Knee Pain Causes: Questions & Answers


Knee Pain Causes: Questions & Answers


Knee PainKnee pain and other knee issues often arise from a repetitive stress on the joint. That occurs during sport and everyday activities, like kneeling to put your shoes on, doing a physically strenuous job or even gardening. In other words, everyone is susceptible to knee problems, whether they come from typical wear and tear, from making one wrong turn that injures the knee or from a variety of other causes and conditions.

Typically, when there is an issue with the knee, you will see redness as the blood rushes in, followed by swelling as the white blood cells enter the joint. This swelling is one of the culprits behind knee pain as the excess fluid puts pressure on the nerves in the knee. The good news is that these signals from your body tell you loud and clear that your knee needs attention.

Luckily, thanks to advances in orthopedics and medicine, there are effective treatments and simple and effective ways to get relief from discomfort caused by knee pain. Familiarizing yourself with the specifics of knee pain is a great way to help facilitate treatment and get the relief needed.

Q: What causes knee swelling?

A: Knee swelling is a result of the body reactions to a knee injury. First, the blood rushes in, causing the area to look red and feel hot. Then the white blood cells and fluid move in to help with the injury and inflammation. This is the knee swelling. The main culprits behind knee swelling – also known as effusion or “water on the knee” – are a knee injury, repetitive stress, disease and conditions like arthritis. Trauma to cartilage, tendons, bones or ligaments from a fall, knee dislocation or wearing down of the meniscus can cause extra fluid retention in or around the knee. Arthritis, including knee osteoarthritis, where the cartilage degenerates and causes the joint to overproduce fluid, often leads to knee swelling. Irritated bursa, the little sacs of fluid that pad and protect the knee, often fill with excess fluid or puss, if infected. Swelling of the knee can be from gout, which is when uric acid crystals build up in the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is another cause of knee swelling; this autoimmune disease causes the lining of the joint to swell. Testing the fluid in the knee can usually show the doctor what exactly is going on.

Q: What causes knee pain?

A: Knee pain is often the result of an injury, arthritis or other condition or overuse exasperating mechanical issues. Sometimes the pain is a result of the body reaction to the condition when the white blood cells for healing cause swelling that then pushes on nerves. Most of the time the injury itself can cause knee pain. Broken or fractured bones, stretched or torn ligaments, torn cartilage (meniscus), bursitis (an inflammation of the bursa) results in severe knee pain.

Q: What can I do for a hyperextended knee?

A: For mild hyperextension, the knee can usually heal with two to four weeks of rest, together with ice (cold pack), compression and elevation, but it’s still advisable to have the doctor look at it too. Severe hyperextension may require surgery if it causes tearing of cartilage or ligaments, like the ACL or PCL. An exercise of the muscles supporting the knee can help strengthen the knee after hyperextension and prevent further or repeat injury, as is often prescribed by the orthopedic. Exercises include leg extensions and raises, knee bends and standing leg raises, but be sure that your doctor and physical therapist give you specific instructions and the go-ahead first before beginning any regimen.

Q: What causes the knee to pop?

Knee & Elbow Relief Pack

Knee Pain Relief Hot & Cold Pack

A: Knee popping that is not painful may be gas being released, just like what happens when you crack your fingers. It can also be from ligaments or tendons stretching. Painful knee popping may be the result of torn ligaments that keep the knee from moving smoothly; torn cartilage that causes rubbing, or popping; strained tendons from hyperextension that keep the knee from moving smoothly; and overuse or runner’s knee that causes irritation and rough edges that keep the knee from moving smoothly. Osteoarthritis that causes the wearing down of the meniscus (cartilage padding), also can lead to popping because the bones are rubbing.

Q: What causes that burning sensation in my knees?

A: If the burning sensation is in the kneecap, in the front of the knee, it can be that the kneecap is not moving smoothly in the joint along its intended path. In other words, it may not be tracking properly, and the friction that arises causes the burning sensation. This is often the result of overuse, such as from sports or repetitive motion at a job or bending while gardening. Tendonitis in the patellar tendon, which is in the front and attaches to the kneecap, can be another cause of burning pain in the knees and happens when the tendon becomes inflamed from overuse or injury. If the burning sensation in the knee is on the outside, it can be from ITBS), which the band from your hip to your shin bone gets tight or inflamed. This is common in runners and those who do a lot of sports. Also, an injury to knee ligaments or a cartilage tear from repetitive use or sports can lead to pain that feels like a burning sensation.

