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What causes knee pain?
Knee pain can be divided into three major categories:
Acute injury: such as a broken bone, torn ligament
Chronic use/overuse conditions: osteoarthritis, patellar
tendinitis, and bursitis
Below is a list of some of the more frequent causes of knee pain. This is not
an all-inclusive list but rather highlights a few causes of knee pain in each of
the above categories.
Fractures: Direct trauma to the bony structure can cause one of the bones in
the knee to break. This is usually a very obvious and painful injury. Most knee
fractures are not only painful but will also interfere with the proper
functioning of the knee (such as kneecap fracture) or make it very painful to
bear weight (such as tibial plateau fracture). All fractures need immediate
Ligament injuries: The most common injury is the ACL (anterior cruciate
ligament) injury. This is often a sports-related injury due to a sudden stop and
change in directions.
Meniscus injuries: The menisci (medial and lateral) are made of cartilage and
act as shock absorbers between bones in the knee. Twisting the knee can injure
Dislocation: The knee joint can be dislocated, which is a medical emergency
that requires immediate attention. This injury often occurs during a motor-vehicle accident when the knee hits the dashboard.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that can affect any joint in
the body. It can cause severe pain and disability.
Gout is a form of arthritis that is most commonly found in the big
toe, though it can
also affect the knee.
With septic arthritis (infectious arthritis), the knee joint can become infected;
this leads to pain, swelling, and fever. This condition requires antibiotics and
drainage treatments as soon as possible.
Chronic use/overuse conditions
Patellar tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendons connecting the kneecap
(patella) to the bone of the lower leg. Patellar tendinitis is a chronic
condition often found in individuals repeating the same motion (such as runners
Osteoarthritis: A wearing down of cartilage of the joint due to use
Children can develop inflammation of the point of bony insertion of the
patellar tendon (Osgood-Schlatter disease).