Know the basics
What is knee pain?
Knee pain is a type of pain that occurs in the front part of the knee just under the kneecap or deep in the knee joint itself. Knee pain can originate in any of the bony structures compromising the knee joint, the kneecap, or the ligaments and cartilage.
Knee pain is a rather vague diagnosis. Some people can get very mild symptoms but some can experience sever pain in the knee. The location of the pain is important because it will suggest the most likely cause.
How common is knee pain?
Knee pain is very common and usually goes away by itself after the activity causing it is found and stopped. It can affect patients at any age although it is more common in older people. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of knee pain?
The location of the pain is important because it will suggest the most likely cause.
Pain, swelling, and sometimes a clicking or popping feeling are common symptoms. Sometimes, the knee can catch and lock. In that case, a piece of torn cartilage is trapped in the joint and stops the knee from bending or straightening.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- On your own and you still have symptoms.
- If you are doing physical therapy or rehabilitation and your symptoms worsen.
- If you have side effects from medicines.
- Your knee looks deformed.
- You have fever, redness or heat around the knee, or it’s very swollen.
- You have pain, swelling, numbness or tingling of the calf beneath your affected knee.
- Your knee locks or painfully clicks (painless clicking is ok).
Know the causes
What causes knee pain?
The many causes include a sprained or torn ligament, torn cartilage, and arthritis of the kneecap or the whole joint. Common causes include:
- Sprains and strains;
- Anterior Knee Pain (Pain Around The Kneecap);
- Menisci Or Cartilage Damage;
- Bursitis (Housemaid’s Knee);
- Bleeding Into The Joint;
- Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease;
- Septic Arthritis (Infected Knee Joint).
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for knee pain?
There are many risk factors for knee pain, such as:
- Excess weight.
- Biomechanical problems.
- Lack of muscle flexibility or strength.
- Certain sports.
- Previous injury.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is knee pain diagnosed?
The doctor will make a diagnosis from the medical history and physical examination. X-rays of the knees and sometimes blood tests may be done. If fluid is present in the knee (knee effusion), the doctor may put a needle in the knee and take fluid out. The fluid will be sent to a laboratory for study.
How is knee pain treated?
The most important thing to do is find out the cause, especially if an activity such as aggressive walking or jogging was started recently. Many people who participate in sports on a court that involve sideways movement have knee symptoms.
When these activities are stopped for 2 to 6 weeks, symptoms slowly go away. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, help inflammation (swelling, redness) and pain. These drugs can cause stomach problems and should be taken with meals. People who have ulcers or bleeding ulcers should check with the doctor before using these drugs.
Kneecap pain can usually be managed with physical therapy to strengthen the quadriceps muscles (front of the thigh) and stretch hamstring muscles (back of the thigh) and calf muscles (lower leg). Sprained ligaments often heal with rest and time. Torn ligaments around the knee sometimes need immobilization and then aggressive physical therapy. If the knee pain persists or worsens despite treatment, a surgeon may suggest an operation (arthroscopy) to repair the damage.
After symptoms have stopped, activities can be restarted slowly, beginning with activities such as walking or cycling.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage knee pain?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with knee pain:
- Take your medicines as prescribed.
- Stop the activity that causes pain.
- Restart activities slowly. Resume very carefully the activity that caused the pain.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Print edition. Page 775.
Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017