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What Causes Pain In The Back Of The Knee

Tendon And Muscle Injuries Causing Pain Behind Knee

What causes sharp pain behind knee? How can it be managed? – Dr. Navinchand D J

Tendon injuries often occur in runners due to overload. The tendons most likely to be affected include the hamstring on the inside or outside . Rarely, a small tendon called the popliteus wrapping around the outside of the knee joint can become swollen and painful.

In addition, hamstring muscle tears can occur close to the outside of the knee. Usually, these tears occur about 5cm above the knee joint. It is important to define the exact location of the tear, as location determines the time to return to sport.

Finally, a pulled calf muscle near the knee can also cause pain in this area.

What Is Pain Behind The Knee

Since the knee is the largest and most complex joint in the body, it makes sense that it might hurt sometimes. Although knee pain is a common complaint, it is less common behind the knee.

Pain in the back of the knee is called posterior knee pain, and it can have a variety of causes. Occasionally, posterior knee pain is “referred” from the front of the knee or the spine.

What Are Potential Complications

If you dont have medical treatment, patellar tendonitis can worsen. You may damage your tendon more severely, limiting your everyday functioning.

Resting your legs and stopping activity can be emotionally difficult for athletes, in particular. They may not want to stop playing, even though its painful. For professional athletes, patellar tendonitis can be a career-ender if left untreated.

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What Types Of Doctors Treat A Torn Meniscus

The diagnosis of a torn meniscus may be made by a primary care provider with the patient is often referred to an orthopedic surgeon to either help with the diagnosis or to help with treatment decisions.

While many types of health care providers can diagnose and treat a torn meniscus, it is an orthopedic surgeon who would perform the arthroscopic surgery. For those who do not need, or choose not to have surgery, their primary care provider, the orthopedic surgeon, or a sports-medicine specialist may continue care. Often a physical therapist is involved, whether or not meniscus surgery is part of the treatment.

Conditions Due To Cartilage Damage


There are two triangular, or wedge shaped, pieces of cartilage in the synovial joint which are called menisci. One lies on the inside, or medial side, of the knee, and one on the outside or lateral side. They act as shock absorbers between the femur and tibia, the end surfaces of which also have a cartilage covering called articular cartilage. At the front of the synovial joint is the patella which is an oval bone protecting the front of the joint and lined internally with cartilage.

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Serious Symptoms That Might Indicate A Life

In some cases, behind knee pain may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Symptoms that may indicate a serious or life-threatening condition include:

  • Bruising on the back of the knee or calf

  • Difficulty breathing

Pain Behind The Knee Faqs

Why do I have pain in the back of my knee when straightening my leg?

There are many different causes for pain behind the knee when straightening the leg, including jumpers knee , a Bakers cyst and chondromalacia.

Why do I have pain behind my knee when bending my leg?

You may have damaged a ligament, tendon or cartilage, which prevents full range of motion in your knee without pain.

Why do I have pain behind my knee when walking and after/during running?

There are many different causes for pain behind the knee on activity, such as arthritis or a Bakers cyst, as well as injuries, such as a meniscus tear, anterior or posterior cruciate ligament injury or hamstring injury.

Why do I have pain in the back of my knee after sitting?

There are several conditions that can cause pain in the back of your knee after sitting for a long time, including arthritis and chondromalacia.

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Causes Of Pain Behind The Knee

There are a number of causes of pain behind the knee, which include:

  • your knee joint wearing down as you get older for example, you may have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
  • a knee injury
  • a benign or cancerous growth
  • an infection

You can access a range of treatments on a pay as you go basis, including physiotherapy. Find out more about physiotherapy >

Pain Behind The Knee: Symptoms

Back of Knee Pain l What Causes Back of Knee Pain? by The Knee Pain Guru

Each case of pain behind the knee is different. However, there are some typical signs and symptoms doctors have identified, including the ones listed below.

  • Inability to put weight on knee
  • Reduced range of motion in knee joint
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Pain when trying to stretch the leg

There are some symptoms that can be an indication of a life-threatening health problem. For example, bruising on the back of the knee or calf, difficulty breathing, redness behind the knee of one leg, warmth behind the knee of one leg, and painful swelling can be signs of something serious.

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What Causes A Baker’s Cyst

Baker’s cysts are not uncommon and can be caused by virtually any cause of joint swelling . The excess joint fluid bulges to the back of the knee to form the Baker’s cyst. The most common type of arthritis associated with Baker’s cysts is osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis. Baker’s cysts can occur in children with juvenile arthritis of the knee. Baker’s cysts also can result from cartilage tears , rheumatoid arthritis, and other knee problems.

A Baker’s cyst may cause no symptoms or be associated with knee pain and/or tightness, and stiffness behind the knee, especially when the knee is extended or fully flexed. Baker’s cysts are usually visible as a bulge behind the knee that is particularly noticeable on standing and when compared to the opposite uninvolved knee. They are generally soft and minimally tender. Sometimes there can be a mild decrease in the range of motion of the knee.

