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Knee Pain: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Management

Knee pain is a widespread issue that can affect anyone at any age. Knee pain can make everyday activities challenging and uncomfortable, and can have various origins. Understanding the underlying causes, symptoms, and diagnosis is important in finding a solution and designing an effective management strategy.


The main causes of knee pain are:

  • Knee osteoarthritis, a chronic degenerative disorder, is a predominant source of knee pain. The pathological erosion of articular cartilage within the knee joint culminates in persistent pain, stiffness, and diminished range of motion.
  • Traumatic injuries to the knee’s ligamentous structures, such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) ruptures, medial collateral ligament (MCL) injuries, and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) tears, are another major reason behind intense knee pain.
  • The meniscus is a structure responsible for cushioning and stabilizing the knee joint but sometimes, injury, overloading, and other types of stress at the knee joint may result in meniscus tear. This tear can result in pain, swelling, and mechanical symptoms within the knee.
  • Other causes include Knee tendinopathy and Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. Tendinopathy is caused by overuse or repetitive strain leading to the inflammation of tendinous insertions of the knee joint. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, on the other hand, is characterized by retro patellar and peripatellar pain, often associated with activities that subject the knee joint to abnormal stressors.


The signs and symptoms of knee pain are dependent on the cause of the pain, and usually include:

  • Pain or discomfort within the knee joint and surrounding region
  • Aggravation of pain during weight-bearing activities, such as ambulation, stair climbing, or deep flexion of the knee
  • Swelling, tenderness, and stifness around the knee joint
  • Reduced range of motion accompanied by reduction in joint flexibility
  • Sensations of joint instability or giving way
  • Audible joint crepitus or popping during movement


To figure out the cause of knee pain, a health expert uses a step-by-step approach that includes:

  • Medical History in which you will be asked some questions about your past injuries, medical conditions, and what activities you do that will help in understanding what might be causing your knee pain.
  • Then there will be a physical evaluation in which your doctor will carefully check your knee by moving it and feeling for any issues, and assess things like how stable your knee is and how much you can move it.
  • Some specialized imaging tests like X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans, are also done to get a closer look at the knee joint because these tests will further reveal if there are any problems with the bones or soft tissues.
  • In certain situations, doctors might use a tiny camera called an arthroscope to look directly inside your knee joint. This helps them see the exact issues and make a precise diagnosis.


The treatment and management of knee pain require an extensive approach, considering the underlying cause and specific patient needs. Usually, treatment options vary from non-invasive options like physical therapy and medications to more invasive interventions, including injections and surgery. A thorough understanding of the various treatment options can help you to make correct decisions about your knee pain and you can speed up your recovery.


Although pharmaceutical interventions, intra-articular injections, and surgical procedures are vital treatment options in some cases, the role of physical therapy is obvious in any comprehensive management of knee pain because of the following reasons:

  • Pain Alleviation: A physical therapist uses various modalities and manual techniques that help in reducing pain and inflammation, and enhance recovery from knee pain.
  • Muscular Strengthening: The techniques used in physical therapy target the muscular structures surrounding the knee joint, enhance joint stability, and minimize biomechanical stress.
  • Restoration of Range of Motion: Through targeted interventions, physical therapy aims to reduce stiffness and regain a full range of knee joint motion.
  • Functional Rehabilitation: Functional rehabilitation is the long-term goal of all physical therapy interventions. In case of knee joint pain, physical therapy helps you regain your capacity to execute daily life activities and participate in sports.
  • Preventive Measures: Through physical therapy, patients acquire the education, knowledge, and tools to prevent future knee injuries through prescribed exercises, stretching routines, and optimal biomechanical practices.