Knee joints are one of the most common sources of pain due to how they are used. They bear the body’s weight and need to bend, lift, twist, and kick. When you experience knee pain, it can be for a wide variety of reasons. Where and how you feel pain can help identify the possible cause and best treatment options. Here are a few different types of knee pain and what they may indicate.

Pain Is Located Directly Above the Knee

If you have pain occurring at the top of the knee and above the kneecap, it could be tendonitis. Tendons attach the thigh muscles to the patella or kneecap. If they are inflamed, it can cause pain above the knee cap. This is usually a deep, aching pain, and there may be swelling. Other possible causes of pain above the knee include bursitis (inflammation of the bursa) or arthritis.

Pain is Located Directly at the Kneecap

When you have pain directly at the kneecap, it can be several different conditions. If the pain comes on suddenly, it could be an injury to your kneecap, including a fracture or patellofemoral syndrome. You may also have a patellar tracking disorder or a kneecap dislocation. For progressively worse pain at the kneecap, you may be experiencing a degenerative condition like patellofemoral osteoarthritis or chondromalacia, a deterioration of the cartilage.

Pain is Located on the Inside of the Knee

Medial or inner knee pain can be caused by injuries to ligaments (MCL sprain or tear), meniscus (tears), plica ( inflammation), or kneecap (contusion). Injury pain usually comes on suddenly when the damage occurs. If you have progressive inner knee pain, it could indicate one of the following:

  • Bursitis – inflammation of the bursa on the inside of the knee
  • Medial osteoarthritis – the medial compartment of the knee joint is inflamed
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – RA can cause pain flareups in the knee

Pain is Located on the Outside of the Knee

Like most knee pain, lateral or outside pain can be caused by degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis. Injuries can also cause exterior knee pain, such as meniscus tears, tibial fractures, contusions, and ligament (LCL) sprains or tears. Another common cause of lateral knee pain is IT band syndrome.

Pain is Located Below the Kneecap

The most common cause of pain below the kneecap is patellar tendonitis or “jumper’s knee.” In children, pain in this area may indicate Osgood-Schlatter disease or Sinding-Larsen-Johansson syndrome.

Pain is Located Behind the Knee

Wear and tear can result in pain behind the knee. This can be caused by tendonitis, arthritis, or chondromalacia. Baker’s cysts can cause pain in this area, as well as ligament injuries (ACL and PCL).

As you can see, there are many different conditions and injuries that can cause knee pain. It is important to have your knee pain diagnosed by an orthopedic specialist to determine the exact source of pain. If you have knee pain and want relief, contact Steven Struhl, MD – Shoulders & Knees. Call our clinic in NYC to schedule a knee exam and treatment consultation.