Knee Pain


Knee pain is a common complaint that affects people of all ages, and it’s typically the result of an injury or arthritis. It can restrict mobility, limit physical activity, and significantly impact daily life. Understanding the root cause is crucial for effective pain management.

For instance, incorrect posture can exacerbate knee discomfort, while good posture often alleviates it. The role of exercise in managing pain in your knee cannot be overstated. Regular physical activity promotes joint flexibility and strength, reducing the risk of further injury. Dietary influence also plays a part—maintaining a healthy weight lessens stress on the knees.

Physiotherapy techniques offer non-invasive solutions to knee pain. They focus on improving muscle strength and joint motion while easing inflammation—a holistic approach that often brings relief.

Common Causes of Knee Pain

Knee pain is caused by various factors, including:

  • Bursitis knee: Inflammation of the knee bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the knee joint.
  • Chondromalacia patella: Softening and deterioration of the cartilage on the underside of the kneecap.
  • Knee arthritis: Inflammation and degeneration of the knee joint, commonly osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Knee injuries: Such as patella dislocation, ligament tears, or meniscal tears.
  • Overuse or repetitive stress: Activities that strain the knee joint, leading to conditions like patellofemoral pain syndrome or tendinitis.
  • Other conditions: Including patella femoral syndrome, plica syndrome, popliteus syndrome, pes anserine bursitis, or Baker’s cyst.

Symptoms of Knee Pain

Common symptoms of knee pain include:

  • Pain and discomfort in or around your knee joint.
  • Swelling and inflammation.
  • Stiffness and limited range of motion.
  • Weakness or instability in the knee.
  • Clicking, popping, or grinding sensations.
  • Difficulty walking or bearing weight on the affected knee.

Diagnosis of Knee Pain

To diagnose knee pain, healthcare professionals may:

  • Conduct a physical examination to assess knee movement, stability, and signs of inflammation.
  • Order imaging tests like X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans to visualise the knee structures and detect any abnormalities.
  • Perform joint aspirations to analyse the synovial fluid in the knee for signs of infection or inflammation.
  • Recommend blood tests to check for underlying conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatment  and Management of Knee Pain

The treatment options for knee pain depend on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. They may include:

  • Rest and immobilisation of the knee to promote healing.
  • Medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief and inflammation reduction.
  • Physical therapy exercises to strengthen the knee muscles and improve flexibility.
  • Assistive devices like knee braces or crutches to provide support and offload weight from stress on your knee.
  • Injections of corticosteroids or hyaluronic acid into the knee joint for pain relief and improved lubrication.
  • Surgical interventions, such as knee arthroscopy or knee replacement, for severe cases or when conservative treatments fail, according to the severity of knee pain.

Common Knee Conditions

Understanding common knee conditions is essential for effective treatment and management.

An adult or senior with bandages around their right knee lying on bed in hospital clothes and what seems to be a scar longitudinally on the knee of the left leg.
Photo Credit: Sasirin Pamai, Canva

It empowers individuals to seek appropriate treatment, follow preventive measures, and make informed decisions about their healthcare journey.

Here are some prevalent knee conditions:

Bursitis Knee

  • Bursitis knee is characterised by inflammation of the bursae, which are small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the knee joint.
  • Symptoms include constant, nagging pain in the knee that worsens with movement.
  • Diagnosis involves physical examination and imaging tests like X-ray or MRI.
  • Treatment options include pain medications, physical therapy exercises, and, in severe cases, surgery.
  • Prevention methods include regular exercise, rest, and healthy weight.

Chondromalacia Patella

  • Chondromalacia patella is the softening and deterioration of the cartilage on the underside of the kneecap.
  • Symptoms include discomfort when climbing stairs or sitting for long periods.
  • Treatment includes pain management strategies like NSAIDs, ice therapy, and rest.
  • Rehabilitation involves patella exercises to strengthen surrounding muscles.
  • Prevention methods include maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding high-impact activities, and wearing supportive footwear.

Knee Arthritis

senior man sitting on sofa and having knee Arthritis in apartment.
Photo Credit: LightFieldStudios, Envato Elements Photos

  • Knee arthritis is characterised by persistent pain, swelling, and stiffness in the knee joint due to inflammation.
  • Prevention involves maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in regular low-impact exercises.
  • Pain relief options include NSAIDs, joint supplements, topical creams, and heat or cold therapy.
  • Long-term management may involve lifestyle modifications and physical therapy.
  • Consultation with healthcare professionals is advised for personalised advice and treatment.

Knee Replacement

  • Knee replacement surgery involves replacing damaged parts of the knee with artificial components.
  • Factors to consider include prosthetic selection, recovery timeline, and surgical complications.
  • Post-op rehabilitation is essential for optimal function and mobility.
  • Knee replacement significantly improves quality of life but requires a commitment to the recovery process.

