One of my good friends has always enjoyed a long, leisurely jog every morning before work. Very recently, however, she told me she had to cut down on her running regimen due to an “aching pain” she began to experience toward the back of her right knee.
“Everything from jogging to crossing my legs can cause pain in the back of my knee,” she admitted. She’s not alone.
Approximately 10 million Americans suffer from knee pain, with pain behind the knee being the leading cause of disability for the middle aged and elderly populations.
Causes of Pain Behind the Knee
Occasional knee pain is common for people of all age groups, but a chronic pain behind the knee is typically caused by either overusing or placing too much stress on the knee joints. The main causes of pain behind the knee joints include:1. Ligament injury: Athletes or individuals who attend the gym on a regular basis often develop pain behind the knee joints due to ligament tears. The MCL (medical collateral ligament), ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), and PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) are the most common ligaments that tear when the knee is injured. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment may include surgery or rehabilitation.2. Patellar tendonitis: If the patellar tendon—the tendon that starts at the lower portion of the kneecap and ends just below the knee—becomes inflamed or is not treated properly, it can lead to patellar tendonitis. This is common for athletes who don’t stretch or warm up before exercising.3. Meniscal tear: This is also known as knee cartilage injury—a meniscal tear is usually a result of a sports injury, which can often lead to pain behind the knee joint.
4. Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can cause pain being the knee joints; it typically results in pain, tenderness, and limitation of movement due to wear and tear of the connective tissue.
5. Baker’s cyst: This cyst or swelling is caused by excessive pressure at the back of the knee joint; it can lead to the accumulation of fluid behind the knees.
6. Being overweight: The tissues in the knees are forced to adapt as the weight of an individual changes; however, sometimes the tissue has difficulty adapting to an increase in weight. This can lead to deteriorating changes in the connective tissues of the knee joints, resulting in pain behind the knees.
Complications of Pain Behind the Knee
If left untreated, moderate to severe pain behind the knee can affect your everyday activities:
- You might have difficulty moving around, as pain behind the knees can cause limited mobility and stiffness
- Skin discoloration around the knee
- Tenderness or extreme soreness of the skin surrounding the knee—this may even spread to the entire lower limb
- Pain and swelling
Natural Treatments for Pain Behind the Knee
1. Knee brace: A knee brace stabilizes the knee so you can continue with your day-to-day activities. The brace reduces the stress and strain on the knee.
2. Stretching exercises: Your joints need constant blood flow in order to properly heal—I recommend doing low-impact stretching exercises on a daily basis. You may find it useful to consult a fitness professional to avoid overexertion or injury.
3. Special shoes: The wrong choice of footwear can place enormous pressure on the knee joints—this can lead to deterioration in the connective tissues in the lower limbs. I recommend wearing comfortable footwear, especially if you’ll be on your feet for most of the day.
4. Lose weight: If you are overweight or obese, you are putting more pressure on your joints and limbs, especially if you experience drastic weight gain. Try to incorporate a healthy diet full of whole grains, fruits, and veggies to help manage your weight.
If you experience moderate to severe knee pain, it’s best to seek consultation from your doctor as soon as possible to make sure the problem isn’t critical.
“Pain Behind Knee,” Med-Health.net; http://www.med-health.net/Pain-Behind-Knee.html, last accessed May 27, 2015.
“Pain Behind the Knee,” Knee-Pain-Explained.com; http://www.knee-pain-explained.com/pain-behind-the-knee.html, last accessed May 27, 2015.