Why does my knee hurt? Common causes & symptoms of knee pain | BMI Healthcare
Symptoms of Knee Pain
Knowing the various types of knee pain — and what the symptoms often feel like — can help you better communicate with your doctor.
By Eric Metcalf, MPH
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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Your knee is a complex piece of equipment, and as a result, many common conditions and injuries can cause knee pain.
"There are a number of different ligaments around and inside the knee, as well as tendons and bursas — little fluid-filled sacs that can get inflamed," says Joel Press, MD, medical director of the Spine and Sports Center at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. "There are lots of different structures there, and a lot of these types of pains will overlap. The physician must get a good history to see how this came about, do a physical exam to try to pinpoint these structures, and try to correlate that with any type of imaging studies that are done."
Symptoms of Knee Pain: What to Tell Your Doctor
If you have knee pain that you're planning to discuss with your doctor, be sure to talk about other factors and symptoms that might be associated with the pain, including:
- Where exactly is the pain?Is it in one spot, or is it spread out around a larger area of your knee? What makes it feel better? What makes it hurt worse?
- What were you doing before your knee started hurting?Had you put down a tile floor the day before? Did it start hurting while you were skiing? If so, had your ski turned outward or inward?
- What other symptoms do you notice?Does your knee make a popping noise or have a clicking sensation? Does it feel weak or unstable?
Symptoms of Knee Pain: How Different Types of Knee Pain May Feel
Here's a look at some of the specific symptoms of the common causes of knee pain.
- Osteoarthritis.This condition occurs when the cartilage that allows your knee to move freely becomes worn. Shortly after the condition develops, you may notice that your knees ache after you've been physically active. Over time, your knees may hurt more often and feel stiff after you get out of bed in the morning or after you've been sitting down for a while. Your knees also may be swollen and make a "crunchy" sound while you walk.
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome (chondromalacia patella).Also known as "runner's knee," this is a common cause of knee pain. The pain feels like it's coming from behind or under your kneecap, and may feel like it involves your entire kneecap. You may feel pain and stiffness in particular after you've been sitting a long time. The pain may also be worse after you've gone up or down stairs or you've been running.
- Meniscal tears.Your menisci are disks of tissue between the thighbone and shinbone in your knee that provide cushioning. These can develop tears from injuries. The pain may be slight or severe, and it may feel worse when you straighten your knee. Your knee may make a clicking sensation or feel like it gets "stuck."
- Ligament injuries.You have four ligaments — which are strong bands of tissue that hold bones together — on the inside and outside edge of your knees and within the joint. If you over-stretch or tear a ligament, which can occur during accidents or sporting events, you may hear a "pop." Depending on the ligament that's damaged, the injury may or may not cause pain. Another symptom is that your leg may feel wobbly when you try to put weight on it.
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