10 Common Causes Of Knee Pain

By Marisa Ramiccio. May 7th 2016

After years of walking, running, jumping, standing, kneeling, exercising and playing sports, it’s no wonder why our knees begin to give out. The knees withstand a lot of wear and tear and can easily be overused by athletes and avid exercisers. Weight gain can also put a lot of pressure on the knees. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), just one pound of extra weight can put five pounds of pressure on your knees as you walk up a flight of stairs. Weight gain and overuse can also lead to other knee problems, such as these 10 common causes of knee pain.


The knee can be affected by three types of arthritis: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and post-traumatic arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis to affect the knees and usually occurs in the middle-aged and the elderly. Once osteoarthritis develops, the joint cartilage will gradually wear away whereas with rheumatoid arthritis, the joint cartilage wears away more quickly and can occur at any age. Post-traumatic arthritis is more similar to osteoarthritis and occurs after a knee injury. However, with all of these types of arthritis comes pain, swelling, stiffness and the difficulty of performing everyday tasks such as walking up a set of stairs.


Knee injuries are usually the result of straining, hitting or overworking the knee while playing sports or exercising. Knee injuries can affect any part of the knee including the cartilage, the joint, bone, ligaments or tendons. Common knee injuries include a torn meniscus, which occurs when the knee twists and the cartilage between your shinbone and thighbone tears; and a torn ACL, which occurs when the anterior cruciate ligament is torn.

Patellar Tendinitis

Patellar tendinitis is also a common knee injury that occurs in runners, skiers and cyclists. This occurs when the patellar tendon, which connects the quads to the shinbone, becomes inflamed and irritated. Patellar tendinitis causes swelling, redness and pain in the knee and can eventually interfere with the ability to perform while playing sports or doing everyday activities.


A knee infection can be caused by a number of things including septic arthritis and a build-up of bacteria in the bursae. These infections can cause the knee to swell and feel warm. Intense pain and a fever may also accompany the infection.

Kneecap Dislocation

Like a torn meniscus, a kneecap dislocation is caused by twisting the knee while bearing weight on it. But with a kneecap dislocation, the patella, also known as the kneecap, becomes dislocated. The dislocation can be seen from outside of the body and usually causes, swelling, pain or tenderness of the knee and the kneecap may even move from side to side.

Knee Bursitis

In order for the ligaments and tendons to move smoothly over the knee joint, they must pass over the bursae, which are tiny sacs of fluid that act as a buffer between the bones, tendons and muscles. However, when the bursae become inflamed, this causes bursitis, which can cause pain, tenderness and heat to build up in the knee. Symptoms will appear gradually over time and can lead to infection if not treated right away. Knee bursitis occurs most often in people who kneel a lot or who have sustained injuries to their knees.


While gout, which is a type of arthritis, can affect the knee, it most commonly affects the big toe. However, pseudogout, which is often mistaken for gout, often affects the knee, particularly the knee joint. Pseudogout occurs when calcium pyrophosphate crystals form in the joint, causing severe pain and swelling in the joint.

Baker’s Cyst

This occurs when fluid fills up behind the knee, causing swelling and discomfort. Baker’s Cyst usually occurs in conjunction with other conditions such as arthritis or a torn meniscus. Oftentimes, Baker’s Cyst is mistaken for a blood clot and vice versa, so if you notice any pain, swelling or stiffness behind the knee, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.

Osteochondritis Dissecans

This condition is most common among young men, especially those who have sustained a knee injury. This condition occurs when a piece of cartilage and the top layer of bone come away from the rest of the bone and is usually caused by reduced blood flow to the bone.

Osgood-Schlatter Disease

This disease is more common in children, especially young boys who play sports or partake in activities that require a lot of running and jumping. It affects the top area of the shinbone and can cause pain and swelling in that area until bone growth stops.

Knee pain can be difficult to manage because it can affect the simplest, everyday activities such as walking around the grocery store or climbing a set of stairs. But it can be prevented by keeping extra weight off, doing low-impact exercises and staying strong and flexible.


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