Baker’s cysts can become complicated by spread of fluid down the leg between the muscles of the calf . The cyst can rupture, leaking fluid down the inner leg to sometimes cause the appearance of a painless bruise under the inner ankle. Baker’s cyst dissection and rupture are frequently associated with swelling of the leg and can mimic phlebitis of the leg. A ruptured Baker’s cyst typically causes rapid-onset swelling of the leg with bruising around the ankle.

There Are Four Major Ligaments In The Knee

Four major ligaments support the knee. These tissues deliver stability to the knee and are vital for helping humans stand and move without falling.

There are two ligaments inside the knee itself. The anterior cruciate ligament, or the ACL, is in the center of the knee and controls forward motion while giving the shin stability. Meanwhile, the posterior cruciate ligament, or PCL, controls the backward movement of the shin.

Furthermore, two other sets of ligaments support the knee. The medial collateral ligament supports the inner knee, while the lateral collateral ligament supports the outer knee.

These ligaments may be damaged or torn, leading to sharp pain in the knee, especially while under stress.

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When To Contact A Medical Professional

  • You cannot bear weight on your knee.
  • You have severe pain, even when not bearing weight.
  • Your knee buckles, clicks, or locks.
  • Your knee is deformed or misshapen.
  • You cannot flex your knee or have trouble straightening it all the way out.
  • You have a fever, redness or warmth around the knee, or a lot of swelling.
  • You have pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, or bluish discoloration in the calf below the sore knee.
  • You still have pain after 3 days of home treatment.

Knee Joint Injury As A Cause For Pain In The Back Of The Knee

If you have pain behind knee, this is what you do

Knee joint is used more than most other joints in human body. The published data suggests knee joint is one of the frequently injured joint.1 The reason knee joint is injured more frequently than other joint is because knee joint is weight bearing joint. Weight transmission is depended on stability of the joint and posture at the time of weight transmission. Wrong position or twist and turn can change direction of weight transmission that can result in joint injury. Knee joint injury damages structures of knee joint that is formed by bone, cartilage, ligaments, muscles and tendon.

Knee Joint Bone Trauma As A Cause For Posterior Knee Joint Pain

Tendon and Muscle Injuries Resulting in Pain in the Back of the Knee

Knee joint is supported by several muscles and tendons. The flexor muscles end in tendon and then tendon is attached to the bone at the back of knee joint. Injury of following muscle or tendon causes pain that is localized over back of knee joint. The tendons of muscles of back of the thigh and lower leg is attached to the back of knee joint. These muscle are known as knee joint flexor or hamstring muscles. Injury to these muscles can occur during knee bending or upper body rotation and turning.

  • Semitendinosus,
  • Popliteus
  • Ligament Injuries: Causes Pain Over Back Of The Knee

    The following four ligament lie within knee joint-

  • Medial collateral ligament ,
  • Anterior cruciate ligament and
  • Posterior cruciate ligament
  • Meniscus Tear Can Cause Posterior Knee Join Pain

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    Does Back Pain Cause Knee Pain

    As one of the most complex joints in the body, the knee allows the entire leg to move, flex, and have a good range of motion. Meanwhile, with its vertebrae and shock-absorbing discs, the back has a myriad of responsibilities it holds you physically together and secures the high-speed conduit for your complex and delicate nervous system.

    Together, the knees and the back provide flexibility, motion, and support. However, they also rely on each other to maintain balance and equilibrium. Therefore, when your back hurts, so might your knees.

    Introduction To The Knee

    The knee is the largest joint in the body. The knee allows the leg to bend where the femur attaches to the tibia . The knee flexes and extends, allowing the body to perform many activities, from walking and running to climbing and squatting. There are a variety of structures that surround the knee and allow it to bend and that protect the knee joint from injury.

    The quadriceps and hamstring muscles are responsible for moving the knee joint. When the quadriceps muscles contract, the knee extends or straightens. The hamstring muscles, located on the back of the thigh, are responsible for flexing or bending the knee. These muscles are also important in protecting the knee from being injured by acting to stabilize the knee and preventing it from being pushed in directions that it isn’t meant to go.

    There are four ligaments that also stabilize the knee joint at rest and during movement: the medical and lateral collateral ligaments and the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments .

    Cartilage within the joint provides the cushioning to protect the bones from the routine stresses of walking, running, and climbing. The medial and lateral meniscus are two thicker wedge-shaped pads of cartilage attached to top of the tibia , called the tibial plateau. Each meniscus is curved in a C-shape, with the front part of the cartilage called the anterior horn and the back part called the posterior horn.

