Causes of Knee Pain

Professionally Reviewed by Dr. Tyler Wheeler the 28th of October, 2021

It's Complicated

There are many potential sources of injury to your knees due to the combination of their complexity and their high level of use. Overuse injuries occur when a person repeatedly performs a single motion without first building up to it. The effects of simple wear and tear become more noticeable with age. Injury can cause tearing and cracking of bones. As a result of certain medical conditions, the patient's own immune system begins to attack the affected joint(s). When your knee is bothering you, a trip to the doctor can help you figure out what's wrong.

Dislocations and Fractures

Intense pain in the knee after a fall or other trauma usually indicates damage to one of the three bones that make up the knee: the thigh, the shin, or the kneecap. Get yourself to a doctor or the nearest emergency room right away. Leg bones can sometimes slowly crack at the ends due to a fracture. The increased stress on the knee joint can cause this.   

Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament

When changing directions suddenly, especially in contact sports like soccer, football, and basketball, you hear a pop and become immobile. Your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which keeps your tibia from moving forward too far, may be torn. The pain, swelling, and shakiness in your knee are all signs of a damaged ligament.

Any of the tissues that hold your knee together are susceptible to injury: ligaments connect bones to each other, and tendons attach muscle to bone. Tendonitis caused by overuse What you're feeling is tendinitis.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

An irritated and swollen "IT band," or ligament that runs along the outside of your thigh, can be caused by excessive rubbing against the bone. When you go for a run or ride your bike for exercise, you increase your risk of getting this. Downhill movement or prolonged sitting could make the pain worse. While you may experience some relief from warming up, continuing to push through pain without giving the injury time to heal is not a good idea.   


Constraints on leg movement make bending and stretching difficult. After some activity, you notice that your knee is stiff, painful, and possibly swollen. In all likelihood, you have damaged the cartilage that serves as a shock absorber at the ends of your bones. Because of the time involved, this form of arthritis is more prevalent in those over the age of 65. In younger people, overuse of the knee following an injury like a ligament tear can lead to this condition.  

Inflammatory Arthritis

You may not only experience pain and swelling, but also fatigue, illness, and fever. The body's immune system, which normally protects you from illness, may mistakenly target vital joints like the knees in people with autoimmune diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis, for instance, typically affects a pair of joints on each side of the body, including the hands. The autoimmune disease lupus attacks tissues and organs all over the body. Painful joints are just one symptom of psoriatic arthritis, which also causes thick, scaly patches of skin.


Overuse is the usual cause of this condition, which manifests as a swollen, stiff, warm, or tender knee. Because housekeepers and clergy members spend so much time on their knees, they are particularly susceptible to the condition. Bursitis is an inflammation and swelling of the fluid-filled sacs called bursa that surround and cushion your knee joint. Despite getting plenty of sleep, you may still be in pain.

Runner's Knee

You should feel this just in front of your kneecap. After a long period of knee bending, or when you attempt to kneel, you may feel pain. As you ascend the stairs, it might crack or pop. Patellofemoral pain syndrome is caused by overuse, a misaligned hip and ankle, a weak thigh muscle, or the breakdown of cartilage behind the kneecap. Many young athletes and women suffer from this condition.

Torn Meniscus

Menisci, the rubbery cartilage that acts as a cushion between the thigh and shin bones, can be torn with a sudden twist or pivot, especially if the person's weight is placed directly on the knee. They're located on either side of your anterior cruciate ligament. Their age or arthritis may make them more prone to emotional breakdowns. It's not always easy to put a name to or describe the pain. It's possible that you'll experience knee pain, swelling, and a loss of flexibility.  

Baker's Cyst (Popliteal Cyst)

It may be difficult to fully bend or stretch your leg if the fluid-filled sac at the back of your knee bulges out or becomes too tight. Arthritis or a torn meniscus are two potential contributing factors. The cyst itself is usually painless, but its rupture can cause swelling and bruising at the back of your knee and calf.

Gout and Pseudogout

The pain and swelling associated with both can be severe and sudden. It's possible that your knee is sore, red, and hot right now. When crystals form in the groin, this is what occurs. The big toe is a common target for gout, which is caused by an excess of uric acid in the body. Calcium pyrophosphate is the culprit in pseudogout.


Septic arthritis can be caused by another disease or by trauma to the joint. Besides experiencing severe pain, you'll probably also be feeling ill, irritable, and have a fever. In order to identify the offending bacteria and prescribe the appropriate treatment, your doctor may take fluid from your knee using a needle. Less frequently, viruses and parasites can also infect your joints.  

Referred Pain

Tenderness in the knee may be the result of issues in other parts of the body, such as the back, hip, or foot. Pain signals can travel along nerves, causing them to be redirected to another area, or the brain can become confused as to which area is actually hurting. Although you may be in physical pain, there may be nothing physically wrong with your knee.

What You Can Do

Pain and inflammation can be treated with over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen. Aside from staying off your feet, resting, icing, compressing, and elevating the affected area can be very helpful. Put your raised leg above your heart. Several times a day, for 10-20 minutes at a time, place a cold pack wrapped in a thin towel or cloth on your knee. Put a loose elastic bandage on your knee when you're up and about.

When to See Your Doctor

When sudden and severe knee pain strikes, don't hesitate to seek medical attention. For persistent or worsening symptoms, call for help.

A doctor may order knee X-rays or other imaging tests to help with diagnosis. There are some conditions that can be confirmed or ruled out with a blood or knee fluid sample. Medication, targeted exercise, orthotics, and even surgery are all potential avenues of care. Your knees may feel less stress and pressure if you lose weight.


For Example: 1) Stocktrek Images / Science Source

2. (From left to right) stockdevil/Thinkstock, Steven Needell/Science Source

Thirdly, janulla (Thinkstock)

The Fourth Peter Gardiner/Science Source

5- seb_ra / Thinkstock

The Sixth Image is by Martin Rotker and the Medical Images team

Photograph by AndreyPopov (Thinkstock)

eight) jacoblund / thinkstock

Science Source/CNRI (9)

ten) Science & Public Library

Source: Joubert and the Journal of Scientific Exploration

Medical Images by Hercules Robinson, Number 12

Image by AndreyPopov / Thinkstock (13)

13) sarmoho / Thinkstock

(15) Pixel_away / Thinkstock


Knee pain, torn meniscus, Baker's cyst, gout, pseudogout, and septic arthritis are all conditions listed on the Mayo Clinic's website. "

Recent and Up-to-Date: "Approach to the Adult with Knee Pain Likely of Musculoskeletal Origin," "Approach to the Adult with Unspecified Knee Pain," and "Iliotibial Band Syndrome." "

Common Knee Injuries, Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, and Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) on OrthoInfo Injuries to the Muscles, Tendons, and Other Connective Tissues "

Definition of Osteoarthritis from the Arthritis Foundation. The Advantages of Slimming Down "

Handout on Health: Rheumatoid Arthritis," National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases "

Knee injuries and disorders are common among carpet layers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "

Published in the Journal of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, "Hip Osteoarthritis: Where Is the Pain? "

"Hip Arthritis Presenting as Knee Pain," BMJ Case Reports "

Knee pain: the latest in medical news Perhaps the issue lies in your hips. "

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