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Knee Pain

Knee Pain

Jonathan Cluett, M.D. (

Knee pain is an extremely common complaint, and there are many causes. It is important to make an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your symptoms so that appropriate treatment can be directed at the cause. If you have knee pain, some common causes include:

  • Cartilage Injuries | Meniscal Tear
    Cartilage tears are seen in young and old patients alike, and are also an extremely common cause of knee pain.
  • Patellar Tendonitis
    Tendonitis around the joint is most commonly of the patellar tendon, the large tendon over the front of the knee.
  • Chondromalacia Patella
    Chondromalacia causes knee pain under the kneecap and is due to softening of the cartilage. It is most common in younger patients (15-35 years old).
  • Dislocating Kneecap
    A dislocating kneecap causes acute symptoms during the dislocation, but can also lead to chronic knee pain.
  • Baker's Cyst
    A Baker's cyst is swelling in the back of the joint, and is usually a sign of another underlying problem such as a meniscus tear.
  • Bursitis
    The most common bursa affected around the joint is just above the kneecap. This is most common in people who kneel for work, such as gardeners or carpetlayers.
  • Plica Syndrome
    Plica syndrome is an uncommon cause of knee pain, and can be difficult to diagnose. The diagnosis is usually made at the time of arthroscopy.
  • Osgood-Schlatter Disease
    Osgood-Schlatter disease is a condition seen in adolescents and is due to irritation of the growth plate just at the front of the joint.
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans
    Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) is another condition seen in adolescents due to the growth of the bone around the joint.
  • Gout
    Gout is an uncommon cause of knee pain. However, in patients who have a diagnosis of gout, it must be considered as a cause for new onset knee pain.

When do you need to call your doctor about your knee pain?
If you are unsure of the cause of your symptoms, or if you do not know the specific treatment recommendations for your condition, you should seek medical attention.

Treatment of knee pain must be directed at the specific cause of your problem. Some signs that you should be seen by a doctor include:

    • Inability to walk comfortably on the affected side
    • Injury that causes deformity around the joint
    • Knee pain that occurs at night or while resting
    • Knee pain that persists beyond a few days
    • Locking (inability to bend) the knee
    • Swelling of the joint or the calf area
    • Signs of an infection, including fever, redness, warmth
    • Any other unusual symptoms


Treatments for Knee Pain

Treatment of knee pain depends entirely on the cause of the problem. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you understand the cause of your symptoms before embarking on a treatment program. If you are unsure of your diagnosis, or the severity of your condition, you should seek medical advice before beginning any treatment plan.

Some common treatments for knee pain are listed here. Not all of these treatments are appropriate for every condition, but they may be helpful in your situation.


  • Rest: The first treatment for most common conditions that cause knee pain is to rest the joint, and allow the acute inflammation to subside. Often this is the only step needed to relieve knee pain. If the symptoms are severe, crutches may be helpful as well.


  • Ice and Heat Application: Ice packs and heat pads are among the most commonly used treatments for knee pain. So which one is the right one to use, ice or heat? And how long should the ice or heat treatments last?


  • Stretching: Stretching the muscles and tendons that surround the joint can help with some causes of knee pain.


  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy is an important aspect of treatment of almost all orthopedic conditions. Physical therapists use different techniques to increase strength, regain mobility, and help return patients to their pre-injury level of activity.


  • Anti-Inflammatory Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, commonly referred to as NSAIDs, are some of the most commonly prescribed medications, especially for patients with knee pain caused by problems such as arthritis, bursitis, and tendonitis.


  • Cortisone injections: Cortisone is a powerful medication that treats inflammation, and inflammation is a common problem in patients with knee pain. Discuss with your doctor the possible benefits of a cortisone injection for your condition.

Share your thoughts, leave a comment!

Comments (6)

Paul Morrison on May 08, 2017
I've been, like many others, in search of pain relief. I'll try to keep it as short as possible, in 2008 I was sitting at a red light on my motorcycle when I was rear ended by a dodge 3500 pickup, being launched from the bike I landed on my right shoulder and right knee, suffering from severe pain in my shoulder and knee my dr did a scope on my shoulder at the end of march of 2008, followed by a scope on my right knee in December of the same year to repair a meniscus tear. Healing went well on my shoulder, only having to return for 2 cortisone injections and the pain went away, as for my knee here is where the fun began. In early 2012 I started having knee pain again, sometimes my knee would swell to the size of a cantaloupe, having moved from the state where I had the initial surgery I seeker out a new orthopedic dr for help. I found a local dr who seemed to really want to help and was confident I could be repaired so in September of 2012 I underwent a 2nd knee scope for remove a pea sized cyst from what the dr explained was caused from the fluid in the meniscus to "leak" causing the cyst, anyway, I had it removed and therapy went well and of course less than a year later pain reared it's ugly head again so I started seeing the same dr again and after another MRI it was confirmed, another cyst. So in 2014 I had my 3rd knee scope to yet again remove another cyst. My dr assured me everything g went well and I'd be as good as new in no time. Guess what? PAIN AGAIN! less than a year later! I then decided it was time to find a new orthopedic dr to see what was really going on and after a long search I found what is "or supposed to be" the knee guru of my area. After many months and many painful injections behind my knee cap he ordered another MRI this time only to find out that I have grade 4 arthritis and nearly no meniscus left "sorry I don't remember which meniscus it is, but it's the same one as all 3 other times" and was essentially dealing with bone on bone causing the pain. After talking to this dr I was certain he had a solution, he said he would remove what was left of the damaged meniscus and perform what he called microfracturing. Basically they drill holes in the bottom of the femur bone in hopes of some tissue regrowth, whether it be cartilage or even scar tissue. Either way that was supposed to be the best answer, so on August 7th of 2016 I had my 4th knee scope. At the time I was 39 so a knee replacement isn't an option, or so my dr says" because they only last 20 years depending on how active I am. Well fast forward to now and I am in agonizing pain all day everyday, my primary dr is giving me pain meds but unfortunately their hands are tied by the new DEA federal laws on opioid meds so I am in desperate search of pain relief just to live a somewhat normal life again, I'm 40 and have 4 children, the oldest if 13 and the youngest it 11 months and I can not even get in the floor to play with my little girl because of the pain. The pain management dr I'm seeing now only wants to do stuff I've been doing for the past 2 years, only wants to perscribe Tylenol 3 which I can't take and diclofenac which also does nothing. He keeps talking about some sort of injection to "deaden" the pain nerves in my knee but has yet to do them, he gave me a perscription for Butrans patch which has done absolutely squat! I am out of options and am actually figuring full knee replacement is the best option but don't want to have it done now and in 20 years or less need another one. Either way I am at a loss as to what I can and should do? I need options, options the Dr's are not giving me!

Sabrina Costain on May 10, 2017
Great article, so many people have pain in their knees. We never realize when we are younger the effect it will have on use as adults

Sam on Jul 22, 2017
Thank you for providing top quality research :-)

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