What your knee pain may indicate based on its location?

Answered by Michael Wilson

When it comes to knee pain, the location of the pain can provide valuable clues about its underlying cause. By understanding where the pain is located, we can start to narrow down the possible causes and identify the appropriate treatment options. It is important to note that the following information is not a substitute for medical advice and it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.

1. Front of the knee:
Pain in the front of the knee can be attributed to several conditions, including:
A) Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS): This is a common condition characterized by pain in the front of the knee, often behind or around the patella (kneecap). It is commonly seen in runners, cyclists, and individuals who participate in activities that involve repetitive knee bending. PFPS is typically caused by imbalances in muscle strength, tightness, or improper tracking of the patella.
B) Patellar tendinitis: Also known as jumper’s knee, this condition involves inflammation of the patellar tendon, which connects the patella to the shinbone. It is commonly seen in athletes who engage in jumping or running activities and is often associated with overuse or repetitive stress.
C) Chondromalacia patella: This condition occurs when the cartilage on the undersurface of the patella becomes softened or damaged. It can lead to pain and a grinding sensation when bending or straightening the knee. Chondromalacia patella is commonly seen in young adults, especially females, and may be caused by factors such as muscle imbalances, trauma, or repetitive stress.

2. Sides of the knee:
Pain on the sides of the knee can be indicative of the following conditions:
A) Collateral ligament injuries: The knee has two collateral ligaments, the medial collateral ligament (MCL) on the inner side and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) on the outer side. Injury or sprain to these ligaments can cause pain and instability on the respective side of the knee. MCL injuries are more common and often result from a direct blow to the outer knee, while LCL injuries are less common and usually caused by a forceful impact to the inner knee.
B) Meniscus tears: The meniscus is a C-shaped cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between the thigh bone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia). Tears to the meniscus can occur due to sudden twisting or rotating movements of the knee, often seen in sports activities. The pain is typically located on the side of the affected meniscus and may be associated with swelling, clicking, or locking of the knee joint.
C) Arthritis: Knee pain on the sides can also be a result of arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that commonly affects older individuals, while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that can affect people of all ages. Both types of arthritis can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the knee joint, often accompanied by a limited range of motion.

It is important to remember that these are just a few potential causes of knee pain based on its location. Various other factors, such as the presence of swelling, redness, warmth, or a history of trauma, can further aid in identifying the underlying cause. Seeking medical evaluation and diagnosis from a healthcare professional is crucial for appropriate treatment and management of knee pain.