Pain and Your Knees

One of the many reasons patients visit the doctor is knee pain. Knee pain can be caused by injury, by conditions associated with age and "wear and tear", or by disease. In order to properly treat knee pain, it's essential to identify its cause. If you are experiencing knee pain, an orthopedic specialist can evaluate your symptoms, diagnose your condition, and provide you with treatment options. Let's take a closer look at the anatomy of the knee, some common causes of knee pain, and how knee pain can be treated.

The Anatomy of the Knee

The knee is comprised of three bones: the femur (thigh bone), the tibia (shin bone), and the patella (knee cap). There are also four ligaments that help attach the bones to one another, and two tendons that attach the muscles to the bones. In the event that any of the knee joint structures face damage or injury, knee pain may arise.

Causes of Injury Related Knee Pain

There are a variety of injuries that may lead to knee pain during movements such as standing, walking, and running. These include:

  • Sprains and Strains When the ligaments and tendons become overstretched or torn, sprains and strains arise. These types of injuries can lead to pain with movement, swelling, and bruising. Conservative treatments such as rest, ice compression, and elevation as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can usually treat them.1
  • Ligament Tears There are four ligaments that are designed to provide stability to the knee while it moves. A ligament tear occurs when one of the four ligaments either partially or completely ruptures. The anterior cruciate ligament or ACL tear is the most common type of ligament tears.2 While partial ligament tears can usually be treated with conservative options, surgery is typically required to resolve complete ligament tears.2
  • Meniscus Tears Meniscus tears are often seen during sports or high-impact activities and can be accompanied by a lock or pop when the knee is moved. Initially, pain from a meniscus tear may be minimal. However, over two to three days, the pain will likely increase and may be accompanied by severe swelling and stiffness.2Injury-related knee pain requires the immediate attention of an orthopedic specialist. By seeing an orthopedic specialist right away, your condition can be diagnosed and a treatment plan developed to help you recover as quickly as possible.
  • Knee Arthritis Besides injury, the most common causes of knee pain are the diseases osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.3 The most common type of arthritis of the knee is osteoarthritis, which causes cartilage in the knee to gradually wear away.4 The symptoms of osteoarthritis in the knee are pain and stiffness that worsen over time and can eventually restrict normal life activity.Knee osteoarthritis is a chronic condition that is categorized on a four-stage severity scale ranging from minor to severe. While patients with stage 1 knee osteoarthritis usually experience minimal to no pain, those with stage 4 osteoarthritis may cope with extremely serious pain. There is currently no cure for osteoarthritis, so treatment options focus on addressing symptoms and slowing down or stopping the disease progression if it is identified early enough.5
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is another type of arthritis that can cause knee pain, inflammation, and may destroy the cartilage. Symptoms can include:
    • Pain
    • Stiffness
    • Swelling
    • Redness
    • Hot to the touch2
  • Osgood-Schlatter Disease Osgood-Schlatter disease can result from stress or tension in the growth area of the upper shin bone. It can occur if the tendon is pulled away from the bone, taking a piece of bone with it. Symptoms include:
    • Pain below the knee that worsens with activity and dissipates with rest
    • A bony bump below the knee cap that is painful under pressure

Avoiding Knee Pain

Some painful knee conditions, such as accidental injuries, can't be prevented. However, here are some precautions for avoiding or preventing some knee problems:

  • Warm up the thigh muscles and knees before playing sports, by walking and stretching
  • Strengthen the leg muscles by climbing stairs, riding a stationary bike or elliptical trainer, or lifting weights
  • Gradually increase the intensity or duration of activity
  • Choose shoes that fit well and replace them regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight to reduce stress on the knees2

Knee Pain Treatment

If you are experiencing knee pain, it's essential to schedule an appointment to talk to a physician, regardless of its severity. An orthopedic specialist can pinpoint the cause of your pain and design a customized treatment plan to help you find the relief you deserve. Contact us today to schedule your knee pain appointment.

The information in this article is for informational and educational purposes and is not meant as medical advice. Every patient's case is unique and each patient should follow his or her doctor's specific instructions. Please discuss nutrition, medication and treatment options with your doctor to make sure you are getting the proper care for your particular situation.

  1. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. "Common knee injuries". orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/common-knee-injuries. (Accessed January 16, 2019).
  2. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. "Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries". orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/anterior-cruciate-ligament-acl-injuries/
  3. Arthritis Foundation. "Arthritis and Diseases that Affect the Knee". arthritis.org/about-arthritis/where-it-hurts/knee-pain/causes/arthritis-in-knee.php. (Accessed January 16, 2019).
  4. merican Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. "Arthritis of the Knee". orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/arthritis-of-the-knee. (Accessed January 16, 2019)
  5. Wu, Brian. "The stages of osteoarthritis of the knee." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 15 Aug. 2018. Web. (Accessed February 5, 2019)

All information provided on this website is for information purposes only. Every patient's case is unique and each patient should follow his or her doctor's specific instructions. Please discuss nutrition, medication and treatment options with your doctor to make sure you are getting the proper care for your particular situation. If you are seeking this information in an emergency situation, please call 911 and seek emergency help.

All materials copyright © 2019 Smith & Nephew, All Rights Reserved.