Living with chronic knee pain can be frustration. Even more frustrating is not understanding why your experiencing the pain. Here we attempt to explain several different types of knee pain and what you can expect as far as healing time and treatment option. 

What Type of Knee Pain Do You Have?

Did you know that one in four people suffer from some type of knee pain, and knee pain is one of the most common complaints that doctors see today. When you think about it, this is not that surprising, just think about how much work your knees do for you all day. They support your entire body weight and help you walk around all day long. Your knees are one of the most used joints in your body. You bend lots of times each day and walk up and down stairs numerous times adding to everyday wear and tear. There are several causes of knee pain that can result in minor aches and pains to those that require surgery. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.

Osteoarthritis of the knee is one of the most common causes of knee pain in people with over 16 million people suffering from this condition worldwide. The majority of sufferers range from adult athletes to people in their fifties. These numbers are not surprising as arthritis is a condition resulting from wear and tear of your knee cartilage. Your cartilage is the lining surrounding the articular surface of the joint. As this becomes thinner the area becomes inflamed and irritated resulting in knee pain.


Runner’s knee is another common condition which can cause swelling, pain and stiffness. As this condition progresses, you may find everyday tasks like bending, squatting, going up and down stairs painful. The pain you will experience will be under and around your kneecap. This type of condition appears gradually and is not exclusive to people who run. In fact many office workers and sedentary people develop this condition as well. If you have Runner’s knee you will find that your knee becomes painful when you sit for long periods of time. This is because fluid from inflammation builds up in the joint while resting. 


Sprains/ Strains and Tears of the knee as a result of repetitive stress or twisting your leg in a strange position may result in pain/ strain of the surrounding ligaments and tendons. These can usually recover in about 4-6 weeks with proper rest and ice compression for the first 72-hrs. If the strain is bad enough, you may require physical rehab to reduce scar tissue development and re-strengthen the area. If your knee is locked in place and became stuck for a few seconds, this may indicate a meniscal tear or loose piece of cartilage in the knee and should be examined by a medical professional.

Any type of accident can cause a tear in your cartilage or your meniscus. You have two menisci in each knee joint. These structures are rubbery and sit just above your shin bone or tibia, one sits on the inside and the other on the outside, with the inside meniscus being the larger of the two. The purpose of these structures is to provide extra cushion for the knees and provide tracking during bending and movement.  Depending on where you tear your meniscus, it can sometimes be healed with proper rest, and by performing strength training exercises with appropriate care from your chiropractor. Be patient with these injuries as it can take several months for a meniscus tear to heal completely.  Knee pain that gets steadily worse over time, or doesn’t improve with therapy may require an MRI to determine any further issues. Sometimes surgery is required to repair a tear.

Some Common Knee Pain Symptoms May Include

  • Swelling
  • Painful clicking/ locking
  • Pain for more than 3 days
  • Weakness or instability
  • Redness or warm to the touch


So How to deal with knee pain?

First thing is to identify the cause of your knee pain. If it is something that has developed over time you may be dealing with either of the three conditions mentioned above.Weight Loss has proven to be an effective way to reduce strain on the knees. Studies show that every pound of excess weight exerts about 4 pounds of extra pressure on the knees. So a person who is 10 pounds overweight has 40 pounds of extra pressure on his/or her knees; if a person is 100 pounds overweight, that is 400 pounds of extra pressure on the knees.

Living with knee pain can be difficult, and if you have arthritis exercising regularly with light impact activity may help the condition. When your knee is sore and painful try elevating your knee and using an ice pack to help reduce any swelling.  Additionally, emerging research has shown that vibration therapy and far-infrared therapy on arthritic joints helps to reduce chronic pain and slow the progression of cartilage resorption in the joint. This may actually prove to be a promising type of new knee pain treatment.  If you get knee pain running or when walking then using a knee brace and switching to non-weight bearing activity such as bike riding or swimming can often be a good solution.

Often times the cause of knee pain isn’t directly from the knee at all.  Since the knee is surrounded by two very mobile joints (the ankle, and hip) it’s not uncommon to experience pain in the knees due to flat feet or high arches, or poor muscle control of the hips. This is something that should be considered if your knee pain has been examined and shows nothing wrong. Sometimes orthotics for the feet or targeted glute strengthening exercises can help.


When In Doubt Keep It Safe!!!

If you experience any type of knee pain or discomfort that suddenly appears and doesn’t get better, you should visit your medical doctor or chiropractor for appropriate medical advice.


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Dr. Iris Zhao
D.C., M.S.O.M., L.Ac.

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