

Hyperextension is rare; however, it is noticed in elderly individuals suffering from degenerative joint disease.

Leg rotation and planting the foot at the time of knee flexion

This is one of the most important causes of the dislocated kneecap. When you bend the knee, the kneecap is pushed towards the outside. 

If you twist the leg suddenly in this position, your knee may get dislocated. It is common among tennis players, skaters, gymnasts, softball players, runners, or baseball players. 

Straight injury to the knee

In this case, the dislocation can occur in four different directions. It depends on the position of your leg during the trauma. 

  • Trauma from the inside causes the knee to dislocate outward. 
  • Trauma from outside dislocates the knee in the inward direction. 
  • Knee dislocates into the knee joint if the trauma is from below or above. 

Treatment

There are many treatment options for your dislocated kneecap. Your doctor will decide the treatment based on your condition. 

Following are your treatment options:

Medicinal treatment

Dislocation causes a lot of pain. So, pain medications are essential to get a hold of your pain. The medicines include fentanyl or morphine. They can be administered through an IV. 

Reduction of the kneecap manually

Your dislocated kneecap might not return to the actual position on its own. Here the knee needs to be placed back in its original position manually. 

Your doctor may suggest this instantly after the dislocation. But it can also be done after consumption of the pain medicines. 

Surgical treatment

If the therapy cannot reduce dislocation manually, then surgery is required. It is also needed to fix your tendons or ligaments if damaged. 

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Osgood-Schlatter Disease

A place below the knee joint is called the tibial tuberosity. Here, the patellar tendon connects with the tibia or shinbone. When there is swelling and pain in the tibial tuberosity, it’s called Osgood-Schlatter disease. 

It is mainly noticed in the young athletes who are involved in sports. But don’t ignore this feeling of “feels like broken glass in my knee.” 

Causes

Bone growth plate irritation is the leading cause of this disease. 

At the growing stage, these growth plates are made of cartilage instead of bone. Cartilages are not as strong as bones. 

So, extensive pressure can cause swelling of the cartilage. And this swelling ultimately results in pain. 

Symptoms

Pain in the knee is the most significant symptom of this disease. You might feel like having a broken glass under the skin. 

The clinical presentation of the disease is given below:

  • Pain while tibial tuberosity is palpated
  • Worsening of pain with physical activity
  • Enhanced pain while doing any sports
  • Enhanced bony protuberance 
  • Tightness of quadriceps
  • Sometimes pain in the quadriceps

Treatment

Does your knee feel like glass underneath it? Look at the following treatments:

Conservative treatment

The treatment starts with icing, rest, and activity restriction. If needed, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are prescribed. 

Surgical treatment

Surgical treatments are not allowed until adulthood. The bone growth needs to get completed before attempting any surgery. Otherwise, there will be growth plate arrests. Also, recurvatum of the knee will not develop.

The surgical procedures may include:

  • Excision of the tibial tubercle
  • The longitudinal incision in the tendon of the patella
  • Tibial sequestrectomy
  • Bone pegs insertion
  • Drilling of the tibial tubercle

Any one of these procedures can be done depending on your condition.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

The Iliotibial band extends from the pelvis to the tibia. It runs along the lateral aspect of the thigh and acts as a stabilizer. This band supports the knee during flexion and extension. 

Pain occurs on the outer part of the knee due to overuse of this band. This is called iliotibial band syndrome. 

Symptoms

Here you may feel pain like having broken glass on the knee. But this pain occurs in the lateral side. 

Other symptoms may include:

  • Inflammation of a particular area at the femoral epicondyle. Here the band crosses forth and back frequently.
  • Sensation like needle pricks
  • Popping or snapping sound at the knee
  • It may radiate along the path of the IT band

Causes 

Generally, this is noticed in athletes. The bicyclists, long-distance runners, and other athletes mainly experience this. Their legs are used most of the time. As a result, they remain at risk of iliotibial band syndrome. 

The reasons they remain at risk are given below:

Bicyclists

Here are few reasons why bicyclists may have IT band inflammation:

  • Improper posture
  • ‘Toe in’ while paddling

These things may enhance the IT band angle while crossing the knee. This increases the danger of inflammation.

Runners

Sometimes the road may remain banked. Here the outside edge of the road is lower than the center. Someone might have the habit of running on the same side every time. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

This gives the effect the same as a leg-length discrepancy. One leg remains at a higher level than the other. Also, the pelvis remains tilted to adjust the activity. 

So, it may cause IT band inflammation.

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Treatment

Want to know how to kneel without pain again? Go through the following treatments your doctor might recommend:

Conservative treatment

This method mainly consists of home treatments. It includes rollers at the pain site, massage, and stretching. 

Compression, ice, and rest are also included in the home remedies. 

Medicinal treatment

Anti-inflammatory medicines are used in treating this disease. You might be prescribed Naproxen and Ibuprofen.  

Methylprednisolone and corticosteroids can also be injected at the inflammation site. 

Surgical treatment

Surgery is the last option your doctor would advise. Here are your surgery options:

  • Arthroscopy to find the inflammation and eliminate it. 
  • Cut out the triangular part of the IT band. This helps in the lengthening of the band. It allows the band to slide more easily.  

Can’t kneel without pain? Various reasons in your daily life might lead you to this problem. Diagnose the situation and take adequate treatment. This will undoubtedly save you from unbearable knee pain. 

FAQ

Why does my knee feel like it’s broken?

Your knee may sometimes feel broken. Or you may feel like it’s popping out. 

This is not something serious. Here, the main reason is the overuse of the knee. Taking rest and specific home remedies are enough to solve this problem. 

However, frequent feelings of the broken knee can indicate serious problems as well. So, consider visiting a doctor if the situation does not improve with time. 

Why does it feel like kneeling on gravel?

You may feel roughness, like having pebbles under the kneecap. This interferes with the gliding movement of the knee. This specific condition is called patellofemoral arthritis. 

It may hurt you while climbing the stairs. So, seek treatment as soon as possible. 

For proper diagnosis, consider visiting a specialist. Otherwise, your condition will become worse with time. 

Why do I feel needle-like pain in the knee when kneeling?

Needle-like pain mainly refers to sharp severe pain. This is generally associated with injury, meniscus tear, or overuse of your knee joint. This affects the cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and muscles of your leg. 

Conditions called chondromalacia patella, and patellofemoral pain syndrome primarily cause sharp pain. This mainly occurs while bending, squatting, and kneeling. 

Take immediate action if you feel this sort of pain. 

Conclusion

Knee pain is one of the most common pains people generally complain of.  The reason behind the pain might range from mild to severe. 

It is always preferable to visit a doctor if you face “feels like broken glass in my knee.” 

I'm a medical student from Bangladesh. Along the path of my life, medical science has always entranced and enticed me through it's continuous advancement. I believe being health conscious and having a wholesome lifestyle should be our utmost priority. Being a medical student, I like to share my opinions and views on different aspects of medical science in order to enlighten people with knowledge and to motivate them to become aware of their own health condition. We all need to remember that health comes first! So, I hope that my work will help out and benefit people and assist them to remain hale and hearty in their daily life. Zahin Ibnat MBBS (3rd year) Armed Forces Medical College, Bangladesh

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