What Is Causing Knee Joint Pain: Possible Explanations

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If you’ve been experiencing pain in your knees, you might be wondering what is causing it and what to do next. Discover the most common causes for knee pain.

woman rubbing knee whilst sitting at deskEveryday activities put a lot of stress on our knees. This wear and tear process can leave many of us, young or old, experiencing knee joint pain. So, if you’ve noticed a sharp knee pain as you climb stairs or you’re dealing with a dull pain sensation whenever you bend your knees, here are some of the potential causes.

What are the causes of knee joint pain?

Sprained knee

Overstretching or twisting your knee can damage or tear the ligaments holding the bones together and cause knee pain. Oftentimes this is the result of a lack of warming up before exercising. Over-the-counter pain medication is usually helpful, as well as resting the leg and applying ice packs and bandages to reduce the swelling. However, severe sprains will need medical attention and you should expect a recovery period that stretches to a few months.


Graphic of knee painTendons connect our muscles to the bones, but during exercise (especially when jumping) they can get injured and become swollen, causing knee joint pain. It’s important to rest the affected leg for a couple of days and avoid putting stress on your legs by lifting heavy items or making sudden moves. Applying ice and wrapping a bandage around the area to support your knee are key to recovery. However, if your doctor suspects the tendon is ruptured, the process will be guided by a specialist and can take months for a full recovery. You can decrease the chances of having problems with your tendons by making sure you stretch before exercise, taking regular breaks so the amount of stress on your knees is reduced and by being particularly careful with the effort you put in when it comes to repetitive exercises.

Dislocated kneecap

The kneecap is the bone that sits at the front of your knee which can be dislocated and removed from its groove by sudden moves. Although the kneecap will pop back into its place usually by itself (but do not try to put it back yourself if the kneecap has not self-corrected), a visit to the doctor is always the best thing to do. Keeping your leg elevated with ice packs on will help relieve the swelling, but you should expect a full recovery in six weeks or more.


Knee pain without an obvious injury can sometimes be a symptom of a disease called osteoarthritis. This means that the cartilage in your knees is damaged due to wear and tear. It typically affects older people, but obesity and overusing a knee joint after an injury can also lead to osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, it cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be reduced through exercise, losing weight if you are overweight, wearing joint support and medication.

Septic arthritis

man sitting of sofa rubbing painful kneeIf you experience a sudden jolt of pain in your knees, redness and fever, these could be symptoms of septic arthritis which means that the knee joint has become infected. Cuts, bites and other injuries affecting your knees are vehicles for all sorts of germs that could get into your system and infect your joints. Although sceptic arthritis is usually easily treated with antibiotics, it’s important to go to the doctor as soon as possible. Delaying treatment could turn it into a more serious condition.


A build-up of a substance called uric acid in the joints can lead to another type of arthritis called gout. Blood tests will reveal if the levels of uric acid are abnormal and will help your doctor diagnose your knee joint pain. Medication as well as lifestyle changes can help treat gout or, at least, stop it from recurring often. Reducing alcohol, adopting a balanced diet, regular exercise and staying hydrated are some of the best ways to keep gout attacks in check.

Excessive weight

Being overweight can lead to knee joint pains as well. Exercising, climbing stairs or even just walking can put pressure on your knees, leading to extra wear and tear in your joints. Losing weight means there is less stress on the joint and will also help alleviate some of the pain.


Our knee joints are cushioned by small sacks of fluid called bursae. After an injury or due to overuse these sacks can become inflamed causing a condition named bursitis. Some of the symptoms are knee joint pain, swelling and warm skin near the affected area. Plenty of rest and ice packs are recommended. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if there is an infection as well or steroid injections to reduce the swelling.

Have you been experiencing knee joint pain after running? Check out our helpful article and find out what are the causes and what you can do to reduce the pain.


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