Pain behind your knee, also known as posterior knee pain, is one of the most common types of knee discomfort people face on a regular basis. Posterior knee pain can affect athletes, runners, elderly individuals and anyone in between. Figuring out what’s causing the pain is key, because without a correct diagnosis, you’re not going to be able to get the best treatment. Below, we take a closer look at the causes and treatments of pain behind the knee.
Causes and Symptoms of Posterior Knee Pain
Pain behind the knee can be caused by a range of different issues, which again speaks to the importance of getting a correct diagnosis from a specialist. Some common causes include:
Popliteal Cyst – Inflammation of the bursae behind the knee can lead to the development of a fluid-filled cyst, which can cause pain.
Arthritis – Natural degeneration of the knee joint (osteoarthritis) can cause pain behind the knees, especially in the morning.
Meniscus Tear – Your menisci are pieces of cartilage that act as cushioning for your knee joint. Tearing them can lead to pain and a popping sensation in the knee.
Blood Clots – Pain and swelling behind the knee may be caused by blood clots, especially if you’re on bed rest or pretty inactive.
Trauma – Physical trauma to the knee can cause a knee sprain or ligament tear, both of which can lead to pain behind the knee.
Symptoms of posterior knee pain include:
A lump or bump behind the knee
Clicking or popping sound when walking
Sensation that the knee joint is locking.
Diagnosing and Treating Knee Pain
Diagnosing your knee pain begins with a visit to your orthopedic specialist. They’ll begin by asking about your symptoms, taking a look at your medical history and conducting a physical exam of the knee. They may have you perform some walking or bending tests to check certain ligaments or structures. However, because the knee is a complex joint, they may conduct some imaging tests to confirm their suspicions. Imaging tests may include X-rays, MRIs or an ultrasound. If a rarer condition is suspected, a blood test may be ordered.
Once a diagnosis has been made, a treatment plan can be ordered. In most instances where a ligament or menisci tear is not present, treatment will revolve around conservative care, which will include PRICE (protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation), over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, knee braces, stretching exercises, physical therapy and weight loss.
If conservative care techniques fail, more hands-on treatment may be required. Those treatments include corticosteroid injections or surgery to remove damaged cartilage or fix torn menisci. You surgeon can walk you through your specific surgical options based on your individual situation, but all of these procedures have very high success rates.