Knee Pain Treatment, Causes, Remedies, Symptoms



Anatomy illustration of the knee.

Anatomy illustration of the knee.Source: MedicineNet

Torn ACL Symptoms and Signs

With an acute injury, the patient often describes that they heard a loud pop and then developed intense pain in the knee. The pain makes walking or weight-bearing very difficult. The knee joint will begin to swell within a few hours because of bleeding within the joint, making it difficult to straighten the knee.

A female runner helps a male runner experiencing knee pain.

A female runner helps a male runner experiencing knee pain.Source: iStock

X-ray of a tibial plateau fracture.

X-ray of a tibial plateau fracture.Source: “TibPlateauF” by James Heilman, MD

What causes knee pain?

Knee pain can be divided into three major categories:

Below is a list of some of the more common causes of knee pain. This is not an all-inclusive list but rather highlights a few common causes of knee pain in each of the above categories.

Acute knee injuries

Fractures: A direct blow to the bony structure can cause one of the bones in the knee to break. This is usually a very obvious and painful knee injury. Most knee fractures are not only painful but will also interfere with the proper functioning of the knee (such as kneecap fracture) or make it very painful to bear weight (such as tibial plateau fracture). All fractures need immediate medical attention. Many fractures require significant force, and a thorough examination is performed to detect other injuries.

Ligament injuries: The most common injury is the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury. An ACL injury is often a sports-related injury due to a sudden stop and change in directions. The remaining ligaments (posterior cruciate ligament, lateral collateral ligament, and medial collateral ligament) are injured less frequently.

Meniscus injuries: The menisci (medial and lateral) are made of cartilage and act as shock absorbers between bones in the knee. Twisting the knee can injure the meniscus.

Dislocation: The knee joint can be dislocated, which is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Knee dislocation can compromise blood flow to the leg and have other related problems. This injury often occurs during a motor-vehicle accident when the knee hits the dashboard.

X-ray of a patellar tendon rupture.

X-ray of a patellar tendon rupture.Source: “Patellar tendon rupture” by James Heilman, MD


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A 3-D rendered illustration of the knee, a runner, an electrician kneeling, and an overweight woman performing squats.

A 3-D rendered illustration of the knee, a runner, an electrician kneeling, and an overweight woman performing squats.Source: iStock

A doctor examines a male patient with knee pain.

A doctor examines a male patient with knee pain.Source: Getty Images

What procedures and tests diagnose knee pain?

A health care professional will begin by asking questions related to the person’s general health and then specifically to the nature of the knee pain (how long, how severe, does anything make it feel better or worse, etc.).

Next, an examination of the knee will be performed. This will include bending the knee through the full range of motion, checking for stability of the ligaments, and evaluating for any tenderness and swelling. It is often helpful to compare the results of the examination of the painful knee with the other knee. Frequently, this is all that is required to make a diagnosis and start treatment. In several research studies, it has been found that an experienced examiner is as reliable as X-ray examination.

Sometimes the doctor might want to do further studies such as the following tests.

Radiologic tests

Plain X-ray can establish fractures and degenerative changes of the knee.

MRI is used to evaluate the soft tissues of the knee for ligament tears or cartilage and muscle injuries.

Blood tests

If gout, arthritis, or other medical conditions are suspected, a health care professional might order blood tests.

Removal of joint fluid (arthrocentesis)

Some conditions are best diagnosed by removal of a small amount of fluid from the knee joint. During arthrocentesis, a small needle is placed into your joint and fluid is withdrawn. This is done in a sterile method. The fluid is then sent to the laboratory for evaluation. This procedure is especially helpful if an infected knee joint is suspected or to distinguish gout and different forms of arthritis. If there is a collection of blood in the joint due to a traumatic injury, removing the fluid can help relieve the pain.

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A physical therapist manipulates the knee of a female patient.

A physical therapist manipulates the knee of a female patient.Source: iStock

Model of a knee replacement with titanium hinge joint.

Model of a knee replacement with titanium hinge joint.Source: iStock

A female ices her knee to relieve pain.

A female ices her knee to relieve pain.Source: Getty Images/PhotoAlto

Medically Reviewed on 2/24/2021


American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “Knee Exercises.” Feb. 2009. .

“Knee Injuries.” Temple Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine. <>.

Meding, J.B., P.M. Faris, and K.E. Davis. “Bilateral Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasties: Average 10-Year Follow-Up.” J Arthroplasty May 22, 2017. Epub ahead of print.


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