Knee Pain: 15 Causes, Remedies & Treatment Options

Knee pain is a symptom that can arise due to the wearing down of the joints, being overweight or due to sports injuries that can happen while practicing different kinds of sports.

However, when knee pain prevents you from walking or worsens over time, it may be a sign of a more serious problem, such as a ruptured ligament, osteoarthritis or Baker's cyst, which can be confirmed by tests such as an x-ray or computed tomography.

However, in most cases knee pain is not serious and can be treated at home by applying ice twice a day during the first 3 days from the onset of pain. In addition, the use of an elastic support band on the knee throughout the day can help to immobilize it, reducing the pain, while waiting for a doctor's appointment.

Knee Pain: 15 Causes, Remedies & Treatment Options

Main causes of knee pain

The main causes of knee pain are:

  1. Pain on the lateral side of the knee, when running or after running: usually caused by iliotibial band syndrome that must be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, stretching and myofascial release. It may also indicate injury to the lateral meniscus or injury to the lateral collateral ligament.
  2. Internal knee pain: may occur due to knee sprains, caused by blows to the side of the knee, causing swelling on the opposite side to the trauma area, or pes anserine bursitis, medial collateral ligament sprain, or even a rupture of the medial meniscus.
  3. Pain in the back of the knee: may be due to Baker's cyst, a small swelling that arises behind the knee, which causes increased pain when the patient squats or bends the knee.
  4. Pain in the front of the knee: may be chondromalacia patellae.
  5. Knee pain on waking: most common after the age of 40 and is usually related to the existence of rheumatoid arthritis in the joint, with pain being more frequent during the first few minutes of the morning, which improves with movement.
  6. Knee pain when squatting: one of the common causes is chondromalacia patellae, which is the wearing down of the joint around the patella, or injury to the meniscus.
  7. Pain in the knee when walking, at the end of the day or after standing too long: it can be caused by osteoarthritis, which causes wearing away of the knee, and as the disease worsens, the knee becomes stiff when rising in the morning and improves with rest.
  8. Knee pain when folding the leg: may indicate injury to the meniscus.
  9. Knee pain when stretching the leg: may indicate tendon injury or rupture of the patella ligament.
  10. Knee pain in general: it depends on whether there was any direct trauma such as falling to the ground and landing on one’s knees, which may cause bruising, knee twisting, or the partial rupture of a muscle or ligament.
  11. Knee pain and cracking sound when moving the knee laterally: may indicate injury to the anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament, coronary ligament, rupture of the meniscus or osteochondral fracture.
  12. Knee pain when climbing stairs: it can be due to osteoarthritis, meniscus injury or osteochondral injury, for example.
  13. Knee pain when descending stairs: may indicate injury to the patella.
  14. Knee pain and swelling without trauma: may indicate hemophilia, rheumatoid arthritis, infection or gout.
  15. Deep pain, right in the middle of the knee: may indicate rupture of the anterior or posterior cruciate ligaments.
Knee Pain: 15 Causes, Remedies & Treatment Options

Remedies and medication for knee pain

Anti-inflammatory drugs in pill form can be used for the period indicated by the doctor, but if you apply an ointment such as Algesal or Cataflam you can get some pain relief. These ointments can be purchased at the pharmacy without a prescription.

As a natural remedy, there are foods that fight inflammation like salmon, chia seeds, crab, saffron, macerated garlic and ginger teas, for example.

Alternative treatment for knee pain

Typically, knee pain can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed by an orthopedist, such as Diclofenac or Ibuprofen, or surgery to replace damaged portions of the knee. However, an alternative treatment for knee pain may be adopted, especially by those who have an anti-inflammatory-sensitive stomach and include:

  • Homeopathy: use of homeopathic remedies containing Ruta Graveolens, Rhus tox or Bryonia, prescribed by your orthopedist, to treat inflammation of the knee caused by arthritis or tendonitis, for example;
  • Compresses: put hot compresses with 3 drops of essential oil of sage or rosemary twice a day, from the 3rd day the symptoms appeared;
  • Knee rest: consists of bandaging the knee, especially when it is necessary to remain standing for a long time.

A patient with knee pain can enrich their daily food intake with foods with anti-inflammatory properties, such as ginger, turmeric, salmon or chia seeds, which may help complement treatment and prevent pain in other joints. In addition, avoid sugary foods because they aggravate inflammation in any part of the body.

Other natural ways to relieve knee pain

More tips for relieving knee pain include avoiding running or walking whenever the pain is present, not picking up heavy weights and sitting on high chairs, so as not to force your knees when getting up off the chair.

Any alternative treatment for knee pain should not replace the treatment indicated by the doctor as it may worsen the problem that caused the knee pain originally.

When to see a Doctor

It is important you see your orthopedist or a physiotherapist when:

  • The pain lasts more than 3 days, even after resting and applying cold compresses;
  • The pain is very intense when doing daily activities such as ironing while standing, carrying your child on your lap, walking or climbing stairs;
  • The knee won’t bend, or it makes a noise when moving;
  • The knee appears deformed;
  • Other symptoms appear like fever or tingling;

In these cases, the orthopedist can request an x-ray or MRI to diagnose the problem and recommend appropriate treatment.

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  • FARROKHI, Shawn; et al. The influence of knee pain location on symptoms, functional status and knee-related quality of life in older adults with chronic knee pain: data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative. Clin J Pain. 32. 6; 463–470, 2016
  • CIRCI, E.; et al. Treatment of Osgood-Schlatter disease: review of the literature. Musculoskelet Surg. 101. 3; 195-200, 2017
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