What commonly causes knee pain?

Overuse injuries like runner’s knee, and trauma such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), meniscus, and tendon tears are the most common causes of acute knee pain.  Chronic knee pain frequently develops due to:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Tendinitis
  • Bursitis
  • Baker’s cyst (fluid buildup behind your knee)
  • Chondromalacia patella (cartilage problem in young athletes)

You’re at a higher risk for developing knee pain if you’re active in sports, you’ve had a previous knee injury, or you’re overweight. For every pound of extra weight you carry, your knees absorb 4 extra pounds of pressure every time you take a step.

If you are suffering from knee pain, getting to the root cause may take some time – but it is essential for proper treatment.

Because the knee is a small area, pain often radiates throughout the entire knee area. Therefore, it can be difficult to pinpoint where the pain is stemming from.

There are four categories of knee pain: anterior, posterior, medial, and lateral. The knee is made up of layers of bone, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and the root of the knee pain depends on the exact part of the knee that is damaged or inflamed.

Let’s take a look at the four types of knee pain:

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1. Anterior Knee Pain

Anterior refers to the front of the knee. Because the kneecap is located in the front of the knee, repeated and forceful activities can cause inflammation and pain. Causes of anterior knee pain include:

  • Runner’s knee– Officially known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, this happens when the kneecap (the patella) rubs against the femur repeatedly. Runner’s knee can develop after walking up or down stairs, squatting, or sitting for long periods of time with your knees bent.
  • Jumper’s knee– Officially known as patellar tendonitis, this is caused by injury to the patellar tendon (which connects your shinbone to your kneecap) when it’s overused. Athletes who participate in basketball and volleyball often develop jumper’s knee.

2. Posterior Knee Pain

Posterior refers to the back of the knee. Causes of posterior knee pain include:

  • Gastrocnemius tendonitis This condition is characterized by a swollen calf muscle, which is located right below the knee. This muscle can get strained or torn, causing a painful bulge in the back of the leg below the knee.
  • Musculotendinous injury This is caused when the intersection of the tendon and the femur (this intersection is called the “junction”) is inflamed or injured.
  • Baker’s cyst This is caused when there is swelling behind the knee, filled with synovial lubricating fluid.

3. Medial Knee Pain

Medial refers to the middle or inside of the knee. (The medial part of both knees touch each other when you stand with both legs together.) The most common cause of medial knee pain is an MCL injury:

  • MCL injury The medial collateral ligament (MCL) runs up the inside of the leg to the knee. This ligament can get torn when stretched improperly.

4. Lateral Knee Pain

Lateral refers to the outside of the knee (on the outer side of the leg). Causes of lateral knee pain include:

  • LCL injury– LCL (lateral collateral ligament) injuries are most often caused by sudden twisting. When an LCL injury happens, so much pressure is put on the LCL that it actually tears due to overstretching.
  • Lateral meniscus injury These injuries happen when the meniscus tears due to twisting or rotating. When the meniscus is injured, it’s difficult to straighten the leg and causes instability. Lateral meniscus injuries can also happen naturally as we age.

Who Can Help with My Knee Pain?

Our team at Center for Pain Treatment has a wealth of knowledge treating all types of knee injuries and orthopedic pain. If you are suffering from knee pain and want to learn about treatment options, talk to one of our specialists at Center for Pain Treatment