Knee pain is a common ailment that affects people of all ages. While many immediately think of the kneecap or the joint itself when knee pain is mentioned, discomfort can also manifest behind the knee. This posterior knee pain can be attributed to a variety of reasons, and understanding its causes is crucial in seeking effective remedies. In this article, we will explore the potential causes of pain in the knee and provide insights into its management.
- 1 Should I Be Worried About Pain Behind Knee?
- 2 What Are The Causes Of Pain Behind Knee?
- 3 What Are Some Remedies To Help?
- 4 Conclusion
Should I Be Worried About Pain Behind Knee?
Experiencing pain behind the knee can be a source of concern given the vital functions the knee plays in daily movement and activity. The location and nature of the pain, along with any accompanying symptoms, can offer clues about its seriousness. For instance, if the pain is sharp, sudden, or accompanied by significant swelling, it might indicate a more urgent issue requiring immediate attention.
On the other hand, a dull, consistent ache that improves with rest might suggest a more benign issue. However, it’s important to note that regardless of the initial assessment, persistent or worsening pain should not be overlooked. Consulting a healthcare professional is essential in any case of continuous discomfort. As they can provide an accurate diagnosis and guide appropriate care.
What Are The Causes Of Pain Behind Knee?
Pain behind the knee, also known as posterior knee pain, can be attributed to a variety of causes. Here are some of the most common causes of pain behind the knee:
A Baker’s cyst, also known as a popliteal cyst, is a fluid-filled sac that forms at the back of the knee. It arises when excess synovial fluid, which is the fluid that lubricates our joints, accumulates in the knee joint. The build-up often occurs due to inflammation. And, commonly linked to conditions like osteoarthritis or injuries to the meniscus. As the cyst grows in size, it may cause a bulge behind the knee, coupled with discomfort or tightness, especially when extending or flexing the knee. In some instances, a Baker’s cyst can rupture, leading to sharp pain and swelling in the calf, mimicking the symptoms of a blood clot.
The hamstrings are a group of muscles located at the back of the thigh, responsible for bending the knee and extending the hip joint. Overuse or strain of these muscles, often seen in athletes or those engaged in repetitive activities, can lead to inflammation of the tendons (tendonitis). Hamstring tendonitis can result in pain at the back of the knee. This might intensify during activities like running, jumping, or even walking. The pain may be accompanied by swelling, tenderness, and a warm sensation in the affected area.
The calf is made up of two primary muscles: the gastrocnemius, which is closer to the surface, and the soleus, situated deeper. These muscles play an essential role in activities like walking, jumping, and running. A calf strain refers to an injury where these muscles are overstretched or torn. This strain can manifest as pain behind the knee since the gastrocnemius muscle spans the knee joint. Depending on the severity, individuals might also notice swelling, bruising, and difficulty in moving the affected leg.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
DVT is a condition where a blood clot forms in a deep vein, typically in the leg. When these clots form near the knee, they can lead to pain in the back of the knee. DVT is not just a localized issue; it can have systemic implications. If the blood clot breaks free, it can travel to the lungs. Eventually, causing a potentially life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism. Symptoms of DVT include pain, swelling, tenderness, and discoloration of the affected leg. The skin might also feel warm to the touch. Given its serious nature, any suspicion of DVT requires immediate medical attention.
Inside our knee joint, there are two C-shaped pieces of cartilage known as the menisci. They act as cushions between the thighbone and shinbone. A meniscus can tear due to sudden twisting motions or as a result of wear and tear over time. This tear can lead to pain in various parts of the knee, including the back. Other symptoms include swelling, stiffness, a feeling of the knee “giving way”, and limited motion. A characteristic clicking or locking sensation might also be felt with certain movements.
Arthritis refers to a group of conditions characterized by inflammation of one or more joints. The knee joint is commonly affected. Osteoarthritis is the most frequent type of arthritis impacting the knees. It arises due to the wear and tear of the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of bones. Over time, this degeneration can lead to bone rubbing against bone, causing pain, swelling, and reduced mobility. While arthritis pain is often felt at the front or side of the knee, it can also manifest in the back, especially if there is associated inflammation or if ligaments and muscles are affected.