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    Knee Cysts And Bursal Injury

    Injury to bursae is usually the result repetitive motions and will elicit pain and tenderness. Cystic lesions of the knee can be caused from a diverse group of entities from benign etiologies to complications of arthritis, infection, and malignancy. The classic cystic lesion causing posterior knee pain is the Bakers cyst. A Bakers cyst is caused either by a herniation of the synovial membrane through the posterior capsule or by an escape of fluid through an anatomic bursa next to semimembranosus or gastrocnemius. Fluid seeps in to the popliteal bursa, located at the back of the knee causing it to swell. It often feels like a squashy orange. A Bakers Cyst typically causes pain behind the knee when bending the knee as the bursa gets squashed.

    These include popliteal artery entrapment syndrome, aneurysms, and deep venous thrombosis .

    There is minimal literature available on neurological causes of posterior knee pain as there are few case reports, randomized control trials, or meta-analyses that discuss the neurological causes of posterior knee pain. However, referred pain has been implicated as a cause of posterior knee pain. The patellofemoral joint and lumbar spine may both refer pain to the posterior knee. Pain can also be caused by entrapment of nerves in the popliteal fossa.

    Examples Of What To Include In A Pain Journal

    “Can Knee Pain Cause Back Pain?”

    Shereen Lehman, MS, is a healthcare journalist and fact checker. She has co-authored two books for the popular Dummies Series .

    Whether youve been battling chronic pain for more than a decade or youre just starting to deal with consistent aches and soreness, a pain journal can help you document what you are feeling from day to day. Your pain journal is where you write down everything relating to your chronic pain what kind of pain you have, what level of pain you are experiencing, what you were doing when you were in pain, and so on.

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    Swelling Behind The Knee

    Reviewed by: KPE Medical Review Board

    There are a number of different causes of swelling behind the knee.

    The most common is a Bakers Cyst where there is inflammation of the popliteal bursa at the back of the knee.

    Sometimes there is back of knee swelling and pain, other times there is a lump behind the knee but no pain associated with it. It might be that only one knee is swollen, or there may be swelling behind both knees.

    Most times when the back of the knee is swollen, it can be treated with a combination of rest, regular ice, compression bandages, exercises and physical therapy, but some case may require knee surgery.

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    What Should I Do When I Feel Pain Behind My Knee When I Straighten It

    Pain in the back of the knee, often called posterior knee pain, can result from a variety of reasons. The structures of the knee, consisting of muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and vascular system, can each be affected, resulting in a variety of injuries.

    Some conditions may only require rest, pain medication, knee elevation above the heart and a warm compress to get better. However, others may need surgical interventions and may become worse over time if left untreated.

    It is always best to seek a doctor if the pain does not resolve with rest and pain medication, if the swelling worsens, if there are considerable changes in the appearance of the knee, or if daily activities involving the knee become difficult.

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    How Can I Know If I Have Sciatica

    Sciatica is linked to certain conditions including pregnancy, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, and herniated or bulging discs. Doctors who suspect their patients have sciatica may ask their patients to perform some exercises or undergo x-rays and similar tests.

    Physicians will also ask questions several questions including:

    • Where do you feel discomfort?
    • What is the pain like?
    • How often are you uncomfortable?
    • How long does the pain last?
    • What triggers the discomfort and what helps it go away?
    • Do you sit for a long period of time?
    • Do you do any lifting or strenuous physical activities for your job?
    • Do you have an active lifestyle?

    What Is The Prognosis Of A Torn Meniscus Is It Possible To Prevent A Torn Meniscus

    What causes sharp pain behind knee? How can it be managed?

    Most patients have their goals met by either conservative or surgical treatment, meaning that they are able to return to a normal level of function. This even includes both elite and recreational athletes who are able to return and compete in their sports.

    Complications may occur during surgery. For meniscectomy, where the damaged cartilage is surgically removed, the rate of complication is less than 2%. This includes anesthetic complications, infection, and failure to prevent long-term stiffness, swelling, and recurrent pain. Other complications include deep vein thrombosis and the associated risks of the anesthetic. In patients who undergo meniscus repair, complications can occur in up to one-third of patients.

    Once the cartilage is damaged, it cannot be repaired to be as good as the original. For that reason, prevention may actually be the best treatment for a torn meniscus. A lifelong commitment to maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding injury will decrease the stress placed on the cartilage of the knee during daily activities. Keeping muscles strong and flexible will also help protect joints. For the knee, this includes not only the quadriceps and hamstring muscles but also those in the core and back.

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    What’s Causing Your Back Pain

    There are plenty of possible causes for a hurt back. Overuse, especially without proper stretching, can strain your back. Or you may UNDER use your back. If you have a job where you sit all day, your back muscles and buttox muscles may be weak, and not provide proper support to your spinal cord. Poor posture can put a lot of pressure on the lumbar spine .

    You may also have a medical condition that causes pain, like spinal stenosis . Sciatica pain is a fairly common cause for back and knee problems. You may have chronic pain from something like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Without management, the pain can start affecting your knees, hips, and ankles.

    A back injury may be one of the more concerning causes of back pain. Any injury to your back or spinal cord could cause some serious damage. If you’ve had a recent back or spine injury, make sure to talk to your doctor as soon as possible.


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