Understanding knee pain

If you find your knee pain hard to pinpoint or describe, you’re not alone. Knee pain can be really challenging even for your doctor to diagnose.

Patient showing knee pain

What are the symptoms of knee pain?

Below are some of the common symptoms you may have experienced with your knee pain:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Inflammation
  • Tenderness
  • Sudden pain when you flex your knee
  • Pain that isn’t localized (in one place)
  • Knee is hot to touch
  • Popping noises

What are the causes of knee pain?

Knees are complex, weight-bearing joints that flex, bend, and support your body.Our knees do all of this on a day-to-day basis and we never really notice them until we’re in pain. Knee pain is a very common problem and can be a result of:

  • Overuse - which can lead to muscle fatigue and excessive stress on your knees
  • Instability - occurs when tight or weak muscles are unable to support the knee properly
  • Age
  • Knee injuries or accidents – that happened when the knee was twisted too far in one direction and the muscles, ligaments or tendons that protect your knees are strained or torn.
  • Sports activities for example Runner’s knee
  • Past injuries
  • Mechanical body problems – when one leg is shorter than the other, flat feet, or abnormal alignment of the bones
  • Weight – carrying excess weight can increase the stress on knee joints

When should I see my doctor?

Doctor talking with female patient

If you’ve had pain for over 3 days or have any of the following, see your doctor:

  • You can’t put any weight on your knee or you’re in severe pain even when your knee has no weight on it
  • Your knee buckles, clicks, or locks
  • Your knee is deformed or misshapen
  • You have fever, redness or warmth around the knee, or you notice your knee is very swollen
  • You have pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, or bluish discoloration in the calf below your sore knee

What treatments are available for knee pain?

Before treatment

Before your doctor treats your knee pain they’ll take a complete medical history during an exam. To get a closer look at what’s going on inside your knee your doctor may ask some of the below questions:

  • When did your knee begin to hurt?
  • Have you had knee pain before? What was the cause?
  • How long has this episode of knee pain lasted?
  • Do you feel the pain all the time, or off and on?
  • Is the pain in your entire knee or one location, like the kneecap, outer or inner edge, or below the knee?

Once you’re diagnosed

Once you’ve been diagnosed with knee pain, you and your doctor have several options available for treatment. You can also ask your doctor to recommend knee exercises to include as a part of your treatment. Below are some of the treatments your doctor may recommend:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – these include topical NSAIDs such as diclofenac gel as well as the ones you take by mouth such as ibuprofen or aspirin
  • Corticosteroid medication injected directly into your knee joint
  • In serious cases, surgery may be recommended
  • Physiotherapy

Lifestyle tips for knee pain

There are a few things you can do today to help relieve some of your knee pain. While these may seem like simple solutions, they can really make a difference in your daily pain level:

  • Maintain a healthy weight - this will relieve any extra pressure being overweight will place on your knees
  • Commit to exercises like swimming or biking that are kind to your knees
  • Ice your knees – this will help to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Rest and elevate your knees whenever possible
  • Try compression – a wrap around your knee(s) can help prevent fluid from building up in your knee joint

Always consult with your physician before starting a new exercise regimen or routine.