Knee pain is a common problem which many of us are affected by at some point in our lives. Knee pain can be associated with the knee joint itself, or it may be caused by problems with the soft tissues surrounding the knee, such as tendons and ligaments.
Common signs & symptoms of knee pain
Knee pain is a symptom in itself and the type of pain you experience can vary depending on the underlying cause. Mild symptoms may be the feeling of a twinge in the knee, more severe symptoms may be debilitating enough to prevent you from doing your normal activities. You might notice that your pain comes and goes, or is exacerbated by certain movements or actions, such as bending, running or jumping.
Knee pain can occur in different areas of the knee:
- Anterior knee pain (front of the knee)
- Posterior knee pain (back of the knee)
- Lateral knee pain (outside of the knee)
- Medial knee pain (inside of the knee)
Common causes of knee pain
There are many conditions which can cause knee pain and some of the most common ones are:
- ACL injury (tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament in your knee)
- Avascular necrosis (death of bone tissue due to limited blood flow)
- Baker’s cyst
- Broken leg
- Collateral ligament injury
- Gout (arthritis related to excess uric acid)
- Iliotibial band syndrome
- Knee bursitis (inflammation of fluid-filled sacs in the knee joint)
- Medial collateral ligament injury
- Osteoarthritis (disease causing the breakdown of joints)
- Osteochondritis dissecans
- Osteomyelitis (a bone infection)
- Patellar tendinitis
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome
- Referred pain from hip area
- Torn meniscus
Diagnosing knee pain
The treatment for your knee pain will depend on the cause diagnosed. To reach a diagnosis, your doctor will examine your knee and may decide to do further tests, such as imaging (scans) and laboratory tests.
There are four main scans that may be carried out when diagnosing knee pain. Your doctor may need to refer you for one or more of these:
- X-ray – to detect fractures and degenerative joint disease
- Computerised Tomography (CT) scan – to identify problems such as gout, bone problems and minor fractures
- Ultrasound scan – to look at the soft tissues around your knee
- MRI scan – to look at soft tissue damage in more detail, particularly to tendons, cartilage, muscles and ligaments
Your doctor may decide to send you for blood tests to help to diagnose the cause of your knee pain. If your doctor suspects an infection or inflammation, they may also carry out a minor outpatient procedure called arthrocentesis. During this procedure, a small amount of fluid is taken with a needle and sent to a laboratory for analysis.
Treating knee pain
Treatment for knee pain will vary depending on your diagnosis. For minor issues, you may be prescribed short term painkillers and advised to take rest. You may also be recommended to attend physiotherapy sessions. For more serious issues, you may require surgery. Once your doctor has diagnosed the exact cause, you will be referred for the most appropriate treatment.