Popliteal artery entrapment
The popliteal artery is a vital blood vessel that supplies the lower leg. It runs through the back of the knee, in a region known as the popliteal fossa. In some individuals, due to variations in anatomy or muscle enlargement, the popliteal artery can become compressed, particularly during exercise. This condition is known as popliteal artery entrapment syndrome (PAES). It can cause pain, aching, or cramping at the back of the knee, especially during activities. If left untreated, it might lead to reduced blood flow to the leg, potentially causing damage to the tissues.
The gastrocnemius is one of the primary muscles of the calf, attaching above the knee and spanning the knee joint. Tendonitis refers to the inflammation of a tendon, and in the case of the gastrocnemius, it involves the inflammation of its attaching tendons. Overuse, rapid acceleration activities, or sudden changes in physical activity can trigger gastrocnemius tendonitis. The condition leads to pain in the back of the knee. That may be accompanied by swelling, warmth, and tenderness. This pain can exacerbate during activities like running or jumping.
Often termed “runner’s knee”, chondromalacia patella involves the softening and breakdown of the cartilage on the underside of the patella (kneecap). This deterioration can cause the patella to rub against the thigh bone, leading to discomfort. While the primary pain location is usually at the front of the knee, some individuals may experience referred pain at the back. Symptoms include a grinding sensation when moving the knee, stiffness, and pain that intensifies with activities like squatting, climbing stairs, or prolonged sitting.
The knee joint is supported by various ligaments that stabilize it. These include the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments (ACL and PCL) and the medial and lateral collateral ligaments (MCL and LCL). Injuries to these ligaments, such as sprains or tears, can result from sudden twists, direct blows, or rapid changes in direction. Depending on which ligament is injured and the severity of the damage, pain can be felt in different areas of the knee, including the back. Accompanying symptoms often include swelling, instability in the knee, a popping sensation, and limited range of motion.
It’s important to understand that the specific cause and appropriate treatment can vary significantly from person to person. If you’re experiencing pain in the knee, it’s essential to see a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
What Are Some Remedies To Help?
If you’re experiencing pain in the knee, here are some general remedies to consider. Remember, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional to get an accurate diagnosis. And to ensure that these remedies are suitable for your specific condition:
Giving the affected leg a break from strenuous activity can help alleviate pain and prevent further injury.
Applying a cold pack to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time can help reduce swelling and provide pain relief. Always use a cloth or towel between the ice and your skin to prevent frostbite.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
Non-prescription medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce pain and inflammation. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any medication. And ensure it doesn’t interfere with any other drugs you might be taking.
- Stretching and strengthening exercises
Once the acute pain has subsided, gentle exercises can help strengthen the muscles around the knee, providing better support and reducing the risk of future injuries. Physical therapy can offer guidance on specific exercises tailored to your needs.
- Maintain a healthy weight
Extra weight puts additional stress on the knee joint. Maintaining a healthy weight can help alleviate this pressure and reduce the risk of further issues.
- Wearing appropriate footwear
Supportive shoes that fit well can help in proper weight distribution and reduce strain on the knee.
Gentle massage can help relax tightened muscles and improve circulation. If opting for professional massage therapy, ensure the therapist is aware of your knee pain.
- Avoid prolonged sitting or standing
Changing positions regularly and taking short breaks can help reduce strain on the knee. Especially if your pain is due to overuse or strain.
While these remedies can offer relief, it’s crucial to address the root cause of pain behind the knee. If pain persists or is severe, or if there are other concerning symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention.
Causes of pain behind the knee can arise from minor injuries to more serious medical conditions. While there are several at-home remedies to provide relief, it’s crucial to approach any persistent or worsening pain with a sense of vigilance. Consulting a healthcare professional ensures an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment, allowing individuals to return to their daily activities with confidence and comfort.
Prioritizing knee health through preventative measures and timely interventions can pave the way for long-term mobility and well-being. If you’re experiencing Knee pain, physical therapy for knee pain at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.