Pain Behind Knee: Causes And Treatment

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Are you wondering why you feel pain behind your knee? Read on to understand the causes of the pain and how you can treat it.

In this article:

  1. What Is Pain Behind the Knee?
  2. Why Does Pain Behind the Knee Occur?
  3. Who Is at Risk of Pain Behind Knee?
  4. When Do You Need to See a Doctor?
  5. How Do You Treat Pain Behind the Knee?
  6. Where Does Untreated Pain Behind the Knee Lead to?
  7. What Should Sports Enthusiasts Remember to Avoid the Risk of Pain Behind the Knee?

Pain Behind the Knee | What to Know and How to Treat it


What Is Pain Behind the Knee?

As its name implies, pain behind the knee is when you are feeling an ache behind your knee cap or in the joint. It can be because the area is swollen or stiff.

You may only feel mild symptoms at the start, but ignoring it may affect your knee movement later on.

Why Does Pain Behind the Knee Occur?

There are several reasons why your knees hurt, and these could be any of the following:

  • Hamstring Tendonitis

This condition is characterized by sudden pain or stiffness behind the knee at the start of a physical activity which, then, subsides later on. Hamstring tendonitis usually occurs when you run longer distances or participate in marathons and do not get the right hip flexion from improper technique or fatigue.

When this happens, your hamstring gets exhausted and is not able to move the foot forward in the same motion and speed. The results in pain in the back of the knee.

  • Baker’s Cyst

Too much running can also lead to Baker’s cyst. This is when you bend and straighten your knee in a repetitive motion. The result is swelling and aching on the body part.

The cause of Baker’s Cyst is a lack of variation in distance or speed when running that can lead to excessive rubbing of cartilage in and around the knee. The rubbing irritates the posterior surface and soft tissues of your knee cap which causes the pain.

  • Torn Meniscus

Your meniscus is horseshoe-like cartilage located between your upper and lower leg bones. A tear, long term wear, or a sudden twisting or fall of your knee can result in this condition.

Your cartilage supports your knee and makes it steady, and aging and or injury can wear it down, leading to swelling. A mild tear of your meniscus may get better in less than a month, but a moderate tear is what causes the pain.

  • Gastrocnemius Tendonitis

The gastrocnemius is a part of the calf muscle that attaches above your knee joint and crosses behind your knee. In this condition, the gastroc tendons become strained when the knee is extended with the toe pointing upward. The movement pulls the tendons resulting in muscle extension that can cause pain behind the knee.

Gastroc Tendons Definition: tendons of the gastrocnemius muscle that combine with the soleus tendons to form the Achilles tendon

Who Is at Risk of Pain Behind Knee?

Athletes like runners and cyclists have a high risk of developing pain behind the knee.

Professional runners who do long-distance running should be extra careful and should warm up in a way that won’t strain the muscles in and around their knees. They can do ankle rotation, calf raises, walking lunges, or hip flexor and glute-activating swing.

RELATED: Push Your Body. Don’t Punish It.

When Do You Need to See a Doctor?

doctor checking patients knee | Pain Behind Knee: Causes and Treatment | knees hurt

You need to see your physician if:

  • pain does not go away or becomes chronic
  • there are tenderness and inflammation in the area
  • pain limits your movement
  • pain affects your daily activities

Your physician may perform a physical examination on your knee or run some tests to determine the right treatment.

How Do You Treat Pain Behind the Knee?

Knee pain treatment may vary depending on the cause. You can do the following therapies to help relieve the symptoms based on the advice of your physician:

  • Clam Opener Move

You can do the “clam opener move” to reduce symptoms of hamstring tendonitis. Just lie on your back and bend your knees.

Wrap your knee with a resistance band and start opening your legs by pushing against the band.

Do this activity for 25 reps and three sets each day until you feel better.

You may also be advised to do quad sets to strengthen your knee joints and hip strengthening exercises, like clam openers, for full-leg support.

  • A Special Massage from a Therapist

For Baker’s cyst, you may need professional help from a physical therapist for a special kind of massage to treat the injury. The massage may relieve the pain, but Baker’s cyst can reoccur if you have a meniscus tear or arthritis.

  • Home Remedies

You can perform a home remedy for this condition, such as rest and icing the affected area.

When applying ice, wrap the ice bag with a towel before placing it on your skin. Do this two or three times a day.

  • Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE) Treatment

You can follow the RICE treatment to lessen swelling behind the knee. If you are outside, you can wear a calf sleeve to give your leg compression support.

Other medical treatments for pain behind the knee may include the following:

  • gait analysis for hamstring tendonitis
  • getting an injection or drawing fluid from the affected area for baker’s cyst
  • surgery for a torn meniscus

Where Does Untreated Pain Behind the Knee Lead to?

Just like any form of injury or health condition, regardless of the cause, untreated pain behind the knee can lead to great discomfort, limited movement, and a negative impact on your daily routine.

Complications also arise when you don’t treat pain behind the knee. If the cause of the pain is a torn meniscus, it can lead to having weak bones that may develop to arthritis over time.

What Should Sports Enthusiasts Remember to Avoid the Risk of Pain Behind the Knee?

If you are active in sports that can put you at high risk of developing pain behind the knee, make sure you don’t exhaust your knee too much. The more strategies and practices you know and follow that can help you stay fit and active without putting too much pressure on your knee, the better.


Check out this video from Imaginación to learn more about what causes pain behind the knee:

Knowing the causes of pain behind the knee allows you to better understand the condition so you know how to deal with it. Don’t force exercises or sudden or stressful movements to test the level of affectation. Seek immediate advice from a health professional.

Have you had pain behind the knee? How did you handle the condition? Share your experiences in the comments section.

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