What Causes Knee Pain?

What Causes Knee Pain
Written by dilligant

Activity is good for the joints and your body. However, sometimes injury may happen, even in the knee. Knee pain affects people of all ages. The location and severity of the pain vary depending on the cause of the problem.

This post explores the common causes of knee pain and when you should see a physical therapist.

Sprained knee ligaments

A sudden twist or blow to the knee can result in a sprain or strain. The tearing or overstretching of the ligaments around the knee often results in swelling, pain, and walking difficulties. Knee sprains are common in athletes, especially in basketball and soccer.


Accidents and falls can break the bones of the knee and kneecap (patella). Symptoms of a fractured kneecap include swelling, bruising, and inability to stand or walk. People more susceptible to kneecap fractures include those with bones weakened by osteoporosis. Consequently, stepping wrong can lead to a knee fracture.

Dislocated knee cap

When your patella slides out of position, it results in dislocation. The patella is a triangular bone covering the front of the knee. Symptoms of a dislocated kneecap include swelling and knee pain. Patella dislocation is relatively common, and risk factors for this injury include age, family history, sex, and previous patellar dislocation.

ACL injury

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the four ligaments connecting the shinbone to the thigh bone. An ACL injury is a tear in the ACL, which can cause excruciating knee pain. Symptoms of an ACL injury include rapid swelling, a popping sensation in the knee, and a feeling of instability
An ACL injury is common in sports players, especially soccer or basketball, because of the sudden direction changes.

Meniscal tear

The meniscus is a tough cartilage that absorbs shock between the shinbone and the thigh bone. A sudden twist in the knee while bearing weight on it can cause a meniscal tear. A common symptom of a meniscal tear is a catching sensation in the joint while being active. Other symptoms include a popping sensation, swelling, and difficulty straightening the knee.

Patellar tendonitis

The tendons are thick fibrous tissues attaching the muscles to bones. An inflammation or irritation of one or more tendons is known as tendonitis. The patellar tendon runs from the kneecap to the shinbone and allows you to run, jump, and kick. An injury to this tendon leads to inflammation, causing knee pain, especially when straightening your leg, running, or walking.
Patellar tendonitis, also known as jumper’s knee, is common in skiers, runners, cyclists, and jumping sports.

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The bursa is a fluid sac under the skin above the joint. This fluid sac lubricates the joints, preventing friction. Repeated bending, kneeling, and falls can irritate the bursa on the kneecap, leading to swelling and pain. Bursitis symptoms include sharp knee pain during exercise, inability to move the joint, and excessive swelling and redness.


Although there are several types of arthritis, the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is degenerative and occurs due to the deterioration of the knee cartilage. This deterioration is a wear and tear condition due to use and age. Osteoarthritis causes aches and swelling of the knee joint during activity.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that affects the body’s joints, including the knee joints. This type of arthritis is a chronic disease with varying degrees of pain that may come and go. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include stiffness and pain in more than one joint, and swelling in the joints.

Iliotibial band syndrome

The iliotibial band is a tough band of tissue extending from outside the hip to outside the knee. The iliotibial band syndrome results from tightness in the iliotibial band such that it rubs against the outside of the thighbone. This syndrome is peculiar to cyclists and distance runners. The iliotibial band syndrome symptoms include increasing pain with increasing exercise, grating sounds, and sharp pain on the outside of your knee.

When Should You See A Doctor?

Common symptoms of knee pain include instability, popping noises, swelling, and stiffness. The location and intensity of these symptoms may vary. Nevertheless, you should see your doctor if you have a fever, cannot flex or fully extend your knee, or have marked knee swelling.

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Knee pain is more common than you think. Unfortunately, the causes of knee pain are beyond sprains or strains. The pain could result from a fracture, arthritis, or a tear in the ligament. Without proper treatment, like physical therapy, the pain will not go away, and you may develop a deformity. Therefore, it is best to contact your physical therapist in Merrick, NY, immediately, if you experience instability or swelling.

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