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Knee Pain: Why Does It Happen and How Can You Improve It?

Updated: Mar 1, 2022

Knee pain can manifest itself through a wide variety of symptoms. You need to inform the doctor as accurately as possible so that he can make the correct diagnosis and recommend appropriate therapy. Since the knee joint has a very complex structure, various structures such as ligaments, muscles, cartilage, bones cause pain. Therefore, it is important to accurately describe the type, location, time course, and situation in which the knee pain occurs (for example, in the morning after waking up). If your knee is red, overheated, swollen, unstable, or you hear popping or grinding noises, you should see a doctor right away. Even if you can no longer put weight on your knee due to severe pain, a specialist should examine your knee joint.

Why is the knee joint so prone to pain?

The knee joint is one of the most injury-prone joints in the human body due to its complicated structure and high mobility. A finely tuned apparatus of ligaments, tendons, and muscles stabilize the knee. Three bony articular structures make up the knee joint: the femur (thigh), the tibia (lower leg), and the patella. The leverage of the patella is very important in transferring force from the thigh muscles to the joint.

Understanding the anatomy of the knee joint is essential to understanding knee pain: The knee joint relies on the functions of the external ligament, the internal ligament, and the two cruciate ligaments that run within the knee. Furthermore, the structure as a whole depends on the strong muscles in which it is embedded. This complex interaction of bones, ligaments, and muscles can cause different types of knee pain.

What can cause knee pain?

Injuries are often the cause of stabbing knee pain, which is accompanied by swelling of the knee joint. Knee osteoarthritis or rheumatic diseases of the knee joint cause inflammatory changes or wear.

The causes of knee pain are extremely diverse:

  • Sports injuries or accidents

  • Incorrect and overloaded

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Inflammation (arthritis)

  • Bursitis

  • Autoimmune diseases

  • Metabolic disorders

What are the most common risk factors for developing knee pain?

Knee pain can occur for many reasons. But some circumstances make the joint more vulnerable, thus increasing the probability of injury. Specific risk factors for knee pain are also discussed.

Being overweight or overloading the knee joint

Excess weight puts pressure on your joints with every step. On average, overweight people experience knee pain or osteoarthritis many years earlier than people of normal weight. The added weight puts much more pressure on the joint cartilage. In addition, there is stress on the knee joint from pro-inflammatory metabolic products (adipokines), which occurs more often in overweight people.

Poor muscle condition or muscle pain

The cause of knee pain very often lies in the function of the muscles and tendons that guide the joint. Stiffened muscles and poor flexibility cannot guide the knee joint well. Chronic pain in muscles that are often already hardened and have little vitality is the origin of knee pain in many cases.

High-impact contact sports put pressure on the knee joint

Sports with a lot of starting and stopping movements, sprints, or impacts put special pressure on the knee joint. This includes almost all ball sports (football in particular), but also tennis, badminton, or squash. Skiing also puts a lot of stress on all the structures in the knee joint due to repeated impacts.

Jogging and other endurance sports

Endurance sports place special demands on the knee joint. The forces involved in jogging are not as great as in contact sports, however, the changes in direction put a lot of pressure on the knee, because the tendons, cartilage, and muscles around the knee joint are put under strain. tension repeatedly, in the same way, that is, monotonously, for many hours. This places particularly high demands on the tendon insertions, the tendon sheaths (tissue that surrounds the tendons), and the bursa in the knee joint, which is responsible for tissue mobility. Previous injuries or changes in the axis of the leg in the knee joint (bowed leg or bowed knee) also aggravate these symptoms.

Knee pain symptoms

Knee pain can manifest itself in many different ways as it can be triggered by different causes. In determining the cause of knee pain, it is always helpful if you can identify and name as many of these symptoms as possible. This will help the doctor make a diagnosis and find the right treatment for you.

  • Throbbing pain

  • inflammation

  • Redness of the knee

  • Increased temperature in the knee area

  • Crunch to mobilization

  • Pain on exertion

How to prevent knee pain?

