Knee pain is incredibly common. In the United States, it’s responsible for about 1/3 of all doctor’s visits for muscle and bone pain. Knee pain is a special problem for athletes — over half of all athletes endure it every year.

Some of the most common reasons for knee pain are swollen or torn ligaments, meniscus (cartilage) tears, and runner’s knee. But the knee is a complex joint, and there’s plenty more that can go wrong.

Other conditions that cause knee pain include:

BONE CHIPS. Sometimes, a knee injury can break off fragments from the bone or cartilage. These pieces can get stuck in the joint, causing it to freeze up. You may also have pain and swelling.

BURSITIS. A bursa is a sac of fluid that cushions and protects your joints. There are several in different parts of your knee. Overuse, a fall, or repeated bending can irritate the bursa, causing pain and swelling. Two types of bursitis are called ”housemaid’s knee” and ”preacher’s knee,” since they are often caused by kneeling. A ”Baker’s cyst” — a swelling of one of the bursa in the back of the knee — can also result from injuries and from conditions like arthritis.

LLIOTIBIAL BAND SYNDROME. The iliotibial band is a piece of tough tissue that runs from your hip down to your shin. If it’s irritated by overuse or other problems, it can get swollen and cause pain on the outer side of the knee.

OSTEOARTHRITIS. This condition is a frequent cause of knee pain in athletes and non-athletes alike who are over 60.
Partially dislocated kneecap (or patellar subluxation). In this condition, the kneecap slides out of position, causing knee pain and swelling. It’s often the result of physical defect in your legs, rather than an injury. It’s particularly common in teenage girls.

TENDONITIS, or swelling of the tendons. Tendons are tough bands of tissue that connect your bones and muscles. Overuse can make the tendons inflamed and sore. One type of knee tendonitis is called ”jumper’s knee.”

If an old knee injury was not properly treated, it may keep causing occasional — or constant — knee pain.


The management goals when treating Knee pain are to achieve maximal reduction in pain intensity as rapidly as possible; to restore the individual’s ability to function in everyday activities; to help the patient cope with residual pain; to assess for side-effects of therapy; and to facilitate the patient’s passage through the legal and socioeconomic impediments to recovery. For many, the goal is to keep the pain to a manageable level to progress with rehabilitation, which then can lead to long term pain relief. Also, for some people the goal is to use non-surgical therapies to manage the pain and avoid major surgery, while for others surgery may be the quickest way to feel better.

Not all treatments work for all conditions or for all individuals with the same condition, and many find that they need to try several treatment options to determine what works best for them. The present stage of the condition (acute or chronic) is also a determining factor in the choice of treatment. Only a minority of Knee pain patients (most estimates are 1% – 10%) require surgery.