How to Handle Knee Pain: Signs, Symptoms, Potential Causes, & What to Do

James Fowler Physical TherapyLegs & Knees, Pain & Pain ManagementLeave a Comment

Moving through daily life performing necessary activities and navigating through obstacles you encounter requires varying levels of exertion from your body, especially your joints. Medically, a joint is defined as the site of the junction or union of two or more bones of the body. It provides motion and flexibility to the frame of the body.

One of the joints that withstands the toils of daily walking, running, standing or sitting, is the knee joint. Knee injury, (fracture, dislocation, sprain or ligament tear), is one of the most common reasons people see their doctors according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

In this article, we’re going to discuss symptoms and causes associated with knee pain. Learn how we treat knee pain here.

The knee contains four main parts/elements: bones (thighbone, shinbone, and kneecap/patella), cartilage (articular and meniscal), ligaments (collateral and cruciate), and tendons.

Each of these components protects or helps the knee perform the flexion or extension of the lower leg as needed, and each of these components is also vulnerable to injury through repetitive exercise, daily movements, falls or unique characteristics of the individual body such as tightness or flexibility in the surrounding larger muscles.

Knee Pain: Symptoms & Causes

Whether you are a dedicated athlete, a weekend warrior or committed to walking 20 minutes a day, it is important to listen to your body when you have aches, swelling and pain. This is especially true if any of these symptoms persist and/or if movement becomes difficult.


Anterior View of Right Knee

( 2003-2017

  • Stiffness in the knee
  • Chronic swelling when the knee is touched
  • Stiffness in the knee in reaction to the time of day or activity level which signals osteoarthritis.
  • Constant ache
  • Sharp, shooting pain when in use during the day
  • Dull burning discomfort


  • These are a few causes of knee pain:
  • Hip instability: weakness in addition to lack of connection to the Gluteus.
  • Inflammation: from repeated overuse or injury of the knee.
  • Chondromalacia Patella: damaged cartilage under the kneecap.
  • Gout: arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid
  • Arthritis and Bursitis
  • Dislocation/Instability
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Ligament Tear
  • Meniscal or Cartilage Tear

Care for the Knee

Exercises for improving joint mechanics can be done at home. It is good to speak with someone, (trainer/instructor), who can offer guidance for safety before beginning. Joint motion is dependent upon a balance between muscle length and strength. Foam rolling and ball releasing can help produce this balance allowing the muscles to work together more efficiently. As you perform these exercises, deep, full breaths and muscle relaxation allows the muscle to have greater oxygen exchange and normalizes the nerve conductivity to the muscle, restoring a more normal muscle tension.

Along with release work, you can move to a collaborative restorative program in Physical Therapy. It is in PT, where you can learn about your body. A therapist will reveal your body’s strengths and weaknesses, and he/she will provide you with information to help you work with them and not in spite of them.

After an initial assessment, therapists design appropriate recovery or prevention exercise programs for your specific knee pain/injury. With the individual exercise list created, therapists may strengthen the smaller parts and muscles of the body such as those overruled in the knee when the larger muscles like the Quadriceps take over. In addition, manual physical work, massage therapy-as done by a therapist-relieves tension which is undiscovered until touch or pressure is applied.

With physical therapy you become more knowledgeable of your knee movement, and this allows you to walk, run, stand and sit fluidly without pain.


  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons ( 1995-2017
  • Healthline (
  • James Fowler Physical Therapy: Karen Wong (DPT) and Christina Ramirez (PT, DPT, CKTP) 2016-2017

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