Mar 21, 2024

Knee stiffness and pain, why does my knee hurt?

Have you ever experienced that nagging ache or stiffness in your knee that just won't seem to go away? Knee pain is a common complaint that affects people of all ages and lifestyles. Whether it's a dull ache, sharp pain, or discomfort when walking, understanding the reasons behind your knee pain is essential for effective treatment and management.

What Causes Knee Pain?

There are numerous factors that can contribute to knee pain, ranging from acute injuries to chronic conditions. Here’s some of the most common causes:


Traumatic injuries such as sprains, strains, and tears in the ligaments or cartilage of the knee are frequent culprits of knee pain. This can occur due to sudden twists, falls, or impacts during sports or accidents.


Repetitive activities or overuse of the knee joint, especially in high-impact sports or occupations that involve kneeling or squatting, can lead to knee pain. This is often seen in runners, cyclists, and individuals whose jobs involve frequent kneeling or lifting. This type of pain often develops gradually over time and may be accompanied by swelling or inflammation.


Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other forms of arthritis can cause chronic knee pain by wearing down the cartilage, leading to inflammation, stiffness, and discomfort.


Inflammation of the tendons surrounding the knee joint, such as patellar tendonitis (jumper's knee) or iliotibial band syndrome, can result in pain and discomfort, particularly during movement.


Bursae are small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the knee joint. When these sacs become inflamed due to repetitive stress or injury, it can lead to pain behind the knee or on the sides.

Meniscus Tears:

The meniscus is a rubbery cartilage that acts as a shock absorber in the knee joint. Tears in the meniscus can cause pain, swelling, and limited range of motion, especially during activities that involve twisting or pivoting.

Alignment Issues:

Problems with the alignment of the knee joint, such as knock knees or bow legs, can put additional stress on the knee structures, leading to pain and discomfort over time.

Knee Inflammation:

Inflammation of the knee joint, known as knee inflammation or synovitis, can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness. This can be triggered by overuse, underlying medical conditions such as arthritis, or acute injuries.

Degenerative Conditions:

Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of cartilage, is a common cause of knee pain, especially in older adults. Rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune conditions can also affect the knee joint and lead to chronic pain and inflammation.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS):

Also known as runner's knee, PFPS is a common knee problem characterized by pain behind or around the patella (kneecap), especially during activities that involve bending the knee, such as walking, running, or climbing stairs.

Different Types of Knee Pain

Knee pain can manifest in various forms, each with its own set of symptoms and underlying causes:

Pain When Walking:

If you experience pain primarily when walking, it could be due to issues such as osteoarthritis, tendonitis, or overuse injuries.

Pain Behind the Knee:

Pain behind the knee may indicate conditions such as bursitis, Baker's cyst, or hamstring injuries. It's essential to determine the specific cause through proper diagnosis.

Chronic Knee Pain:

Persistent or recurring knee pain that lasts for more than a few weeks is often classified as chronic. Chronic knee pain can be caused by arthritis, repetitive stress injuries, or underlying structural issues.

Demystifying the Knee Joint: A Closer Look at Its Anatomy

The knee joint is a marvel of engineering, facilitating movements essential for daily activities, sports, and mobility. Understanding its intricate anatomy can provide valuable insights into how this complex joint functions and why it's crucial to care for it properly. Let's take a look at the knee joint, explore its various components, and how they work together seamlessly.

Anatomy of the Knee Joint

The knee joint is the largest joint in the body and consists of several key structures, including bones, ligaments, muscles, and cartilage. Here’s a break down of the anatomy of the knee:


The knee joint is formed by the articulation of three bones: the femur (thigh bone), the tibia (shin bone), and the patella (kneecap). These bones come together to create a hinge-like joint that allows for flexion and extension movements.


Ligaments are strong bands of connective tissue that help stabilize the knee joint and prevent excessive movement. The knee joint is supported by four primary ligaments:

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL): Located in the center of the knee, the ACL helps prevent the tibia from sliding too far forward and provides stability during twisting or pivoting movements.

Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL): Situated at the back of the knee, the PCL prevents the tibia from moving too far backward and helps stabilize the knee joint.

Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL): Running along the inner side of the knee, the MCL provides stability and resists forces that push the knee inward.

Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL): Found on the outer side of the knee, the LCL helps stabilize the knee against forces that push the knee outward.


The knee joint contains two types of cartilage: articular cartilage and meniscal cartilage. Articular cartilage covers the ends of the femur, tibia, and patella, allowing smooth and frictionless movement within the joint. Meniscal cartilage, located between the femur and tibia, acts as a shock absorber and provides stability to the knee.


The muscles surrounding the knee joint play a crucial role in providing support, stability, and movement. Some of the key muscles of the knee include:

Quadriceps: Located on the front of the thigh, the quadriceps muscles extend the knee and help stabilize the patella.

Hamstrings: Situated on the back of the thigh, the hamstrings flex the knee and assist in activities such as walking, running, and jumping.

Calf Muscles: The calf muscles, including the gastrocnemius and soleus, help flex the knee and provide stability during weight-bearing activities.