Beyond arthritis and sports injuries, there are a wide variety of knee pain causes. Below we discuss some of the most common conditions impacting the knee. It is important to consider these and other potential problems with your knee joints during your evaluation to identify a proper diagnosis. Your Oklahoma knee pain specialists at Orthobiogen have the training and experience to provide you with the widest range of surgery-free treatment options.
Knee Pain: Other Causes
Explore other common knee pain conditions
Other Causes of Knee Pain
Bone Bruising of the Knee
Injury of the knee bones
Bone bruising (also called “edema”) can occur with severe osteoarthritis or at a site of trauma, such as when a ligament pulls away from a bone. In addition, it may occur when two bones hit one another at a high velocity, such as in a sports injury or car accident. This can cause a deep, aching pain that is often present at night and at rest. Bone bruising is best seen on an MRI. At Orthobiogen, these bone changes are evaluated for potential treatment. The bone lesions, in some cases, are treated with your cells in order to stabilize the bone tissue and attempt to reverse the degenerative process at work.
Problem with the kneecap
Pain in the front part of the knee is often from a condition called patellofemoral syndrome, which is when the kneecap (patella) does not track properly in the groove of the thigh bone (femur). This wears down the cartilage underneath the kneecap and can cause pain and inflammation. Common causes of patellofemoral syndrome include weakness in the outside of the hip and quadriceps muscles, dislocation of the patella, and or loosening of the ligaments around the kneecap that hold it in place. This problem often causes pain in the front of the knee after sitting for a long period of time and when going up or down stairs.
Meniscus Tears & Injuries
Problems in the knee's cushion
Meniscus injuries are extremely common. There are many different types of meniscus tears and sometimes these can cause pain and even mechanical symptoms in the knee, such as catching or locking. Meniscus tears can be caused abruptly from an injury or can be degenerative, meaning they fray with wear and tear over time. It is important to know that just because a meniscus tear is present on an imaging study, depending on the type of tear, it may or may not be causing pain
Loose Bodies in the Knee
Small floating bone fragments
Loose bodies are small fragments of bone, cartilage, or hard deposits from crystalized synovial fluid that can float around in the knee joint. They can get caught in other structures and cause pain, clicking, catching, and/or locking. Sometimes they are seen on x-ray or MRI imaging, but do not cause a problem and would be therefore be considered “incidental,” meaning they are noticed but not relevant.
Ligament Injury & Dysfunction
Knee joint instability
As discussed above, ligaments help to stabilize the knee joint. These can become torn or stretched with trauma or wear and tear over time.
- ACL tears are associated with a twisting-type injury and commonly results in swelling, pain, and a feeling of instability.
- PCL tears are associated with motor vehicle accidents and occur when the shin bone hits the dashboard and is pushed backward.
- MCL and LCL tears are associated with increased stress on the inside or outside of the knee from injury or stretching over time.
Problems with muscle connections
Because tendons help stabilize joints by acting as connectors of muscles to bones, muscle weakness or imbalance can cause excessive wear on tendons. This can make it easier to injure. Tendons can become partially or completely torn from a sudden trauma or from wear and tear over time. Sudden injury or inflammation is called “tendonitis,” whereas long-term irritation and tendon weakening is termed “tendinosis.”
- Quadriceps tendon injury: usually from acute trauma.
- Patellar tendon injury, also called “jumpers knee,” because it is associated with repetitive jumping sports.
Possible source of pain in the knee
In addition to the mechanical structures of the knee discussed above, there are a few nerves that can be responsible for knee pain:
- The saphenous nerve runs along the inside portion of the leg and can mimic knee pain on the inside.
- The common peroneal nerve wraps around the top of the fibula bone and can cause radiating pain down the leg if it is irritated.
- A pinched nerve in the back can radiate to the knee and mimic knee pain.
- Pinched nerves in the back can make the muscles around the knees weak, causing biomechanical dysfunction that leads to excessive wear and tear on the joint.
Problems with the function of the knee
It is also important to assess the function of the joints above and below the knee. Problems in your ankle joints or hip joints often cause changes in the way you walk or use the leg muscles. Ultimately, this may place significant stress on the knee joint resulting in problems in how the knee functions mechanically. Under this increased stress, tissues such as the knee meniscus and knee ligaments may begin to break down and malfunction. Beyond X-rays and MRI studies, dynamic physical exams and high-frequency ultrasound diagnostics at Orthobiogen offer next level knee joint assessment.