Knee pain usually results from overuse, poor form during physical activity, not warming up or cooling down, or inadequate stretching. Simple causes of knee pain often clear up on their own with self care. Being overweight can put you at greater risk for knee problems.
Knee pain can be caused by:
- Arthritis -- including rheumatoid, osteoarthritis, and gout
- Baker's cyst -- a fluid-filled swelling behind the knee that may accompany inflammation from other causes, like arthritis
- Bursitis -- inflammation from repeated pressure on the knee, such as kneeling for long periods of time, overuse, or injury
- Connective tissue disorders such as lupus
- Dislocation of the kneecap
- Iliotibial band syndrome -- a hip disorder related to injury of the thick band that runs from your hip to the outside of your knee
- Infection in the joint
- Knee injuries -- may cause bleeding into your knee, which worsens the pain
- Tendinitis -- a pain in the front of your knee that gets worse when going up and down stairs or inclines
- Torn cartilage (a meniscus tear) -- pain felt on the inside or outside of the knee joint
- Torn ligament (ACL tear) -- leads to pain and instability of the knee
- Strain or sprain -- minor injuries to the ligaments caused by sudden or unnatural twisting
Less common conditions that can lead to knee pain include the following:
- Bone tumors
- Osgood-Schlatter disease
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your health care provider will perform a physical examination, with careful attention to your knees, hips, legs, and other joints.
To help diagnose the cause of the problem, your doctor will ask medical history questions, such as:
- When did your knee first begin to hurt?
- Have you had knee pain before? What was the cause?
- How long has this episode of knee pain lasted?
- Do you feel the pain continuously or off and on?
- Are both knees affected?
- Is the pain in your entire knee or one specific location like the kneecap, outer or inner edge, or below the knee?
- Would you say that the pain is severe?
- Does it feel bruised?
- Can you stand or walk?
- Have you had an injury or accident involving the knee?
- Have you overused the leg? Describe your usual activities and exercise routine.
- What home treatments have you tried? Have they helped?
- Do you have other symptoms, like pain in your hip, pain down your leg or calf, knee swelling, swelling in your calf or leg, fever?
The following diagnostic tests may be performed:
- Fluid drawn from the knee and analyzed
- X-ray of the knee
- MRI of the knee if a ligament or meniscus tear is suspected