Knee pain

Causes | Injury Types | Diagnosis | Treatment

Knee pain is becoming an increasingly common complaint among today’s active society.  When you think about the knee as one of the most used joints in the human body, it is easy to understand why it’s also one of the most common locations for pain.


What Causes Knee Pain?

Although knee pain can be due to injuries from sports, recreational activities, or work, it can also develop over time from normal wear and tear as well as from simply getting older or having an underlying condition that may affect the knees.


Types of Knee Injuries

Acute (or sudden) injuries can be caused by direct impact to the knee such as a fall or a blow to the knee (widely seen in football), or abnormal twisting or bending of the knee (commonly seen in various sports such as baseball, soccer, wrestling, etc.).  However, many people experience these injuries from simply stepping incorrectly or losing their footing doing everyday tasks such as walking down stairs.  Because the knee is one of the most used joints in the body, injuries can also occur from overuse.


Acute injuries may include:

  • Sprains or strains to the ligaments and/or muscle tendons that connect and support the patella (kneecap).
  • Ligament tears, such as to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL).
  • Kneecap dislocation – this type of dislocation is very common in 13 to 18 year old girls.
  • Meniscus tears – the meniscus is the rubbery cushion of the knee joint which can be torn as a result or injury or as a result of normal wear and tear.
  • Fractured kneecap – this type of injury is commonly caused by a fall or abnormally hard impact to the knee.
  • Floating cartilage or pieces of bone from a fracture that may get lodged in the joint and impede normal movement.
  • Knee joint dislocation – although this is a rare injury, it does happen under great force such as football collision, automobile accident, or other extreme accident.


Overuse injuries may include:

  • Tendonitis – inflammation of the tendons surrounding the knee.
  • Tendinosis – tears in the tendons surrounding the knee.


Knee pain not related to injuries:

  • Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease)
  • Inflammatory arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osgood-Schlatter Disease (more common in children 11 to 15)
  • Excess weight


Diagnosing Knee Pain

Due to the numerous types of injuries and/or conditions that may cause knee pain, it is important that the cause of the pain is properly diagnosed.  A general health history and specific questions related to the knee pain are the main starting points.  A knee examination to check for injuries, tenderness and swelling as well as range of motion and stability of the ligaments will most likely be done.  Because there may be injuries to the muscles, tendons, or ligaments, the doctor may order diagnostic imaging such as X-ray, diagnostic ultrasound, or MRI to rule out tears or fractures.


Treating Knee Pain

Knee pain will occasionally disappear within a few days or weeks without medical treatment.  Depending on the severity of the diagnosis, treatment may range from non-invasive (chiropractic care, acupuncture, medications, physical therapy), minimally invasive (injections – corticosteroid, platelet rich plasma, stem cell) to invasive (surgical intervention or repair).

Our caring team at SCU Health System can help our patient get the treatment that best fits their individual needs.  Our team evaluates the best treatment options and educates our patients as to their choices so that they may make an informed decision and play a role in the treatment process.  Treatment options available at SCU include:

  • Acupuncture – clinical studies have shown acupuncture to be effective in treating knee pain associated with arthritic conditions and may stimulate healing and decrease pain from injuries.
  • Chiropractic Care – chiropractic techniques and manipulation to areas of restricted movement around the knee joint can increase mobility and relieve pain.  Therapeutic exercise is almost always prescribed.
  • Physical Therapy Modalities/Procedures – these may include cold laser, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and therapeutic exercise.
  • Sports Medicine – our Sports Medicine team treats patients of any level of fitness and works with them to develop a customized treatment plan whether the knee pain is due to an injury or post-operative rehabilitation.
  • Weight Loss – our experts can customize a health, nutrition, and/or fitness plan to help patients lose excess weight that may be causing hip pain.  Losing just 5 to 10 pounds can make a significant different in the amount of pressure put on the hip joints.
  • Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP) – research has shown that PRP therapy improves clinical outcomes and decreases further degeneration in patients suffering with osteoarthritis and other joint diseases or injuries.
  • Stem Cell Therapy – studies have shown that stem cell therapy can relieve pain from osteoarthritis, chronic tendonitis, as well as meniscus tears and other knee conditions.
  • Whole-Person Assessment – in some complex cases, factors such as diet, lifestyle, sleep, stress, insulin-sensitivity, gene-environment interactions, and hormone levels may interfere with a person’s ability to heal, and may need to be addressed.

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