Knee Pain Causes

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Doctor's View on Knee Pain Causes

Comment by Charles P. Davis, MD, PhD

Components of the knee

The knee is composed of skin covering the ligaments, tendons, muscles, bones, articular cartilage, bursa sacs, blood vessels and nerves that form the largest joint in the body. The knee joint is complex and each component is important to its function and each can suffer injury or disease. Consequently, there are many causes of knee pain. Women are twice as likely to experience knee pain as man; about 50% of all athletes have knee pain every year.

Knee pain causes

Acute injuries to one or more of the components of the knee are the leading cause of knee pain. Injuries range from mild (sprains, strains) to more serious tears (in ligaments or cartilage) and kneecap dislocations, to fractures in the bones that comprise the knee joint to a total knee joint dislocation, a medical emergency. Another kind of injury that is usually not acute is overuse or stress injuries due to repeated activities that cause joint components to become inflamed over time (for example, tendonitis or bursitis from running).

Unfortunately, there are other body problems that can cause knee pain to occur in people. Hip and back pain may cause abnormal gait which subsequently causes knee pain. Diseases such as arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, osteoarthritis, and lupus may cause knee pain. Infection of the joint, the surrounding skin (cellulitis), the bones (osteomyelitis), or bursa sac (septic bursitis) can cause knee pain. A Baker's cyst (popliteal cyst) can cause knee pain and any compromise of the nerves or vasculature can, too. Less frequent causes of knee pain can be Osgood-Schlatter disease (pain in the kneecap or tibia in children, mainly boys, ages 10 to 15) and osteochondritis dissecans (when blood flow to bone or cartilage is cut off and tissue dies).

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Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/19/2013