Knee Pain

Knee pain is injury to the joint, or the soft tissues that surround the knee — ligaments, tendons, or bursae.

The severity of pain varies. Some people may feel only a small ache, while others may experience excruciating pain that interferes with their daily life. In many cases, self-care can help you cope with knee injuries.

Common Knee Pain Problems

Many knee issues are the result of aging and continual stress on the knee joint. Other knee injuries are the result of a running injury or a sudden movement that strains the knee. Common injuries include the following:

Sprained Knee

A sprained knee is an injury of torn or overstretched ligaments. Sprains occur by a blow to the knee or a sudden twist of the knee. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and difficulty in walking.

Strained Knee Pain

A strained knee is a tear or overstretched tendon or muscle. It happens with twists, overextensions, or overexertions of the knee. Symptoms often include cramping, bruising, pain, swelling, and difficulty in walking or running.

Torn cartilage

Trauma to the knee can tear the menisci or cartilage. These tears often occur with sprains. Treatment involves wearing a brace during an activity to protect the knee from further injury. In extreme cases, surgery repairs torn cartilage.


Tendonitis of the patellar tendon is jumper’s knee. This often occurs when the force of hitting the ground after a jump strains the tendon. Inflammation of the tendons is overuse of a tendon when running, jumping, or cycling.

Arthritis and Knee Pain

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative process where the cartilage in the knee joint gradually wears away. It is the most common type of arthritis that affects the knee. Osteoarthritis often affects middle-aged and older people. The main cause is excess joint stress such as being overweight or running. 

Rheumatoid arthritis 

Rheumatoid arthritis affects the knees by causing joint inflammation and destroying the knee cartilage. It often affects persons at an earlier age than osteoarthritis.

Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee is knee pain around or behind the knee cap. In most cases, it’s damage to the cartilage in the knee from overexertion or intense pounding activity.

To get a proper diagnosis of runner’s knee, visit your primary care doctor. They can assess by doing a physical exam. Your doctor can use an X-ray for additional evaluation of the knee.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Iliotibial band syndrome is when the iliotibial band (IT) tendon becomes irritated or swollen from rubbing against your hip or knee bones. This tendon is on the outside of your leg, and it goes from the top of your pelvic bone down to your knee. It rubs against your bones when it gets too tight. There are many reasons why your iliotibial band might tighten.

How common is iliotibial band syndrome?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Experts note that iliotibial band syndrome often affects U.S. Marines during training. More than 20% get iliotibial band syndrome. Frequent runners, especially long-distance runners, are also prone. Iliotibial band syndrome accounts for about 12% of running injuries. More females than males have iliotibial band syndrome.”

Knee pain — of which iliotibial band syndrome is one of many causes — affects as many as 25% of adults.