The knee joint is one of the largest and most important joints in the body. Together the femur, tibia, fibula and patella carry your weight if you are walking, running or jumping. Certain movements are both stabilised and limited by the ligaments around this joint. Sports injuries to your ligaments, cartilage and tendons are common because your knee supports the full weight of your body. Being overweight can also contribute to knee pain as the excess weight loads extra pressure on your knee joints.

What can cause knee pain?

Our knee pain symptom checker can help you understand what’s wrong with your knee. Our orthopaedic experts can diagnose and treat your knee in a hospital near you.

Common knee injuries

ACL (Anterior cruciate ligament) injury
This injury is common and can be quite serious. A ruptured ACL will make the knee unstable and its full range of movement will become limited. This injury is commonly sustained through sports that require sudden changes of direction, such as rugby or football.

LCL (Lateral collateral ligament) injury
The LCL is located on the outside of the knee and its purpose is to limit side-to-side movement. However, the ligament can tear if it is twisted or if you are hit on the knee.

Runner's knee
This is where pain can be felt beneath or near the kneecap, often when the knee is being bent. Walking up or down the stairs typically worsens the pain.

Long-distance runners can – unsurprisingly, given the injury’s name – be particularly prone to runner’s knee, as it is often caused by overuse. However, other athletes such as weightlifters are not wholly immune to symptoms. The injury can also result if the knee takes a direct physical hit.

Iliotibial Band (ITB) syndrome
The ITB is a very strong piece of connective tissue that runs from the outside of the pelvis to the outside of the tibia below the knee. ITB Syndrome is inflammation resulting from the band rubbing against the lateral femoral condyle of the knee joint.

Should you suddenly increase your knee’s activity, like what might happen if you recently extended your mileage or headed into a sprint without jogging first, there’s a risk of ITB syndrome. Other possible causes of this injury include running up or down hills or on stairs repeatedly, and general overuse of the knee.

Jumper's Knee
Excessive jumping – like with basketball, volleyball and similar sports – can produce unsurprisingly-named jumper’s knee.

To begin with, you might experience only what is known as the first grade of jumper’s knee. With this grade, you would feel pain only in the immediate aftermath of training or working out. Still, jumper’s knee can worsen and, potentially, eventually reach the fourth grade, where pain would be felt during everyday activities.

Ligament sprains and tears
If you often play sports like football, soccer, basketball and lacrosse, which require prompt lateral motions, you should watch out for sprained or torn ligaments. While various knee injuries take time to emerge, these ligament issues tend to happen suddenly.

Usually, making a sharp and jarring motion – like when getting hit or landing awkwardly – is what causes one of these issues. Also, there will typically be a loud and distinctive “snap” or “pop” at the time of injury. The knee can later swell and produce pain when weight is placed on the leg. A knee sprain can be an over-stretched but non-torn ligament, a slight or partial tear, or a complete rupture.

Meniscal injury
Between the bones in your knee sit shock-absorbing pads of tissue called menisci. These pads, found on the inside and outside edges of your knee, can become worn with age or torn after sudden movement. Meniscal injury is one of the most common causes of knee pain for middle-aged people.

Inflammation of a bursa is known as Bursitis. The bursa is a fluid-filled sac that cushions the bones and tendons or muscles around a joint. When it becomes inflamed it can become tender through repetitive movement. People who are likely to be at more risk of developing bursitis of the knee are those with vocations that require a lot of time kneeling.

Treatment for knee pain

We can often diagnose problems with an MRI scan, but we may still need to perform surgery to treat the problem.

During an arthroscopy, we look inside your knee using a small telescope with a light attached to a camera. This technique works with any joint in the body, although it is most commonly used with knees. Knee problems can happen at any age, and arthroscopy is a safe and effective way to identify them and treat your knee.