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Knee Pain

Knee painIf you are unsure of what your knee injury is then why not check out our symptom checker? Or select from the options below:

If you have suffered an acute or sudden onset knee injury then immediate first aid should be applied. Read our guidlines on when you should see a doctor.

Acute knee injuries

An acute knee injury usually occurs suddenly through either trauma or a twisting action. Pain in the knee can vary in severity from very mild to very severe and this depends on the injury mechanism (how the injury occurred) and the forces involved during the impact. It is strongly advised not to carry on playing if you have acute knee pain as this can easily progress to a chronic pain or to more complex knee injuries.

ACL Injury (anterior cruciate ligament sprain) or 'ACL injuries' are common in contact sports and especially those that are combined with sudden change of direction such as soccer or football. Often it will not occur in isolation but in most cases occur with damage to other structures within the knee such as the cartilage or ligaments.

Medial meniscus tear or torn meniscus is a tear to the semi circular shock absorbing cartilage in the knee joint causing pain on the inside of the knee. It is commonly injured through direct impact to the outside of the knee in contact sports or twisting but can also occur in older athletes through degeneration.

Medial ligament sprain (MCL injury) is a tear of the ligament on the inside of the knee, usually a result of twisting or direct impact. Symptoms include pain and swelling on the inside of the knee, often along the joint line.

Lateral ligament sprain (LCL) is a knee ligament injury involving a tear to the ligament on the outside of the knee and is most likely following a direct blow to the inside of the knee or twisting.

Patella dislocation occurs when the kneecap dislocates outside of its normal position, usually round the outside of the knee. It can also partially dislocate, called a subluxation. Pain will be felt immediately at the time of injury. There is likely to be swelling in the knee joint and there will be an obvious displacement of the kneecap.

Knee contusion or bruised knee occurs due to a direct impact or trauma to the knee. This can be due to a fall directly onto the knee or something hitting the knee, such as a ball or club. Contusion is the medical term for a bruise. The area will be tender to touch and there may be some swelling. The bruising will change color and start to fade after a few days.

View all acute or sudden onset knee injuries >>>

Chronic Knee Injuries

Chronic knee injuries usually develop gradually demonstrated in a slow increase in knee pain and / or swelling. They often start out as seemingly minor injuries with mild pain and little or no swelling and therefore athletes often “play on” through them. If treated correctly by following the P.R.I.C.E principles in the acute stages the injury can be prevented from progressing to the very debilitating chronic condition (as is often seen in many professional athletes).

Outside knee (lateral knee pain)

Iliotibial band friction syndrome results in gradual onset pain on the outside of the knee which is caused by friction of the iliotibial band tendon on the side of the knee. Knee pain comes on at a certain time into a run and gradually gets worse until often the runner has to stop. After a period of rest the pain may go only to return when running starts again.

Lateral cartilage meniscus injury is a tear or degeneration for the semi circular cartilage in the joint. Symptoms include tenderness and pain around the outside surface of the knee, particularly along the joint line which is often worse when squatting. There is usually swelling which appears within 24 to 48 hours of the injury occurring.

Lateral ligament sprain is a knee ligament injury involving a tear to the ligament on the outside of the knee and is most likely following a direct blow to the inside of the knee.

Osteoarthritis is wear and tear on the joint with a deep aching type knee pain (usually the inner knee) that is worse after exercise. Stiffness in the joint is common, particularly in the mornings.

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Inside knee (medial knee pain)

Cartilage meniscus injury is a tear or degeneration of the semi circular shock absorbing cartilage in the knee joint causing pain on the inside of the knee. It is commonly injured through direct impact to the outside of the knee in contact sports or twisting but can also occur in older athletes through degeneration.

Medial ligament sprain is a tear to the ligaments on the inside of the knee. More commonly an acute knee injury but may occur through repetitive strain or from an acute sprain which is not treated properly.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is pain on or around the kneecap and is usually a cause of front knee pain but can result in pain towards the inside of the knee.

View all medial knee injuries >>>

Front knee (anterior knee pain)

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) also known as runners knee, chondromalacia patellae, anterior knee pain and patellofemoral joint syndrome is a generic term used to describe pain at the front of the knee and around the knee cap.

Jumpers knee (patella tendonitis) causes gradual onset knee pain at the bottom of the patella.

Osgood Schlatters Disease is a common cause of pain at the front (and just below) the knee in children aged between 10 and 15 years old. Pain comes on gradually and is worse with exercise.

Chondramalacia patella or CMP involves damage to the articular cartilage which is the smooth hard cartilage under the kneecap. Symptoms are similar to patellofemoral pain syndrome.

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Back of the knee (posterior knee pain)

Biceps femoris tendinopathy symptoms include tenderness and swelling where the tendon inserts into the bone. With biceps femoris tendinopathy the tender area is to the outside back of the knee.

Bakers cyst or Popliteal cyst is a prominent swelling at the back of the knee. It is usually caused by an underlying injury or condition in the knee joint.

Popliteus injury The Popliteus is a small muscle located at the back of the knee joint. An injury or strain to the muscle or tendon can cause pain at the back of the knee.

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Immediate First Aid for Knee Injuries

All acute and chronic knee injuries should be treated using the P.R.I.C.E. therapy principle. This should be applied at home for at least the first 2 - 3 days. P.R.I.C.E. stands for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

  • Protection - Protect the knee injury from further damage. Where applicable, use of a knee support is recommended.
  • Rest - Refrain from exercise and try to reduce the demands of your daily activity to encourage recovery. It does not only refer to the prolonged period of time that the athlete will be out of action but also to the immediate period after the injury. An athlete must know when to stop training and allow the injured area to heal otherwise repetitive minor injuries can often result in a more severe injury that keeps the athlete out for much longer.
  • Ice - The topical application of ice or cold therapy to the area of the knee injury / swelling can assist in reducing the symptoms of pain and inflammation.
  • Compression - The use of a compression support or compression bandages to the knee can can help reduce swelling.
  • Elevation - Keeping the knee elevated above heart level whenever possible to help reduce swelling due to the effects of gravity.

Read more on PRICE principles >>>

When Should I see a Doctor?

The majority of knee injuries, especially the minor ones can be treated at home. However, if you have any of the following symptoms you should seek further medical assistance.

  • Severe pain in or around the knee, especially during walking.
  • Severe swelling (oedema) in the knee.
  • An audible “pop” or “crack” in the knee joint that is painful.
  • A “giving way” feeling in the knee during walking or going up/down stairs.
  • A feeling when the knee “locks” whilst bending or straightening it.
  • Altered sensation in the foot – such as a feeling of “pins and needles” (paresthesia) or a “loss of feeling” (anaesthesia) in the lower leg.
  • Unable to complete your normal daily activities after the initial 72 hours.

Further medical assistance can be sought through either your local Doctor or a private clinician such as a physiotherapist, sports therapist, osteopath or chiropractor.

In the first instance, if you have followed the P.R.I.C.E. principles (see above) and are still unable to walk after 72 hours or still have severe pain that is not subsiding after the first 72 hours you should visit your local A&E department for further assessment. Also, if your knee gives way whilst walking, feels loose (“unstable”) or locks (unable to move the knee due to pain) then you should consult your doctor or visit A&E.

Secondly, if you have applied for P.R.I.C.E. principles and still have weakness or knww pain that lasts a long time (more than 2 weeks) or have ongoing discomfort in your knee, you are highly recommended to seek advice from a specialist expert - such as a physiotherapist, sports therapist, osteopath, or chiropractor - who can provide you with advice and an appropriate and effective recovery and rehabilitation program