Common Causes of Knee Pain and How to Treat It

What Causes Knee Pain?

Old or young, knee pain can seriously disrupt your life and make it difficult for you to walk, run, and exercise. Sometimes the pain will ease by itself, but often you will need to find the cause of your pain before it can be treated. In this article we will discuss the various causes of sore knees, how it can impact your life, and simple remedies to ease your pain.

Knee pain is often associated with symptoms such as knee stiffness, swelling, and the feeling of your knee catching or giving way. Sprains and bruises are often caused by sports injuries and heal within a few days. Other common causes of knee pain include:

Arthritis

  • Osteoarthritis (OA). Caused by gradual wear and tear of your knee cartilage, leading to gradual pain and stiffness. It is often seen in people aged over 50 and can cause a sharp back of the knee pain when you bend your knee.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). An autoimmune condition in which your immune system overreacts, leading to swelling and inflammation in your knee.

Ligament damage

The ligaments in your knee can become sprained or torn during sports injuries and blows to the knee. Symptoms depend on which ligament is injured:

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). The most common injury which is often caused by a sudden twist or awkward landing. You may hear a “popping” noise followed by your knee giving way.
  • Medial Cruciate Ligament (MCL). Injuries can be caused by a blow to the knee and gives you inside knee pain.
  • Lateral Cruciate Ligament (LCL). Located on the outside of your knee. Can be injured by blow to the inside of your knee.
  • Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL). The least commonly injured ligament. Sprains cause back of the knee pain.

Damage inside the knee joint

  • Cartilage damage. Cartilage coats your knee bones to provides a smooth surface and help your knee move smoothly. Damage can be caused by injury or arthritis, and gives you pain on bending your knee.
  • Meniscus tear. Your two menisci are C shaped pieces of cartilage which help to cushion and stabilise your knee. A tear can be caused by sudden twisting motions and causes a clicking sound with pain inside your knee.
  • Bone fracture. Falls, collisions and car accidents can cause a break to the bones that make up your knee joint, leading to pain worse on weightbearing or bending your knee.

Kneecap (Patella) problems

  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee). Caused by misalignment, structural foot problems, and overuse (especially while running). This causes a dull pain around your kneecap when you bend your knee. You can sometimes treat this by correcting the way you walk with insoles and arch support.
  • Patellar tendonitis (jumper’s knee). Inflammation of the tendon around your kneecap. Caused by overuse of you knee joint and is often sports related.
  • Prepatellar bursitis. The pre-patellar bursa is a fluid filled sac located over the kneecap. When this becomes inflamed it can become swollen and painful.
Senior woman suffering from pain in knee at home

How Knee Pain Can Limit Your Lifestyle

Your knee plays a vital role in walking, running, and exercise. It takes the full force of your weight and allows you to twist, turn and jump. Knee pain can range from a minor hassle to a life-changing event. Many of the conditions which cause knee pain are associated with stiffness and difficulty in bending your knee.

As well as problems with walking and bending your knee, the pain alone can make your life miserable. Knee pain is often worse at night and the resulting loss of sleep may be disastrous for your mental health.

With some injuries, continuing to put weight on your knee can cause lasting damage and place even more limits on your life. If you have pain that isn’t improving, or have suffered an injury, it’s important that you book an appointment with your GP to get your knee evaluated.

How to Alleviate Knee Pain

If you are suffering from a simple bruise or sprain, there are several simple measures you can take to relieve your sore knees:

  • Rest. The first thing you should do is stop moving your knee and rest – this might completely alleviate your pain.
  • Ice. Place an ice pack or bag of frozen peas on your knee to reduce swelling and inflammation.
  • Elevate. Put your legs up and relax while you rest to take some pressure off your knee.
  • Over the counter medication. Paracetamol is a great painkiller, and anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and aspirin can help with pain and swelling. You should always seek professional advice before taking new tablets if you suffer from medical conditions or take regular medication.
  • Knee support. Braces, splints, and wraps can help support your knee and reduce the pain and swelling.

If you have seen a health professional due to severe or ongoing knee pain, they may recommend several treatments for knee pain:
Podiatry. If you have problems with your soles or arches, a podiatrist can assess the way you walk and make corrections with insoles and arch support.
Home exercises. Your GP may suggest exercises which you can do at home to help problems with your leg muscles.
Physiotherapy. You may require a supervised exercise program to correct any muscle imbalances that you might have.
Steroid injections. For some causes of knee pain, an injection of corticosteroids may ease the pain and swelling in your knee.
Surgery. If your knee pain is caused by a structural problem, your doctor may refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon to consider whether having an operation will fix the problem.

Profoot Products That Help Ease Knee Pain

Flat feet and other foot problems may cause knee pain as they change the way that you walk causing poor weight distribution across your knee. Profoot has a number of insoles and arch support products which help you walk without putting added pressure on your knees.

Profoot Gel Max Heel Cushion

Gel Max heel pain relief cushions provide all day comfort for your feet, no matter what level of activity they are put through. The advanced gel and Poron® Materials design cushions every step and helps relieve heel, knee and lower back pain associated with foot impact and heel strike.

Profoot Super Sport Arch/Heel Support

Super Sport Arch and Heel Support helps with arch fatigue by adding a supportive shock-absorbing cushion. By keeping your bones in a natural position, you can correct your gait – preventing and easing your knee pain.

This article was written by Dr. James Philip MBChB who graduated from the University of Manchester in 2015 and went on to train in hospitals across the North West of England. He has experience working in both hospital medicine, and the community, and played his part as a front line worker on the COVID-19 wards. He now works as a freelance medical writer and medical education entrepreneur.

Dr James
Dr James
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