If you’ve experienced pain behind your knee before, you probably know how uncomfortable mobility can become.
The knee is a sensitive joint that needs a lot of care. If you are an athlete or love walking with your legs, you should take this advice to the bank.
Now, pain behind your knee could be an indicator of several things. That is why I always advocate for a thorough medical diagnosis beforehand. At least that way, you’ll get laser-accurate information pinpointing the actual problem.
Until then, you must take extra measures to avoid any additional trauma or heavy impacts on your knee.
Today, I want us to look at the many possible conditions that could be the reason behind your aching knee. Further along, I’ll share some nuggets on basic treatment for general knee pains.
Let’s dive right into it.
Knowing the pain behind your knee
Well, if you are a runner, cyclist, or athlete of any kind, chances are that you’ll suffer PFPS (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome) at one point in your life. But that does not mean that you’re safe if you spend most of your time seated.
There are a few muscles involved in a single knee movement:
You can find the big quadriceps muscles located in front of your thighs. There are also the calve muscles located behind the shins. Lastly in the group, are the hamstring muscles found right behind your thigh.
Collectively, the 3 muscles above control your knee joint. These muscles also play a critical part in the movement of your lower body.
PFPS may arise from things like a slight change in your workout routine. Other factors include muscle dysfunctions and biomechanical anomalies like a flat foot or high arch.
PFPS manifests itself as a fluctuating pain rising from behind your knee, and extends to your thighbone.
Signs that indicate you have a knee problem
As you know that knee pains could be a result of several factors, I want us to look at the common telltale signs that show an existing knee problem.
Experiencing different kinds of pain
The varying kinds of pain include a dull, sharp, or burning sensation. These kinds of pain may lay siege on your knee at once or slowly build up to a loud throbbing.
The other thing is that the pain(s) could become consistent throughout or just when you exert pressure on it. This could also mean discomfort when you walk or try to bend your knee.
Have you experienced such pain of late?
Warmth or redness
Other times you may encounter redness accompanied by some hotness at the back of your knee. More often than not, this symptom may tag along with a fever that leaves your whole body feeling sickly.
When this happens, then your immune system may be pointing at some other culprit. Chances are it could be an infection or something else in those lines.
Stiffness and swelling
If you experience a type of swelling or stiffness, this could be an indicator of several things going wrong in or around your knee. It may mean that you have suffered a traumatic injury or some other form of stress to your knee.
As a result, your knee may appear misshapen, swollen, or slightly deformed.
If that is the case, you’ll also feel great amounts of pain and have difficulties bending your knee. If it’s more serious, your knee may collapse or pop out under your weight when you attempt to move.
Is this normal?
Anterior knee pain is a common misfortune with most athletes. It is also a common problem among highly active people on their feet every day.
That said, it doesn’t now mean that you shouldn’t have the pain behind your knee checked out. More so, when you are exhibiting any of the signs indicated above.
So, if you experience clicking, locking, popping, or crumbling knees, then you should head out to your physician. Doing so from the earliest whims may help you prevent tissue or ligament damage.
One healthy habit that you can start is to keep track of your vitals whenever you exercise.
A great way to do that is by installing a fitness app that helps you record all this information. In the end, you’ll have a pretty decent knowledge of how your body reacts. Such information also helps when you visit the doctor in deriving a more accurate diagnosis.
Examples of such data include how your body reacts when subdued under different workout intensities.
Important: When the pain comes at different times in the day, it could be a pointer to arthritis.
What could cause pain behind your knee?
Quickly, let’s look at some of the top diseases and conditions that could cause pain around your knee.
1. Leg Cramp
Leg cramps happen when your leg muscles tighten. This causes your muscles to spasm or contract, bringing a lot of pain in the end.
After a contraction, this muscle pain can stay on for up to a few hours. If the thigh muscles near the back of your knee cramp up, then you’re bound to feel pain.
You may experience leg cramps from exercise, dehydration, nerve problems, liver disease, and infections.
2. Fractures and Dislocations
A fracture or dislocation happens when your knee takes damage from strong traumas. This may include a bang, bump, or an intense knee drop.
Most of the time, dislocation or fracture may affect your shin, kneecap, or thigh. Sometimes the three parts altogether.
On the other hand, some fractures happen gradually over time. This may cause the ends of your leg bones to develop small cracks in the process.
When this happens, you have to visit a hospital fast!
This is a disease that affects the cartilage cushioning the knee joints. Over time, it degrades the integrity of the cartilage, causing it to slowly wear off.
Among the types of arthritis, Osteoarthritis comes as the most common. This makes the cartilage break down in a gradual process as you continue aging.
Psoriatic arthritis will cause you to have patchy, scaly skin and experience pain in the joint.
Lupus arthritis causes painful inflammation in your knees and some other joints as a result of an autoimmune disorder.
Rheumatoid arthritis also happens when your immune system attacks your joints by mistake.
As of now, most arthritic pain is mostly managed using injections, exercise, and pain medication.
You can learn more about these and other types of arthritis here.
4. Baker’s Cyst
Baker’s cyst condition causes the fluid sacs in your knee to fill up and bulge out behind your knee. This bulge is usually too rigid which makes it difficult to either stretch or bend your leg.
