What Knee Pain Means


Knee injuries accounts for one third of all doctor’s visits for muscle and bone pain. Your Arizona sports medicine experts at Foothills Sports Medicine are here to help you recover from your knee pain, but what does your knee pain really mean?

The knee is a complex joint comprised of four bones (femur, tibia, fibula, and patella); tendons connecting the knee bones to the surrounding muscles; ligaments joining the bones; shock absorbing cartilage; and fluid-filled sacs called bursae.

When a patient comes into Foothills with knee pain, our AZ sports medicine specialists first determine the exact location of the knee pain because that alone can indicate completely different injuries or strains. A pain in the front of the knee is most likely related to the kneecap or, patella. Irritation to the patella from overuse is common, especially in young people. Pain on the inside of the knee is often caused by tears in the meniscus, MCL, or arthritis. Pain on the outside of the knee can mean a tear to the lateral meniscus, LCL injury, IT band tendonitis, or arthritis. Finally, pain in the back of the knee can be due to a swelling of the bursa due to overuse or repeated bending.

Swelling is a common indicator of several different knee problems. If it occurs immediately after a knee injury, it is possibly caused by severe internal injury like a fracture or tear of a ligament. Swelling that gradually develops over hours or days is likely less severe, like a tear of the meniscus or a ligament sprain.

Instability is often an indication of a ligament injury. A tear or stretching of the ligaments can give the sensation that the knee may give out.

Popping, clicking, and snapping without pain is common and usually not associated with any problem. If the pops and snaps are painful, it may be time to visit a doctor or AZ sports medicine specialist. A popping sound during an injury can sometimes be an indicator of a more serious injury, like tearing the anterior crutiate ligament, or ACL.

Determining the cause of knee pain depends on proper examination by a doctor or physical therapy specialist. If pain or injuries persist, be sure to seek Arizona sports medicine help with the professionals at Foothills Sports Medicine!

Image: Johansson Scarlett


Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy