Knee Pain

Learn about knee pain, joint, patella, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment at Lehigh Valley Health Network.

Knee pain can be the result of many different injuries or illnesses. The knee is a vulnerable joint that bears a great deal of stress from everyday movements, such as lifting and kneeling, and from high-impact activities such as jogging or Zumba®.

Many knee problems, such as arthritis, are a result of aging and continual wear and stress on the knee joint. Other knee problems are due to an injury, such as strain from a sudden movement.

Common causes of knee pain include:

  • Sprained or strained ligaments and/or muscles. Usually caused by a blow to the knee or a sudden twist of the knee, this injury has symptoms that include pain, swelling and difficulty walking.
  • Torn cartilage. Trauma to the knee can tear the menisci, the pads of cartilage between surfaces in the knee joint.
  • Tendonitis. Inflammation of the tendons may result from overuse during activities such as running, jumping or cycling. 
  • Arthritis. Osteoarthritis of the knee may be caused by excess stress on the joint caused by repeated injury or being overweight. In rheumatoid arthritis, the joint becomes inflamed and the knee cartilage is damaged. 
  • Baker's cyst (popliteal cyst). This is a fluid collection in a cyst that bulges out from the knee joint. Symptoms include painful or painless swelling in the area behind the knee.
  • Bursitis. Prepatellar bursitis occurs when the bursa, a fluid-filled sack on the front of the knee, becomes swollen. It’s often caused by constant kneeling, a blow to the knee or an infection.

For minor knee pain, your doctor probably will recommend RICE: rest, ice, compression and elevation. An over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen and stretching and strengthening exercises might also be suggested.

For more serious knee pain, your doctor may prescribe steroids pills or injections. If diagnostic tests show serious damage to the knee joint, surgery might be needed.