In some cases, Baker’s Cyst may arise from pre-existing conditions like torn meniscus or arthritis.
The bulge in itself is not painful and will only hurt when it bursts. If that happens, it can cause swelling and soreness at the back of your knee.
Bursitis is another type of condition that causes swelling, warming, and reddening of the knee.
Physicians also refer to it as the Housemaid or Clergyman’s Knee. This is because it affects people whose occupation entails a lot of kneeling.
Bursitis occurs when the bursa becomes irritated and eventually swell. Bursae are small sacs filled with fluid that function as a cushion in knee joints.
Bursitis can make you experience pain in your knee even while at rest.
6. Torn Meniscus
A meniscus is a soft cartilage found between your shin and thigh bones.
You may tear your meniscus when you make an abrupt shift using your knee as a pivot. This is likely to occur when you put your full weight on the knee while doing so.
Also, your meniscus is more likely to tear when you have other underlying conditions like arthritis. It’s also prone to happen when you age.
Signs of a torn meniscus include swellings, stiffness, and difficulty in stretching and moving your leg.
7. Runner’s Knee
Runner’s Knee grows its pain in the front and around the knee.
Common symptoms include pain when you kneel or sit with your knee bent for a long time. Another common sign is cracking and popping your knees when climbing stairs.
Now, the regular causes of Runner’s Knee include hip and ankle misalignment, weak quadriceps, overuse, or cartilage damage behind the kneecap. In other circumstances, it could be a result of all the aforementioned causes.
Persons likely to suffer from Runner’s Knee are young athletes and women.
8. DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)
This arises when you have blood clots forming deep inside your leg’s veins. It results in pain which you’ll mostly feel when you try to stand up.
Common symptoms include reddening of the skin, swelling, and hotness when you touch the affected area.
Now, you must get treated as early as you can when you’re diagnosed with DVT. The reason is that blood clots can travel into sensitive organs like the lungs and brains.
When the clot invades the lungs, for example, the condition’s referred to as Pulmonary Embolism. It can lead to a fatal end for the patient.
Other times, you may suffer attacks from viruses or bacteria that can lead to septic arthritis.
Such instances occur when your knees suffer direct injury or when you have other viral/bacterial diseases.
The pain associated is always acute and you may also develop one hell of fever.
During treatment, your doctor will take some fluid out of your knee using a syringe to identify the causing pathogen. This procedure helps the doctors identify the best medical remedy to combat it.
How to treat pain behind your knee
Now, before I mention anything here, I’d like to restate that knee treatment should ONLY come from a certified physician.
What I’ll highlight here are just a few ways through which you can control the discomfort. These practices can also help you manage mild pain that may arise from light exercises.
When done right, the steps may help you reduce or prevent the pain from catalyzing further.
Check them out below:
a. Strengthening your quadriceps muscles
I already mentioned that weakened muscles can also be a cause of pain behind your knee.
So, if you fall in this category, you should get a certified therapist to help you get your muscles in shape. (In this case, your quadriceps muscles)
Strengthening exercises like performing leg raises help to tone muscles connecting to the knee.
b. Practice RICE in your daily exercise
Using this technique in your daily exercise helps reduce swelling and inflammation on your knee.
RICE is an abbreviation for:
- R – Rest the leg
- I – Ice the knee
- C – Compress the knee with a bandage
- E – Elevate the affected leg
Doctors may prescribe RICE if they suspect you’ve suffered damage to your soft tissue. It helps contain the pain and prevent it all from exacerbating.
c. Use a knee brace
This applies if you already have an existing knee injury. Make use of a knee brace or athletic tape for stabilizing your knee.
Tapes and braces play an integral role in such scenarios as they prevent your knees from getting more damage.
d. Do more leg stretches
If you like running, always start your exercise with a few stretches before hitting the road.
Stretching your legs help your muscles get conditioned for the task ahead. Eventually, it reduces the risk of injury and alleviates muscle pains.
e. Reconsider your exercise routine
It is a must for you to restructure your workout routine from when you first feel pain behind your knee.
In other words, it’s a dangerous call to put a possible injury through strenuous exercises. Doing so may bring irreversible damage to your knee in the long run.
Restructuring your routine means revising your workout intensity, duration, and frequency. It also means reconsidering the type of exercise and the time you do it.
f. Get the right footgear
Often not taken seriously, you must buy footwear that gives your feet comfort during movement. That means acquiring insoles that provide conducive support to your knees, heel, and foot arch.
This shouldn’t bother you much now as there are many shops offering gait analysis. The best part is that many shops do it for free!
Gait analysis helps assess your full process of walking and running. Through that same test, you’ll also know whether you have any hidden biomechanical abnormality.
After the whole procedure ends, the shoe store now can help you pick a shoe befitting your natural gait and movement.
It’s no secret that pain behind your knee can be very limiting. It is a great hindrance in our normal lives and during exercise routines. More so, if you are an athlete.
If you suffer an injury to the knee, shy away from self-diagnosis. Ensure that you seek medical attention ASAP. A certified physician or health coach will help prevent further damage and help reduce the pain in your knee.
In some cases, such pain may be an indicator of a more serious cropping issue with your knee.
I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have any questions in the Comments Section below.