Why Do I Have Pain at the Side of My Knee?

Medically Reviewed on 11/10/2022
Pain at the Side of My Knee
Most symptoms of lateral knee pain can be treated with certain home remedies.

Pain at the side of the knee is common (affects one in four individuals) and is caused by various reasons. The pain in the outer part of the knee (lateral knee) is due to an injury that causes inflammation of a band of tough fibrous tissue that runs down the outer portion of the thigh that is connected to the tibia (shin bone). The pain could be caused by arthritis.

Side knee pain is mostly seen in runners, and the twisting of the knee or an injury that pushes the knee may cause lateral knee pain.

Causes of lateral knee pain

The most common causes of knee pain are:

4 causes of inner knee pain

  1. Bursitis: The bursa is a sac under the skin and above the joint that holds little fluid. This helps avoid the friction caused while moving the joints. Overuse of this sac leads to swelling and pain. This is called prepatellar bursitis or preacher’s knee.
  2. Osteoarthritis: Caused by the wear and tear of the joint, it results in knee pain. Mostly, it affects people older than 50 years. When active, the knee joints swell and cause pain during osteoarthritis. Pain due to osteoarthritis can be severe early in the morning.
    • Other symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
      • Swelling
      • Pain
      • Grinding and popping
  3. Medial meniscus tear: The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that is located between the femur and tibia bones of the knee joint. The meniscus acts as a cushion and absorbs the forces being exerted on your knee. Due to extreme forces, the meniscus may tear and cause pain in the knee. This can occur with sudden twists in the leg during sports or exercise. A medial meniscus tear occurs in older people because of wear and tear, causing severe pain in the inside portion of the knee joint (medial side).
    • Other symptoms of a meniscus tear include:
      • Locking of the knee joint
      • Stiffness and swelling in the joint
      • Inability to stretch completely or bend completely
      • You may feel unstable and will have difficulty walking
  4. Medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain: MCL is a thick band of tissue that runs from the femur to the tibia of the knee. This helps maintain stability and prevents buckling inside.
    • A sudden twist of the MCL may result in a ligament sprain. This may occur due to a partial or complete tear of the ligament. MCL is mostly injured during sports, such as soccer or basketball. Sometimes, the sprain could be due to a direct blow to the knee joint, which causes severe pain.
    • Other common symptoms of MCL sprain include:
      • Sudden swelling soon after the injury
      • Stiffness of the joint and bruising
      • Instability while walking
      • Popping outside of joint


Exercises for Knee Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain See Slideshow

3 causes of outer knee pain

  1. Osteoarthritis: Can affect the lateral portion or outer portion of the knee, causing pain and soreness.
    • Other symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
      • Early morning stiffness of the joint
      • Restricted movement of the joint
      • Crepitus (noise while moving the joint)
      • Giving away at the joint
      • Weakness
  2. Lateral meniscus tear: The tear in the outer portion of the meniscus is caused suddenly due to twisting, injury, or degeneration of the bones with aging. Lateral meniscal tears cause severe pain.
    • Other symptoms of a lateral meniscus tear include:
      • Swelling
      • Stiffness or locking of the joint
      • Occasional giving away at the joint
      • Restricted movement of the joint, which makes it difficult to extend or flex the knee
  3. Lateral collateral ligament (LCL) sprain: LCL is a thin band of tissue that runs from the femur bone to the fibula. LCL provides stability by preventing the knee from bowing outward. The ligament tear is commonly seen after a cut or any twist in the leg. Continuous start and stop movements or direct blows that commonly occur during sports or exercises may cause knee pain.
    • The following symptoms are noticed after an LCL sprain:
      • A pop
      • Swelling
      • Pain
      • Loss of stability
      • Numbness and tingling in the foot

How to diagnose knee pain

If you have swelling and pain after any injury, seek medical advice from your healthcare provider, especially an injury that does not improve with home treatment.

Your doctor may provide a few diagnostic tests to evaluate the exact location of the injury, including:

  • X-ray to check the structure of your bones and the spaces between the joints
  • MRI to locate the ligament sprain and meniscus tear

What are treatment options for knee pain?

Most of the symptoms can be treated successfully either by treatment at home or by medical care.

For a speedy recovery, follow these home remedies:

  • Rest your knee and avoid performing intense activities.
  • Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes and repeat this every three to four hours, which relieves pain and swelling. Continue doing this for two to three days.
  • Knee compression using elastic straps or sleeves to wrap the joint. This gives support to the joint and reduces swelling.
  • Elevate your knee with a pillow under your heel to reduce swelling.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, will help alleviate pain and swelling.
  • You may need physical exercise too. Practice stretching and strengthening exercises regularly.
Medically Reviewed on 11/10/2022
Image Source: iStock image

What’s Causing My Knee Pain? https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/knee-pain/knee-pain-causes

Knee pain. https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/conditions/knee-pain/

Knee pain. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003187.htm