Overview of knee pain
Talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms of knee pain:
- Swelling, warmth, or redness in your knee
- A feeling of stiffness, locking, grinding, or buckling in your knee
- A prickling, burning, or tingling sensation in your knee
- Frequent muscle spasms around your knee
- Pain in the calf, hip, shin, ankle, or thigh
- Weakness or an inability to fully extend your leg
- Popping or crackling sounds when you straighten or bend your leg
The knee is a complex joint that connects bones such as the thigh (femur), shinbone (tibia), and kneecap (patella).
It also involves cushioning and connective materials such as cartilage, which softens the joint, and the menisci, which also cushion the joint and absorb impact. The joint is also supported by ligaments, which connect everything, and tendons attach to the muscles to the bones.
Things like overuse or injury can damage any of these structures. The most frequent causes of knee pain result from sports injuries, chronic joint deterioration, or repetitive motion overuse.
- Trauma-related injuries to the knee caused by falls, car crashes, or other injuries
- Infection in the knee (“cellulitis”)
- Baker’s cyst
- Ligament sprains and tears
- Meniscus tear
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome (“runner’s knee”)
Though different types of knee pain, such as arthritis and injury, have slightly other risk factors, the following factors cause the most significant increase in the risk of developing knee pain:
- Being overweight
- Having a previous knee injury
- Completing physically strenuous work such as a manual labor job
- Running, skiing, soccer, football, gymnastics, and other sports involving repeated impact or bending and straightening of the knee
- Not having enough training or using poor form when engaging in activities such as weightlifting
Some causes of knee pain, like accidental injury, arthritis, gout, and genetic conditions, can’t always be avoided. However, some ways to protect your knees and reduce the likelihood of developing knee pain include:
- Always warming up thoroughly before activities
- Stretching regularly, especially the quadriceps (thigh) muscle
- Making sure to strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors; these muscles stabilize the knee and prevent imbalances that can cause strains
- Using proper footwear for running, other activities to cushion the knee
- When possible, choosing lower-impact sports like swimming and cycling
- Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet as recommended by your doctor
- Not smoking
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.