What Causes Knee Pain (and What You Can Do)

This article is part of the Ultimate Guide to Knee Pain Relief and was updated in May 2021.

Curious why your knees hurt and wondering what causes knee pain? Left untreated, knee pain can stop you in your tracks and make it hard to get around.

Physicians hear about knees more than any other type of joint pain because knee discomfort can really slow you down, sometimes more than other types of pain in your hips or upper body. 

Your knees take a lot of abuse on a daily basis because they support most of your weight. Every time you go for a walk or run, your knee joint is put through a physical test. In most cases, your knees hold up well, but occasionally they may be damaged by injury, illness, or wear-and-tear that results in them not functioning as painlessly as they should. 

You may not only have knee pain. In some cases, patients also experience swelling, reddening, weakness, and locking into a position.

Read on to learn more about what causes knee pain, and what you can do to stop them from hurting so you can move better and live better.

Common Causes of Knee Pain

While it is important to seek out an orthopedic specialist’s professional diagnosis, as you wait for your appointment you may want to think about what may be causing your pain. There are many potential specific things that your doctor may diagnose. 

Instead of trying to pinpoint the specific issue on your own, you should try to identify the general category of your ailment. To help you narrow it down take a look at the below list of categories and the most commonly diagnosed ailments that are associated with those categories. 

While your specific diagnosis may not be below, you should be able to identify one or two potential reasons for your pain:

Knee Injuries

  • Sprains & Strains
  • Torn Meniscus


  • Arthritis & Osteoarthritis
  • Cysts


  • Bursitis
  • Tendinitis


  • Genu Varum
  • Hyperextension


Broken Bones (Fractures)

  • Kneecap (Patella)
  • Femoral
  • Tibial
  • Tibial Plataue
  • Tibial Spine


  • Kneecap (Patella)
  • Tibiofemoral

Getting Treatment for What Causes Knee Pain

It is important not to try to diagnose the specific cause of your knee pain on your own. Any time you are concerned about your pain you should see an orthopedic knee specialist. 

If you are not sure if you should see a doctor there are specific warning signs that you should watch for. If you see any swelling or deformity in your knee, you are unable to fully straighten your leg, your knee can’t support you, and you have a fever associated with swelling and redness you should immediately call an orthopedic physician. 

Your doctor will diagnose your ailment and then devise a treatment plan for you. In mild cases, treatments can be performed at home. Only the most severe problems require a surgical solution, which is usually a last resort.

Tips for Preventing Knee Pain

As long as your pain was caused by an injury, there are things you can do to help prevent pain in the future.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

If you are overweight, shedding some of those pounds is one of the most beneficial things you can do to help your knees. Achieving an appropriate and healthy weight will reduce the wear and tear that your knees are subjected to on a daily basis.

Losing weight is hard, but you don’t have to go it alone. IBJI’s OrthoHealth specialists help patients get healthy with customized diet and exercise plans.

Strengthen Your Knees

It is also important to stretch your knees regularly to help strengthen them. There are specific exercises that help with your balance and stability, which also make the muscles stronger and will help keep your knee flexible. 

Be Careful When Exercising

Lastly, remember to always exercise in a way that prevents further injury. Swimming is a great option for a very low-impact way to work out your knee and your entire body. Before you start any new exercise program, be sure to check with your physician.

When accidents happen, the ER isn’t your only choice. If you hurt your knee, get seen faster by one of IBJI’s certified orthopedic specialists at a conveniently located OrthoAccess clinic.

Find Out What Causes Your Knee Pain with Help from IBJI

If you are experiencing knee pain that won’t go away, schedule online with one of our experienced knee doctors for an accurate diagnosis and customized treatment plan based on what will work best to alleviate your chronic knee pain

We offer a wide range of close-to-home and convenient knee treatments and service offerings and cutting-edge technologies that help people move better and live better. Illinois Bone & Joint Institute is one of the largest orthopedic group practices in Illinois. With more than 150 physicians and 100 locations throughout the greater Chicago area, we can help you get to the bottom of what causes your knee pain and help you start recovering and get back to normal.

Schedule online with a Knee Doctor →

Download the Ultimate Guide to Knee Pain Relief

*This content is for information only and is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice from your treating healthcare professionals. The content does not provide medical advice, does not constitute the practice of medicine or other healthcare professional services, and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. You should not rely on this information as a substitute, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have concerns or questions, seek the advice of your healthcare professionals. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Do not rely on electronic communications or communicate through this website for immediate, urgent medical needs. This website is not designed to facilitate medical emergencies. The use of the information is at the reader’s own risk. The links are provided for information and convenience only. We cannot accept responsibility for the sites linked or the information found here. A link does not imply an endorsement of a site.

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