5 Common Causes of Knee Pain

Apr 01, 2024
5 Common Causes of Knee Pain
Oh, those aching knees! Knee pain is common, in part because so many things can cause it. Here, learn about five of the most common causes that could be making your knees sore and stiff.

Chronic knee pain is a common problem for many adults. In fact, it’s so common, it affects about a quarter of all women and men.

One reason why knee pain is so common is because so many factors can cause knee pain or contribute to it. To find relief for painful symptoms, you need to work with a healthcare provider with lots of experience in both diagnosis and management of knee pain symptoms.

As a leading provider of patient-centered pain therapies in Oxon Hill and Clinton, Maryland, and Washington, DC, Metro Spine PC helps patients find long-lasting, meaningful relief for chronic knee pain. In this post, our team reviews five of the most common causes of chronic knee pain and why prompt evaluation and treatment are so important.

1. Arthritis

Arthritis is a degenerative condition that occurs when inflammation inside the joint causes the protective cartilage layer to break down, exposing the joint surfaces to increased friction and pain. The result: chronic pain, swelling, tenderness, and reduced range of motion.

Osteoarthritis is related to age-related wear and tear inside the joint, but it can occur in younger people, too, especially those who lead active lifestyles as well as professional athletes. Some types of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are associated with abnormal immune system responses that cause your body to attack healthy joint tissue.

2. Tendonitis

Tendons are strong bands that join muscles to bones, and not surprisingly, they play a leading role in joint function. Tendonitis happens when a tendon becomes inflamed and swollen, causing pain and stiffness when you bend, straighten, or put weight on your knee. 

Although tendonitis can follow a traumatic injury, it’s often associated with overuse or repetitive use injuries, including activities like running, walking, or sports that involve jumping. Sudden increases in activity can also lead to tendon inflammation.

3. Ligament tears

Ligaments are strong elastic cords that connect bones. There are four primary ligaments in your knee: the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the medial collateral ligament (MCL), and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). 

Ligaments are designed to stretch with movement, but if they’re stretched too far, they can tear either partially or completely. Torn ligaments cause a lot of knee pain, along with knee instability and swelling. 

4. Meniscus tears

The meniscus is a crescent-shaped pad of cartilage that acts like a built-in shock absorber to protect your knee during movement. Each knee has two menisci.

Meniscus tears typically happen when the knee is rapidly twisted — for instance, when you rapidly pivot or change direction when running. Not surprisingly, these injuries are common among athletes, but age-related degeneration can lead to meniscus tears, too.

5. Sprains and strains

Sprains and strains sound the same, but they’re actually two different types of injuries that can lead to chronic knee pain. A sprain happens when a ligament is stretched beyond its normal range, but not torn. A strain happens when a muscle is damaged or torn.

Both sprains and strains can happen as a result of a traumatic injury, like a fall, or from overuse injuries. Age-related degeneration and tissue weakening can make these injuries more common, too.

Treating knee pain

Fortunately, many causes of chronic knee pain can be managed conservatively. Many people benefit from a combination of medical treatments and lifestyle changes, like increased exercise and losing excess weight to decrease strain on your knee joints.

Over-the-counter and prescription medicines can be quite effective in reducing both pain and inflammation inside the joint. In more severe or stubborn cases, joint injections deliver lubricants directly to the joint, reducing friction that leads to pain, inflammation, and joint destruction.

Physical therapy can be especially helpful in relieving knee pain, promoting natural healing while strengthening surrounding muscles to decrease strain and pressure on the joint. While your knee heals, you may benefit from a brace or bandage to provide additional support and stability.

Protect your knees

Although knee pain can happen for different reasons, all types of knee pain have one thing in common: They benefit from prompt medical treatment.

To find out what’s causing your knee pain and how we can help relieve those symptoms, request an appointment online or over the phone with the team at Metro Spine PC today.