Want to know about knee pain and what causes it?

Here's straightforward advice from the National Institutes of Health.

We know: 5 Knee Injuries

What are the major kinds of knee problems, causes and treatments?

The knee is a complex joint, with many moving parts can be involved in pain or dysfunction.

Here are 5 common sources of knee pain, including cartilage, menisus, ligament, tendon and arthritis problems.


This disorder occurs most often in young adults and can be caused by injury, overuse, parts out of alignment or muscle weakness. Instead of gliding across the lower end of the thigh bone, the knee cap rubs against it, roughening the cartilage. The most frequent symptom is a dull pain around or under the knee cap that worsens when walking down stairs or hills. The disorder is common in athletes such as runners.

Treatment may include low-impact exercises and electrical stimulation. If these treatments don't improve the condition, arthroscopic surgery or other surgery may be necessary.


Generally, when people injure a meniscus, they feel some pain, particularly when the knee is straightened. Severe pain may occur if a fragment of the meniscus catches between the femur and the tibia. Swelling may occur soon after injury and the knee may click, lock, or feel weak. Although symptoms of meniscal injury may disappear on their own, they frequently persist or return and require treatment.

Treatment includes muscle-strengthening exercise. If the tear is more extensive, it may require arthroscopic or open surgery.


Injury to the cruciate ligaments is sometimes referred to as a "sprain." The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is most often stretched or torn (or both) by a sudden twisting motion. The PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) is most often injured by a direct impact, such as in a football tackle. Injury to a cruciate ligament may not cause pain. Rather, the person may hear a popping sound, and the leg may buckle when trying to stand. A thorough examination by a doctor is essential.

Treatment for sprains like this usually requires an exercise program, plus ice packs to reduce pain and swelling and a small sleeve-type brace to protect and stabilize the knee. A severely sprained or torn collateral ligament may be accompanied by a torn ACL, which usually requires surgical repair.


Knee tendon injuries range from tendonitis (inflammation) to a ruptured (torn) tendon. If a person overuses a tendon during activities like dancing or running, the tendon stretches and inflames. Symptoms include tenderness at the point where the patellar tendon meets the bone and pain during running or hurried walking. A complete rupture of the tendon makes it difficult to lift the leg.

Treatment includes rest, elevating and icing the knee, plus medicines such as aspirin or ibuprofen to relieve pain and decrease inflammation and swelling. If the quadriceps or patellar tendon is completely ruptured, a surgeon will reattach the ends. After surgery, the patient will wear a cast for 3 to 6 weeks and use crutches. For a partial tear, the doctor might apply a cast without performing surgery.


Symptoms may include pain, swelling, and a decrease in knee motion. A common symptom is morning stiffness that lessens as the person moves around. Sometimes the joint locks or clicks when the knee is bent and straightened, but these signs may occur in other knee disorders as well.

Treatment includes pain-reducing medicines, such as aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol); nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Nuprin, Advil); and exercises to restore joint movement and strengthen the knee.

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