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Why Knee Pain Can Signal Other Health Problems

While most seek medical care right away for a serious injury causing knee pain, we tend to take far longer to address lingering pain or irritation.

Knee pain can become a challenging cycle: It keeps you from moving and exercising, and that immobility can worsen the problem that caused your pain in the first place.

If your knee’s been aching, slipping, swelling or feeling stiff for a while, it’s time to see your doctor.

Medical Conditions That Cause Knee Pain

Like other joints, knees are complex. They’re composed of bone, ligaments, tendons, cartilage and muscles, so a range of issues can affect your knees and cause different degrees of pain.

Medical conditions that cause knee pain can affect kids and adults. Here are some of the most common ones.


Arthritis is a major reason for knee pain. Two types of arthritis affect the knee joint most frequently:

  • Osteoarthritis, which is the most common type of arthritis, happens when the cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones wears away. Without intact cartilage, bones rub against each other, causing pain and stiffness.

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis, also known as “RA,” is a chronic inflammatory condition that develops when your immune system attacks a membrane that lines and lubricates joints. RA causes your joints to become swollen, unstable, painful and stiff.


Gout occurs when excess uric acid — a bodily waste product circulating in the bloodstream — deposits as crystals in your tissues and joints. Symptoms are sharp, sudden pain.


Infection, caused by bacteria, can start in one part of your body and spread to the bone through the bloodstream

Osgood-Schlatter Disease

Osgood-Schlatter disease develops most often during adolescence when growth spurts rapidly change muscles, tendons and other knee structures. Kids will feel pain below the kneecap because tendons that connect the knee to the shinbone become inflamed.

Physical activity puts more strain on the knee, so those who participate in sports with running and jumping are more at risk.

Weight Problems

Excess weight puts more stress on your knee joints and is a risk factor for arthritis.

Gait Issues

Gait issues, often caused by hip or foot problems, can affect your knees.

Overuse Injuries That Affect Knees

While exercising offers loads of health benefits, sometimes it leads to overuse injuries in your knees, which include the following conditions.


Bursitis usually happens when you experience a blow to your knee or a traumatic fall, causing the bursa — the fluid-filled sac between your muscles — to swell and become irritated.

Iliotibial Band (ITB)Syndrome

Iliotibial band syndrome causes the band that runs along the outside of your legs from your hips to your knees, to rub against the bone and become inflamed or tight. Certain sports where your knees often bend, such as cycling, running, hiking or walking long distances, are more likely to cause IT band problems.

Meniscus tears

Meniscus tears are typically obvious right away with very noticeable — and painful — symptoms, such as a knee that slips, locks or feels extremely stiff.


Tendon inflammation is known as “tendinitis” and is most often caused by sports that require a lot of jumping, like basketball. Your knee will feel tender and painful to the touch when running, walking or jumping if you have tendinitis.

In general, any activity or sport that exposes the knee to a lot of pounding and pivoting can cause knee pain or injury. Strengthening muscles surround the knee and working on flexibility can prevent some knee injuries and conditions.

If you’re living with knee pain, stop limping and start living. Call 770-214-CARE for a referral to a local orthopedic specialist.

Orthopedic and Spine Care

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