Patella Dislocation

  • Patella dislocation occurs when the kneecap moves out of its normal position, causing severe pain and difficulty in joint movement.
  • Prevention strategies include strengthening exercises and the use of braces for stability.
  • Rehabilitation exercises help restore function and prevent recurrence.
  • Surgical intervention may be necessary in some cases.
  • Pain management is crucial for comfort and successful recovery.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome causes discomfort in the front of the lower leg due to overuse, injury, or knee joint misalignment.
  • Pain management includes braces, physical therapy, medication, and muscle-strengthening exercises.
  • Comprehensive rehabilitation may be necessary for some individuals.
  • Understanding and empathising with patients’ struggles is crucial for healthcare providers.

Plica Syndrome

  • Plica syndrome is characterised by the irritation or inflammation of the synovial plica tissue in the knee, leading to pain and swelling.
  • Diagnosis is essential for appropriate treatment, which may involve surgical intervention.
  • Post-surgery rehabilitation is crucial for restoring knee function.
  • Prevention strategies focus on regular exercises to strengthen thigh muscles.

Popliteus Syndrome

  • Popliteus syndrome affects the popliteus muscle at the back of the knee, causing pain and difficulty in activities like walking, running, and kneeling.
  • Diagnosis involves clinical tests, imaging studies, and patient history reviews.
  • Prevention includes strengthening and flexibility exercises.
  • Non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy and medications are often effective.

Pes Anserine

  • Pes anserine, also known as anserine tendinitis, causes knee pain due to overuse or stress on the area.
  • Management includes pain relief strategies and lifestyle modifications.
  • Regular, moderate exercises provide therapeutic benefits.
  • Preventive measures include warm-ups before physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight.

Knee Arthroscopy

  • Knee arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure for diagnosing and treating knee problems.
  • Recovery time is shorter compared to open surgery.
  • Risks include infection and blood clots.
  • Rehabilitation is necessary for regaining strength and mobility.

Baker’s Cyst

  • Baker’s cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms behind the knee, causing discomfort and swelling.
  • Complications can occur, such as cyst rupture or impeded blood flow.
  • Non-surgical treatments include rest, ice packs, and gentle exercises.
  • Prevention involves staying active and maintaining a healthy body weight.
  • Early detection and effective management are crucial for optimal outcomes.

Fat Pad Syndrome

An unrecognisable black man holding his knee in pain with redness or inflammation around the entire knee area.
Photo Credit: WayHomeStudio, Freepik

  • Fat pad syndrome involves inflammation of the fat pad in the knee, leading to significant pain.
  • Diagnosis includes physical examination and imaging techniques.
  • Treatment involves physical therapy, ice application, massage, and therapeutic exercises.
  • Prevention includes modifications in physical activities.
  • Prompt medical advice is recommended for early detection and management.


What are the four causes of knee pain?

The four common causes of knee pain include:

  1. Osteoarthritis: Degeneration of the knee joint cartilage.
  2. Knee injuries: Such as ligament tears or meniscal tears.
  3. Bursitis: Inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs in the knee joint.
  4. Tendinitis: Inflammation of the tendons around the knee.

How can knee pain be relieved?

To provide relief to knee pain, rest, avoid aggravating activities, apply ice regularly, use over-the-counter pain relievers, elevate the leg, perform strengthening exercises, use supportive devices like braces, and consult a healthcare provider for appropriate treatments.

What are knee pain red flags?

Red flags for knee pain include severe pain, inability to bear weight, sudden swelling or redness, joint deformity, loss of sensation, signs of infection, history of a knee injury, and persistent or worsening pain.

Why is my knee aching?

The aching knee can be due to osteoarthritis, overuse, injuries, muscle imbalances, poor posture, excess body weight, aging, or underlying medical conditions.

What are the symptoms of knee pain?

The symptoms of knee pain may vary depending on the cause but commonly include pain and swelling, difficulty in moving the knee, locking or popping sensation in the knee, weakness or instability, and redness or warmth around the knee area.

What are the common causes of knee pain?

Knee pain can be caused by a variety of factors including arthritis, injuries such as torn cartilage or ligaments, overuse or repetitive strain, obesity, muscle imbalances, and certain medical conditions like gout or infections.

How is knee pain diagnosed?

To diagnose the cause of knee pain, a healthcare provider may perform a physical examination, review the patient’s medical history, and order diagnostic tests such as X-rays, MRI scans, or blood tests to rule out or confirm certain conditions.

What is knee arthritis?

Knee arthritis is a common type of arthritis that affects the knee joint. It occurs when the cartilage in the knee wears away, leading to bone-on-bone contact, causing pain, stiffness, and inflammation in the knee.

How is knee pain treated?

The treatment for knee pain depends on the underlying cause. It can include rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE), physical therapy, pain medications, corticosteroid injections, knee braces or supports, and surgery in severe cases.

What is ACL, and how does it relate to knee pain?

ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament, one of the knee’s major ligaments. It can be injured through physical activity, leading to knee pain and instability. ACL tears often require surgical intervention for proper healing.