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Orthopedic Blog

10 Most Common Causes of Knee Pain

Posted on: April 2nd, 2020 by Our Team

The knee is one of the most complex joints in the body. It is made of 3 bones covered with cartilage, multiple ligaments, muscles and tendons. Any of these structures can wear out or be injured and cause knee pain. Knee pain can be caused by normal wear and tear, repetitive use, aging, and injury. Knee pain can be aggravated by activity, obesity, malalignment, or muscle conditions, and can be triggered by hip or foot problems.

There are two major types of knee pain: acute pain caused by injury or trauma, and chronic caused by osteoarthritis or repetitive use. The location of the pain can be an indication of the location of injury or damage.

Acute knee pain

Acute knee pain is commonly the result of an injury such as a broken bone, torn ligament or meniscus tear.

  • Sprained ligaments. Ligaments are elastic bands of tissue that connect bones to each other and provide stability and strength. There are four major ligaments in the knee. A sprain is an overstretched or torn ligament. Cruciate ligaments are usually injured during sports, auto accidents, and falls. Collateral ligaments are commonly injured by a blow to the outside of the knee in contact sports, and also involve a sudden change in direction. Symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, instability and loss of motion.
    • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear. An ACL tear is a common sports injury caused by a sudden twisting of the knee, often seen in skiing or soccer, that cause acute knee pain and buckling. About 50% of ACL injuries involve damage to the meniscus, cartilage, or other ligaments.
  • Torn Meniscus. The meniscus is a tough pad of cartilage that sits between the shinbone and the thighbone and acts as a shock absorber. There are two in each knee. It is a traumatic injury caused by a sudden twist of the knee with a planted foot in sports like tennis or Meniscus tears can also be caused by a sudden pivot, which can be seen frequently in basketball or football tackles. However, people with knee OA are at risk for a torn meniscus. Symptoms include pain, swelling, difficulty moving the knee, catching and locking of the knee, and buckling.
  • Fractures. Usually as a result of an auto accident or a fall.

Chronic knee pain

Chronic knee pain is associated with osteoarthritis, tendinitis, and bursitis, patellar syndromes, and IT band syndrome.

  • There are 3 types of arthritis that cause knee pain. Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease of aging. Inflammatory arthritis includes Rheumatoid arthritis and post-traumatic arthritis. OA is the most common type, and makes daily life difficult, especially when kneeling, walking, and climbing stairs.  OA is a chronic, progressive, degenerative disease that wears away the cartilage at the ends of the bones, causing the bones to rub together. OA of the knee can affect the shin bone, the thigh bone and the knee cap.  Knee OA is the most common reason for a knee replacement.
  • Tendonitis is inflammation of the tendons, and is one of the most common causes of knee pain. Pain and tenderness are felt at the base of the knee cap.
  • Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa, a fluid filled sac that reduces friction and cushions the pressure points between the bones, tendons and muscles. It is usually caused by a soft tissue trauma or muscle strain.
  • Patellar chondromalacia (Patellar Syndrome) is a common cause of chronic knee pain. It is caused by a degeneration of knee cartilage due to poor alignment of the kneecap, repetitive stress, and trauma. It is often called runner’s knee because it develops in people who play sports that require running and jumping. Teenagers and young, healthy women are at risk. It can also affect older adults with OA, overweight people, people who have had a knee injury, and those who have had a kneecap fracture or dislocation. It causes pain in the front of the knee, near the kneecap.
  • Iliotibial (IT) Band syndrome. The IT band is connective tissue that runs on the outside of the thigh from the pelvis to the tibia, crossing over the hip and knee joints. The IT band is a knee and hip stabilizer. IT Band syndrome is an overuse injury that causes pain on the outside of the knee, especially when running or biking. It is the most common cause of knee pain in runners and cyclists.

When you suffer with knee pain whether due to a sports or traumatic injury, arthritis or aging, contact Dr. Jorge Chahla, an internationally renowned orthopedic surgeon in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Chahla is an expert who specializes in joint preservation and cartilage restoration techniques.


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