Knee pain and knee injuries

The femur, tibia, patella and fibula combine to create the knee joint, one of the largest and most important joints in the body. The knee joint carries your entire weight when walking, running or jumping, with certain movements stabilised and limited by the ligaments around this joint. As the knee supports the full weight of your body, injuries to your knee cartilage, tendons and ligaments are very common. If you are overweight this will also contribute to knee pain, as it places extra weight on your knee joints.

You should always speak with a GP or other health specialists with any concerns or questions.

Causes of knee pain

  • Being more active than usual may cause a knee strain and result in pain. A strain is where knee tissue becomes stretched – this will not cause permanent damage but can be painful in the short-term.
  • ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries are common and can be serious. The ACL acts as a stabiliser for your knee but is easily torn if twisted or overstretched. If an ACL ruptures, you will be unable to move your knee properly and it will likely become unstable. This is one of the most common injuries suffered by sports professionals where sudden changes of direction are needed.
  • The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) can tear as a result of twisting or being hit on the inside of your knee. The LCL is found on the outside of your knee and limits side-to-side movement. An acute injury, such as sudden damage after an accident, can harm the muscles, ligaments or bone.
  • Swelling can cause a lot of pain and often develops over time. It is usually down to overuse of the knee, such as athletics or vigorous exercise. It can also be the result of aging or from a previous knee injury.
  • Menisci are shock-absorbing pads of tissue found between your knee bones on both the inside and outside edges of the joint. They can become worn with age or become torn after quick movements. This is one of the most common forms of injury and sources of pain in the knee area for middle-aged people.
  • Tendonitis is caused by overusing or injuring the tendons that join the patella. Sports are often the main cause of this inflammation, with volleyball, basketball and netball (activities which involve jumping) often triggering the condition.
  • Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and consists of the inflammation of tissues around the joints. It can cause damage to the protective surface of the bones that allow joints to move without friction. The condition normally develops in people over the age of 50, with women more likely to suffer than men.
  • Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac that provides a cushion between bones and tendons or muscles around a joint. When the bursa becomes inflamed it can swell and usually becomes very tender if overused or subjected to repetitive movements. People who spend a lot of time kneeling, such as carpet fitters, are more likely to suffer from this condition.

The above is intended for information purposes only and should not replace the advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

Knee pain and knee injuries Consultants