Creates a balance when sitting permanently

Bent legs are torture for the knee joint. The thigh muscles shorten and there is permanent tension in the knee. Therefore, stretch your legs under the desk. Also, get up from time to time and walk around the room a bit.

Practice sports that relieve the knees and strengthen the muscles of the thighs

Regular and proper exercise for the knees is much more helpful. It improves the supply of nutrients in the cartilage, keeps the joints flexible, and strengthens the muscles. Strong muscles contribute significantly to relieving the knee joint. Even with cartilage that is already damaged, moderate exercise can help stop the wear and tear.

Cycling, these sports are ideal for sore knees. Above all, movements in the water are excellent for strengthening muscles and relieving joints. Specific knee exercises are particularly effective at strengthening the adductors (muscles on the inner side of the leg) and the quadriceps muscle (the extensor muscle of the thigh leading to the patella). People with knee problems, on the other hand, should avoid jogging.

Wear flat shoes

Women like to wear heels. It looks good, but it puts a lot of stress on the knees. It's like tiptoeing all the time. Wear flat shoes, if possible, with an insole, they are the healthiest option. In the case of malposition in the foot or leg area, an insole can prevent the foot from tilting inward and exerting a large load on the knee joint.

Watch your weight

Obesity is poison for the joints. Every extra pound puts pressure on the knee and accelerates wear. For the sake of your joints, focus on a healthy diet and regular exercise.

When should you immediately go to the doctor?

You don't always have to go to a doctor right away if you have knee pain. The symptoms usually go away on their own after a few days with a little rest, however, you should see a doctor if you have the following symptoms:

  • Redness and heating of the knee joint.

  • Acute inflammation of the knee joint or the soft tissue that covers the knee.

  • Weakness, sudden loss of strength and instability, and coordination problems.

  • Painful cracking in the knee joint.

  • The knee hurts so much that it cannot bear weight, gives way immediately under load, or can no longer move.

  • The knee loses its external shape.

  • Knee pain is accompanied by fever

Knee Restoration: Effective treatment by conservative methods

The knee often simply needs a little rest for a while, for example in the case of an uncomplicated ligament rupture. Physical therapy (previously: physical therapy) helps strengthen muscles. Conservative measures also include physical therapy as part of physical therapy, the provision of aids such as orthosis or bandages, shoe adjustments, crutches, or canes, and, if necessary, pain management with medication.


Exercise therapy (physical therapy) is the most important conservative strategy for putting a diseased joint back into a long-term fit. If you remain inactive for a long period, the muscles responsible for atrophy and the blood supply to the joint are reduced. Also, they become or remain unstable, the swelling and pain do not subside. Osteoarthritis, for example, can get worse.

Physiotherapy includes applications such as electrotherapy, cold, and heat, physiotherapy in the broadest sense also includes manual therapy or cryotherapy


Alternating and direct current, short waves and microwaves, as well as ultrasound is used. All of these procedures are aimed at improving blood circulation and metabolism in the diseased area, reducing inflammation, loosening tight and stiff muscles, and relieving irritated tendons and ligaments.


Sometimes the physiotherapist only allows passive movement at first, then active movement protected by an orthosis, first with partial weight-bearing and then with full weight-bearing.

Orthoses are prescribed for temporary total or partial immobilization. Application areas include ligament, meniscus, and patella injuries and training after surviving ligament injury or knee surgery for other reasons.

Cell-biological regulation therapy against knee pain

Knee pain is often caused by an unfavorable metabolic situation and the shortening and tightening of the surrounding soft tissues: muscles, tendons, and fasciae. Biomechanical stimulation (cellular matrix therapy) can treat this pain from the root cause.

In many cases of muscle stiffness and painful tension, it is not possible to treat knee pain with physical therapy by strengthening muscles and improving coordination. The trainability of the tissue is often not provided. Therefore, cell biological regulation therapy is a necessary therapy phase before strengthening physiotherapy can have an effective effect.

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