Q: What causes side knee pain?

A: Pain on the outside of the knee is often due to the tightening or inflammation of the iliotibial band, or iliotibial band syndrome. The IT band is a ligament that goes from your hip to your tibia (shin bone), attaching to the knee. It helps you move your knee and stabilizes it. A tight or inflamed IT band is often the result of overuse in sports, like running; it often occurs when the foot or leg turns inward, like from running downhill or on a surface that is not flat or from worn out running shoes. ITBS is more common in women, perhaps because of the way women’s hips cause the knees to turn inward, and it occurs in both seasoned athletes and beginners. When the band is tight, it rubs over the bone causing the side knee pain. Pain on the inside of the knee may be from a tear to the cartilage or ligament.

Knee PainQ: Why does my knee hurt when I bend it?

A: The soft tissue surrounding the knee and kneecap, including cartilage, helps the knee bend and move smoothly. If the cartilage becomes torn or worn down, it can cause your knee to hurt when you bend it as there is friction from the lack of cartilage or from the tear. Other structures in the knee, such as the ligaments, bursa, and IT band, also help the knee bend smoothly. When they are damaged or inflamed it can cause the knee to hurt when you bend it. This is often due to friction or misalignment. Also, any swelling in the knee can make it more difficult and painful to bend because the fluid gets in the way and presses on the nerves.

After finding out what the problem is with the doctor and getting the go-ahead, you can elevate the knee, use cold packs several times a day for 20 minutes and compress the knee by wrapping it in an elastic bandage to help reduce swelling and make the knee easier to bend.

Q: Why can’t I straighten my knee?

A: If you can’t straighten your knee, it is often the result of swelling and inflammation from a more serious injury, like a meniscus (cartilage) or ACL (ligament) tear, for example. The swelling can hinder your mobility, as can the inflammation. A dislocated kneecap could also be the reason that you can’t straighten your knee. Go to the orthopedic to find out what is happening.

Q: What causes that burning knee feeling?

A: If you’re experiencing a burning knee feeling, it may be that there is friction under the kneecap because it’s not moving on its regular “track,” causing mobility issues and rubbing. This can happen from an injury or overuse, as can inflammation of the patellar tendon, which is in front of the knee and attaches to the kneecap. This kind of tendonitis in the patellar tendon is also known to cause that burning knee feeling. If the burning knee feeling is on the side of the knee, it may be that the IT band — that goes from the hip to the shin — is tight and rubbing over the bones in the knee.

Q: What causes that burning pain behind the knee?

A: A burning pain behind the knee can have multiple causes, including musculoskeletal issues. Often burning pain behind the knee is caused by a Baker’s cyst, which is a buildup of synovial fluid in the bursa behind the knee. Synovial fluid surrounds the knee joint and helps cartilage stay lubricated, so the joint moves smoothly, without friction between cartilage and bones. Pain behind the knee may also be due to a blood clot behind the knee, which is called deep vein thrombosis. This is a dangerous condition and requires immediate medical attention. Other possible reasons for burning pain behind the knee are an issue with the muscle behind the knee called the biceps femoris; inflammation or pulling away of hamstring tendons; strain to the popiteus muscle; or an issue with the PCL, or posterior cruciate ligament. Behind the knee pain does well with RICE, as a conservative therapy, and modification of movement and activities, like sports and repetitive motion. But always check with your physician before you start any regimen and to get properly diagnosed.


Cold compress for Knee PainAlways see a medical professional for a correct diagnosis and treatment plan when knee symptoms arise, preferably a good orthopedic. Once diagnosed, you can follow the basic, tried-and-true RICE method to help reduce swelling and thereby pain. RICE stands for rest (taking a break from the activity causing the knee issue), ice (using cold packs for 20 minutes at a time every few hours), compression (wrapping firmly with a band) and elevation (keeping the knee up at heart level or close to it).


*This article is meant for basic informational purposes only. It is not intended to serve as medical advice, substitute for a doctor’s appointment or to be used for diagnosing or treating a disease. Users of this website are advised to consult with their physician before making any decisions concerning their health.


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