Top 7 Most Common Symptoms and Causes of Knee Pain

 Symptoms and Causes of Knee Pain Pennsylvania Orthopedic Associates

Knee pain is one of the most common pain conditions affecting adults, with nearly 40% of Americans surveyed saying they had disabling knee pain. The most common sources of knee pain are repetitive stress, injury, and age-related degeneration. At Pennsylvania Orthopedic Associates, we specialize in helping patients of all ages overcome knee pain from any cause.

Top 7 causes of knee pain

This list isn’t in a specific order because the top cause of knee pain varies with each patient’s age and activity level. For those who frequently engage in sports, ACL injuries are near the top of the list. In our older patients, degenerative changes are more likely to cause knee pain.

1. Fractures and dislocations

Fractures and dislocations are most often caused by high-energy trauma, such as a fall, contact sports, or a car accident. Knee fractures typically affect the kneecap, where they may occur due to an acute injury or develop gradually as a stress fracture.


Your knee can become dislocated when one or more of the ligaments are torn. Most knee dislocations develop when the anterior cruciate and posterior cruciate ligaments are damaged.

2. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury

About 200,000 ACL injuries occur every year in the U.S. In nearly half of all cases, the ligament is completely torn, which requires immediate medical care. Additionally, in half of patients treated for an ACL injury, other parts of the knee are also damaged, like the meniscus, cartilage, or other ligaments.

The ACL is usually injured when you make certain movements during high-demand sports. For example, quickly changing your direction, suddenly stopping, pivoting, sidestepping, and landing a jump incorrectly often damage the ACL.

3. Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury

PCL injuries are often caused by a blow to the front of your knee while it’s bent. This type of injury usually occurs during contact sports and car accidents.

4. Collateral ligament injury

You have two collateral ligaments, with one on each side of your knee, which control sideways movement. They’re damaged when you take a blow to the outside or inside of your knee. Injuries to the collateral ligaments tend to occur during contact sports like football and soccer.

5. Meniscus tears

The meniscus consists of two C-shaped pieces of cartilage on top of your shinbone. In addition to ensuring smooth movement between bones, this cartilage helps to stabilize your knee and absorb shock.

Twisting movements are most likely to tear the meniscus, but it’s also frequently injured during the same movements that lead to an ACL injury.

As you get older, degenerative changes may weaken the meniscus. You can easily tear a weak meniscus from normal, everyday movements.

6. Tendon tears

The patellar tendon covers your kneecap, travels up your thigh, and connects to the quadriceps muscle. It takes a strong force to tear this tendon, such as a fall or an awkward landing from a jump. Chronic inflammation and certain health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can weaken the tendons and make them susceptible to tearing from minor stress.

7. Osteoarthritis

Knee pain is caused by several types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. However, osteoarthritis is the most common type of knee arthritis, as well as the most common knee disease.

Osteoarthritis occurs as years of repetitive knee movement, combined with the stress of carrying your body weight, lead to cartilage degeneration. When cartilage wears away, bone rubs against bone in the joint, causing pain, stiffness, and inflammation.

If you suffer a knee injury, you’re more likely to develop osteoarthritis. It’s estimated that 12% of all cases of knee osteoarthritis develop when cartilage is damaged during an injury.

Top 7 symptoms other than knee pain

Whether you suffer an injury or develop degenerative disease, you’ll experience pain. Your pain may be sharp and sudden, more like an aching or burning feeling, come-and-go, or bother you constantly.

Beyond pain, however, knee conditions cause other symptoms. Here are the seven most common symptoms other than pain:

Many knee problems worsen and lead to chronic instability when you wait too long to get treatment. Some knee conditions won’t heal on their own. For these reasons, it’s important to call Pennsylvania Orthopedic Associates to schedule an exam when knee symptoms develop.

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