What is Causing My Knee Pain?

Being active is one of the best things you can do for your joints and the rest of your body. But injuries can happen, and they often involve the knees.

Some of the most common problems are sprained ligaments, meniscus tears, tendinitis, and runner’s knee. If you have an old knee injury that wasn’t properly treated, it may flare up now and then or hurt all the time.

The type of pain and where you feel it can vary, depending on what the problem is.
Knee pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Injuries and Overuse. Knee injuries, such as a torn ligament, meniscus tear, or fractured kneecap, can cause knee pain. Repeated stress on the knee joint, such as from running or jumping, can cause knee pain.
  • Obesity. Excess weight can put extra stress on the knee joint, leading to pain and discomfort.
  • Gout. This is a type of arthritis that occurs when uric acid crystals build up in the joints, including the knee.
  • Bursitis. A bursa is a sac that holds a small amount of fluid that’s under the skin above your joint. It helps prevent friction when the joint moves. Overuse, falls, or repeated bending and kneeling can irritate the bursa on top of your kneecap. That leads to pain and swelling. You may hear it called ”preacher’s knee.”
  • IT (iliotibial) Band Syndrome. The iliotibial (IT) band is a piece of tough tissue that runs from your hip down to the outer part of your knee. When you overdo activity, it can become inflamed over time. That causes pain on the outer side of the knee. It’s common among runners when going downhill.
  • Meniscal Tear. Sometimes, a knee injury can cause cartilage to rip. These rough edges can get stuck in the joint, which causes pain and swelling. Many times, people will have the sensation of “catching” in the joint when they are active.
  • Osteoarthritis. This is the “wear and tear” type of arthritis. It’s a top cause of knee pain after age 50. This condition causes the knee joint to ache or swell when you’re active. Joints affected by osteoarthritis can also be stiff early in the day.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: This is an autoimmune disorder that causes the joints to become inflamed, leading to pain and stiffness.
  • Patellar Tendinitis. This means you have inflammation in the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shinbone. Tendons are tough bands of tissue that connect muscles to your bones. When you overdo exercise, they can become inflamed and sore. You may also hear it called “jumper’s knee” because repetitive jumping is the most common cause.
  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. Muscle imbalance, tightness, and alignment problems of the legs usually cause this condition. It causes knee pain and occasional “buckling,” meaning your knee suddenly can’t bear your weight. It’s not due to an injury. It’s more common for women than for men.
  • Osgood-Schlatter Disease. This condition happens when you’re young, when bones and other parts of the knee are still changing. It can cause a painful bump below the knee, where a tendon from the kneecap connects to the shin. Overdoing exercise, and irritation at a point on the bottom of your knee called the tibial tubercle, often make this area hurt. The ache may come and go over time. It’s especially common in teenage boys and girls.

What Does a Knee Injury Feel Like?

Obviously, it hurts! But the type of pain and where you feel it can vary, depending on what the problem is. You may have:

  • Pain, usually when you bend or straighten the knee (including when you go down stairs)
  • Swelling
  • Trouble putting weight on the knee
  • Problems moving your knee
  • Knee buckling or “locking”

If you have these symptoms, see your doctor. They will check your knee. You may also need X-rays or an MRI to see more detail of the joint.


Your treatment will depend on your specific injury. Mild to moderate issues will often get better on their own. To speed the healing, you can:

  • Rest your knee. If your knee pain is caused by an injury or overuse, it’s important to rest your knee to allow it to heal. Avoid activities that put stress on the knee joint.
  • Ice and heat therapy: Applying ice to the knee can help reduce swelling and pain. Heat therapy, such as a warm compress or heating pad, can help relax the muscles around the knee.
  • Compression: Wearing a compression bandage or knee brace can help reduce swelling and provide support to the knee joint.
  • Elevate your knee: Put a pillow under your heel when you’re sitting or lying down to cut down on swelling.
  • Take anti-inflammatory medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen will help with pain and swelling. Follow the instructions on the label. These drugs can have side effects, so you should only use them now and then unless your doctor says otherwise.

When home treatments aren’t enough

  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can design exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee, which can help reduce pain and prevent further injury.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair damage to the knee joint, such as a torn ligament or meniscus.
  • Visco-3 injections: If your doctor has determined that your knee pain is caused by osteoarthritis then you may be a candidate for VISCO-3’s non-surgical, non-pharmacological, pain-relieving therapy. VISCO-3 Sodium Hyaluronate is a solution made of highly purified, hyaluronan.

How To Prevent Knee Pain

Although you can’t prevent all injuries, you can take these steps to make them less likely.

  • Stop exercising if you feel pain in your knee: If you want to make your workout more intense, always do it gradually.
  • Use kneepads to prevent bursitis: Especially if you have to kneel a lot.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight puts extra stress on the knee joint, which can lead to pain and discomfort.
  • Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help strengthen the muscles around the knee joint, reducing the risk of injury and pain. Keep your thigh muscles strong with regular stretching and strengthening.
  • Wear appropriate footwear: Wearing shoes with good arch support can help reduce stress on the knee joint.
  • Use proper form: When participating in sports or exercise, use proper form and technique to avoid putting undue stress on the knee joint.
  • Stretch before exercise: Stretching before exercise can help warm up the muscles and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Take breaks: If you participate in activities that put stress on the knee joint, such as running or jumping, take breaks to allow the knee to rest.

Make an appointment with a doctor if you still have pain after two weeks of home treatment, if the knee becomes warm, or if you have fever along with a painful, swollen knee.

We Keep You in Motion

Rest assured, if you do suffer a knee injury our mission at Santa Rosa Orthopaedics is to return our patients back to pain-free mobility and full strength as quickly and as painlessly as possible using the most advanced surgical and non-surgical orthopedic procedures and therapies. Learn more …