Chronic Knee Pain

What is chronic knee pain?

Chronic knee pain is long-term pain, swelling, or sensitivity in one or both knees. The cause of your knee pain can determine the exact signs and symptoms you may experience. Many conditions can cause or contribute to chronic knee pain, and many treatments exist. Each person’s experience with chronic knee pain will be different.

What are the causes?

Temporary knee pain is different from chronic knee pain; many people may experience temporary knee pain as a result of an injury or accident. Chronic knee pain rarely goes away without treatment, and it isn’t always attributable to one incident. It’s most often the result of several causes or conditions.

Physical conditions or diseases that can cause knee pain:

  • Osteoarthritis: pain, inflammation, and joint destruction caused by degeneration and deterioration of the joint.
  • Tendinitis: pain in the front of the knee that is made worse when climbing, taking stairs, or walking up an incline.
  • Bursitis: inflammation caused by the repeated overuse or injury of the knee.
  • Chondromalacia patella: damaged cartilage under the kneecap.
  • Gout: arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid.
  • Baker’s cyst: a buildup of synovial fluid (fluid that lubricates the joint) behind the knee.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: a chronic autoimmune inflammatory disorder that causes painful swelling and can eventually cause joint deformity and bone erosion.
  • Dislocation: dislocation of the kneecap most often the result of trauma.
  • Meniscus tear: a rupture in one or more of the cartilage in the knee.
  • Torn ligament: tear in one of the four ligaments in the knee. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the most commonly injured ligament.
  • Bone tumors: the second most prevalent bone cancer is osteosarcoma and most commonly occurs in the knee.

Factors that may make chronic knee pain worse:

  • Injuries to the structure of the knee can cause bleeding and swelling, and over time, if the injury is not treated properly, it can create a chronic problem
  • A sprain or strain
  • Overuse
  • Infection
  • Bad posture and form when doing physical activity
  • Not warming up or cooling down before or after physical activity
  • Improperly stretching the muscles

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of chronic knee pain are different for each person, and the cause for the knee pain often affects how the pain feels. Chronic knee pain may present as a:

  • Constant ache
  • Sharp, shooting pain when in use
  • Dull burning discomfort
  • You may also experience chronic swelling and pain when the knee is touched.

What are the treatments?

Each underlying cause of chronic knee pain has a specific type of treatment, which may include physical therapy, medication, surgery, and injections. Bursitis, a common cause of knee pain, is treated in the following ways.

  • Ice the knee for 15 minutes once an hour for three or four hours. Do not apply the ice directly to the knee; instead, cover your knee with a cotton towel. Place ice in a plastic zip-close bag, and then place the bag on the towel.
  • Wear cushioned, flat shoes that support your feet and don’t exacerbate your pain.
  • Avoid sleeping on your side. Use pillows positioned on either side of your body to prevent you from rolling onto your side. When lying on your side, keep a pillow between your knees.
  • Stay seated when possible. If you have to stand, avoid hard surfaces and keep your weight equally divided on both legs.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight or obese.

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