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  • Dr. Ryan Shakley

Unraveling the Mystery: What are 4 causes of knee pain

Updated: Feb 7



Runner bending down and grabbing their knee in pain
What are 4 causes of knee pain

Knee pain is a common ailment that affects people of all ages, limiting mobility and impacting the quality of life. Whether it's a dull ache, sharp discomfort, or persistent soreness, understanding the root causes of knee pain is crucial for effective management and prevention. In this blog post, we'll delve into the four primary causes of knee pain, shedding light on the intricacies of this complex joint.

  1. Osteoarthritis: The Wear and Tear Culprit

One of the leading causes of knee pain is osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that predominantly affects the elderly. Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down over time, leading to pain, swelling, and stiffness. As the cartilage diminishes, bones may begin to rub against each other, causing further discomfort.

Several factors contribute to the development of osteoarthritis, including age, genetics, obesity, and joint injuries. While the aging process is inevitable, maintaining a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise and weight management can help mitigate the impact of osteoarthritis on the knees.

  1. Overuse and Strain: Pushing the Limits

Modern lifestyles often involve prolonged periods of sitting, leading to weakened muscles and poor joint stability. When individuals suddenly engage in intense physical activities without proper conditioning, the knee joint may experience overuse and strain, resulting in pain and inflammation.

Runners, athletes, and individuals with physically demanding jobs are particularly susceptible to overuse injuries. Common conditions include patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), commonly known as runner's knee, and iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), which causes pain on the outer side of the knee. To prevent overuse injuries, it's essential to incorporate proper warm-up routines, strength training exercises, and rest days into physical activities.

  1. Traumatic Injuries: Sudden and Impactful

Traumatic injuries, such as ligament tears, fractures, and dislocations, can cause immediate and severe knee pain. These injuries often result from accidents, falls, or sports-related incidents. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), and meniscus are commonly affected structures in traumatic knee injuries.

Prompt medical attention is crucial for assessing and treating traumatic knee injuries. Depending on the severity, treatment options may include physical therapy, bracing, or surgical intervention. Rehabilitation plays a vital role in restoring strength, stability, and function to the knee after a traumatic injury.

  1. Inflammation and Conditions: Beyond the Joint

Inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and bursitis, can also contribute to knee pain. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the synovium, the lining of the membranes surrounding the joints. Bursitis, on the other hand, involves inflammation of the bursae, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints.

These conditions not only lead to pain but may also result in joint deformities and limited range of motion. Managing inflammatory knee conditions often requires a comprehensive approach, including medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications.

Prevention and Management:

Understanding the causes of knee pain is essential, but so is taking proactive steps to prevent and manage it effectively. Here are some practical tips to promote knee health:

  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight:

  • Excess weight puts additional strain on the knee joints. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can reduce the risk of knee pain.

  1. Stay Active with Low-Impact Exercises:

  • Engage in activities that promote joint health without putting excessive stress on the knees. Swimming, cycling, and walking are excellent low-impact exercises.

  1. Build Strength and Flexibility:

  • Strengthen the muscles around the knee, including the quadriceps and hamstrings, to provide better support and stability. Incorporate stretching exercises to maintain flexibility.

  1. Use Proper Footwear:

  • Wearing appropriate footwear is crucial for joint alignment and support. Choose shoes that provide adequate cushioning and stability, especially during high-impact activities.

  1. Practice Good Posture:

  • Maintain proper posture when sitting, standing, and moving to prevent unnecessary stress on the knees. Pay attention to ergonomics, especially during long periods of sitting.


Knee pain is a multifaceted issue, with various causes ranging from age-related wear and tear to sudden traumatic injuries. Understanding the underlying factors contributing to knee pain is the first step toward effective prevention and management and sources such as John Hopkins provide great insight into learning more about these causes. By adopting a holistic approach that includes lifestyle modifications, exercise, and proper medical care, individuals can enhance knee health and maintain an active and pain-free lifestyle. If you're experiencing persistent knee pain, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and personalized treatment plan. Remember, a proactive approach to knee health today can lead to a more comfortable and mobile tomorrow. To take that step towards better health and reclaim your life, give our friendly front desk at Bayshore Medical Group in Annapolis, Maryland a call today. 410-263-4171

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