Pain in the knee may be due to a number of injuries or conditions. A fall, or a sudden violent twisting of the knee may result in a cartilage or ligament tear, or the joint may become painful through overuse, such as cycling in too large a gear or kneeling repetitively. Tendonitis is caused by repeatedly bounding and jumping, resulting in pain around the kneecap, with swelling, redness and heat. Treatment for an overuse injury usually follows the RICE principle of rest, ice, compression and elevation, but an acute injury will need medical assistance, pain relief and possibly surgery.
Teenagers can experience knee pain and swelling through a condition known as Osgood-Schlatter’s disease, which is caused by placing too much stress on the joint playing sports like rugby, football and athletics at a time when their skeletal frame is growing whilst the muscles around the knee joint, such as the quadriceps in the thigh, are insufficiently developed. Rest and anti-inflammatory medication will ease the condition.
Osteoarthritis may occur at any age following an acute injury, though it usually occurs in older people through wear and tear on the knee joint. The pain may suddenly worsen due to an inflammatory response, requiring rest and pain relief, but chronic knee pain can be relieved through gentle exercise such as swimming in warm water and cycling in low gears to prevent a worsening of pain through overuse. Osteoarthritis can trigger a painful swelling at the back of the knee, due to a fluid-filled popliteal cyst forming, known as bursitis.
Chronic knee pain needs careful management to control the symptoms. Too much activity can make the pain worse, whilst too little can result in a stiffening of the joint and a reduction in the range of movement, so a balance needs to be maintained.