What’s wrong with my knee?

Knee pain can have many different causes, whether it’s following an injury or from general wear and tear. To help shed light on potential causes of knee pain, we explain the most frequent types and how to treat them.

Joint pain of any kind can cause considerable discomfort. However, knee pain in particular can have a significant impact on your day-to-day life and ability to exercise. Depending on the type of injury, surgery may be necessary. As there are many different causes of knee pain, it’s important to first identify the reason for your discomfort before you can resolve it.

Knee pain following an injury

Knee pain 

Charles Willis-Owen, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and specialist in knee pain and treatment, explains: “Knee pain resulting from an injury is often caused by a torn cartilage (also called meniscus). If this is the case, you will need to see a knee specialist who will probably request a scan to find out more information (commonly an MRI scan.)”

The good news is that, according to Mr Willis-Owen, torn cartilage can nearly always be treated. Sometimes physiotherapy is enough to remedy the injury, but other times a very small keyhole operation is needed.

Mr Charles Antony Willis-Owen is a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at BMI The Harbour Hospital. He read medicine at Oxford University; as well as physiological sciences and gained qualifications in sports psychology during this time. He then qualified in both orthopaedic surgery (FRCS) and sports medicine (MFSEM), making him in an excellent position to offer highly specialist surgical treatment for sports injuries.

He also worked in Sportsmed SA in Australia - a highly successful private clinic for treating Australia’s elite athletes. He is a keen triathlete, cyclist and a high level marathon runner. His areas of expertise include; ACL reconstruction, arthroscopy/knee hole knee surgery, shockwave and avoiding surgery in sports people.

Injury pain at the back of the knee

After an injury, pain at the back of the knee could mean a few different things. Willis-Owen explains that any swelling should be checked by a healthcare professional as it could signal torn cartilage or damage to the muscles at the back of the knee. If there is no swelling, it may be a minor muscle sprain, which should settle in a couple of weeks. However, if the pain doesn’t subside you should make sure to get it checked.

Injury pain at the front of the knee

Pain at the front of the knee is very common. This type of pain could relate to an injury of the kneecap itself; either the kneecap tendon or even a very sensitive area of fat behind it. Physiotherapy can often help with this type of injury, but it’s wise to first get a firm diagnosis from a specialist.

Knee pain for no reason 

Many people suffer from knee pain with no obvious reason. This is often down to wear and tear caused by aging. However, it can also be from overuse of the knee or from failing to recover sufficiently from an injury.

If you think your pain is a result of overdoing things, then take two weeks of full rest to allow your knee to recover. However, if there is a creeping pain in your knee and you haven’t overexerted yourself or done anything differently, it’s best to see your GP. They may suggest having an X-ray to check if the joint is worn out.


Knee clicking

According to Mr Willis-Owen, knee clicking is caused by one of two things; either the kneecap joint or a damaged cartilage. If the clicking isn’t painful then it isn’t usually a cause for concern. This is fairly common and won’t usually require treatment. However, if the clicking is accompanied by pain, you should see a specialist who can investigate your knee further with a thorough examination.

Knee giving way

If your knee gives way, the first thing to establish is whether it's been caused by an injury or whether it began by itself. If your knee keeps giving way after an injury you’ll need to get it examined as you may have torn a major ligament like the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Mr Willis-Owen explains that if your knee gives way but isn’t from an injury, the cause is often due to kneecap problems. A good physiotherapist should be able to solve most issues.

If you're dealing with knee pain of any sort, there is no substitute for a one-on-one assessment with a specialist. You can get in touch with a physiotherapist who typically use a combination of manual therapy and exercise to treat injuries. This will allow you to receive a detailed examination and discuss the best course of treatment. 

Or you can contact one of our Sports Injuries Clinics where a specialist can suggest appropriate techniques to help get you back to fitness as soon as possible.

To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337 or
make an online enquiry.

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