It’s as tough to live with a painful knee as it is with a toothache or a constant headache.
You feel like you can’t do anything properly.
Back of the knee pain cases have increased rapidly in this decade, along with problems like poor posture, double chin, and obesity.
Because of the lack of exercise, sitting in front of digital devices for too long, inappropriate diet and the list goes on.
So, if you are one of those millions having this pain, it’s okay because you can get rid of it, just like obesity and double chin.
And that too, without spending thousands on surgeries and doctor appointments.
Pain behind knee symptoms – Symptoms List
You need to identify the cause first before looking for a solution.
The knee is a complex joint with bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments.
As there are different types of knee pains, identifying the correct type will make it easy for you to target and implement the relevant solution.
Here is a symptom checking list for you before we jump on to the discussion of specific causes.
These will help you in identifying the causes easily.
1. Pain behind knee when bending
You may be having Jumper’s knee. Bending occurs majorly while playing sports like soccer, basketball, and badminton.
These repetitive motions put pressure and strain on the tendons present at the backside of the leg.
2. Pain behind knee when cycling
This is generally due to a strain on the hamstring muscles. Decelerating the pedal stroke continuously while driving put strain on the bicep femoris tendon.
When the load on this tendon exceeds the acceptable limit, you start feeling pain.
3. Pain behind knee when straightening the knee
You may have Jumper’s knee where the patellar tendon is damaged. As this tendon is helpful in straightening the leg thus any damage to it would initiate a pain.
Or Baker’s Cyst because, in this condition, there is a swelling behind the knee cap. When you straighten the leg, the bulge gets constricted and gives rise to pain.
4. Pain in calf behind the knee
It is generally due to cramps on the backside of the leg. The gastrocnemius muscle makes up the calf and if cramps/stiffness occurs in it, you will definitely feel pain.
Even after you get rid of cramps, the stiff sensation continues to sustain for a day or two, causing you to feel pain.
5. Swelling in the back of the knee
This could either be a result of a blood clot in the popliteal vein or Baker’s Cyst. Swelling is different from stiffness.
It is the physical bulging on the skin, whereas stiffness is the difficulty in the movement and can occur with or without swelling.
What causes pain behind the knee – 7 main reasons
And now for the causes. This includes Baker’s Cyst, Hamstring, Cramps, Arthritis, Jumper’s knee, Blood clot, and Meniscus Tear.
There are other reasons too but these are the most common ones.
1. Baker’s Cyst
It refers to the over-accumulation of synovial fluid behind the knee in the area called popliteal bursa. Although the synovial fluid is imperative for lubrication between the knee joints but excess is bad.
Caused generally by arthritis and cartilage tear, it will incur swelling at the back of your knee but may or may not be painful. Common symptoms include:
- Swelling in the back of knee cap
- Difficulty in flexing the knee
2. Jumper’s knee
This is a medical condition in which the tendon connecting the kneecap (patella) to your shinbone (tibia) is weakened or torn.
If you overuse your knee joint and get involved in sudden and continuous activities like jumping, sliding, and bending the legs while playing sports, the tendon can get injured.
And if you keep on doing that, the weakened tendon may break as well. It can induce pain on the front of the knee as well. Other symptoms are:
- Stiffness in the knee area
- Wobbly knees
- Tenderness in the area just below the knee when you press it
3. Pain Behind The Knee Due to Meniscus Tear
The posterior of the meniscus is the most prone to tear due to sports injuries, old age or trauma. That results in a shooting pain at the backside of your knees.
A ligament which holds two cartilages/bones together can also rupture if there is a faulty Meniscus.
Have you ever felt a sound of pop in the knee during a football match or especially when playing tennis when you have to twist quickly to return a shot.
That sound is generally of the meniscus tearing.
Two of the symptoms of this condition are:
- Instability after a popping sensation
- A locked-up feeling when you try to twist and rotate your knee
4. Arthritis & Gout
It includes almost all types of arthritis: inflammation arthritis, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Arthritis is a disease in which the cartilage of the knee (in this case) wears away.
Gout is also an extended version of arthritis that is characterized by severe and blinding pains and redness at joints.
General symptoms include:
- Discomfort in the knee
- Difficulty in bending the knee due to stiffness
- Skin appears warm on touch
- Locking of the joint
Although you can use specially designed gloves for swollen knuckles due to arthritis, knee pains due to it need other solutions (will be discussed in the latter part of the blog).
5. Blood clot giving rise to the back of knee pain
There is a major blood vessel present at the back of the knee, known as the popliteal vein. If a clot forms in this vessel, the blood flow to the lower leg is restricted and pain might occur.
The clot can be formed due to many reasons, including smoking, obesity or a major injury.
The most-occurring symptoms are:
- Swelling in the back of the knee
- Cramps in the calf
The blood clot behind the knee is treated in the following ways:
- Anticoagulant medication: These blood thinners like warfarin and heparin stops the blood clots from growing.
- Thrombolytic therapy: Involves the intake of drugs that dissolve the blood clot.
- Compression bandages and warm compressions: To regulate the blood flow in the legs.
6. Cramps in the legs
Cramps are the tightening of the muscles.
Cricketers, Footballers, Tennis Players, Gymnasts – they have them every day.
- Excess loss of fluid from the body as a result of water and sodium. These fluid shifts causes cramps to occur.
- Or overused muscles due to electrical misfiring.
John H. Talbott explained in his research on “Heat cramps” that about 95% of cramping incidents occur in hot months.
While a group of three researchers, Noakes, Derman & Schwellnus, provided evidence in their Paper as to how an increase in alpha motor neuron discharge to the muscle fibers causes a localized cramp.
Whatever the reason may be, if you encounter regular cramps, you are only a step away from pain in the backside of the knee.
We don’t need to elaborate on the symptoms of the leg cramps as every one of us has gone through it at least once in our lives.
It is a stinging and burning pain in the leg, sometimes behind the knee. The best and quick solution is to extend/stretch that particular muscle.
It would be painful but will end the pain in less time.
7. Hamstring Pain behind knee
Hello to all the sports playing individuals reading this.
Doesn’t seem uncommon, right?
Hamstrings are the set of tendons present at the back of the thigs that attach the thigh muscles to the bone. It includes 3 muscles:
- Semimembranosus muscle
- Bicep femoris muscle
- Semitendinosus muscle
Now, if any of the above muscles are stretched above their optimal limit, you will incur hamstring strain. It could be during running, jumping, rolling, bending the knee, etc.
If your bicep femoris muscle is injured, then you are most likely to encounter pain behind knee.
Back of knee pain treatment at home – Tested Home Remedies
Enough about the causes. Let’s now discuss the solutions to this undesirable pain.
The solution lies in the diagnosis.
What is the cause of the pain?
Is it Arthritis, cramp or a tear in the meniscus.
We have discussed the symptoms of each cause above but if you are unsure still, then you have to consult your doctor.
He/she will ask you about the history of the pain, what is your routine and how often do you report this pain. You might need to have an X-ray or an ultrasound if the doctor deems it to be necessary.
We won’t be discussing surgical methods or treatments for each cause, as you have medical websites and platforms for that.
Rather, we would suggest ways to get rid of them while staying at home.
1. If you have Baker’s Cyst
You would need a doctor generally for treating this condition but we promised you to tell treatment methods at home, so let’s keep it that way.
Icing the knee or wrapping a compression bandage will help with the inflammation and swelling. Ice the back of the knee for at least 10-20 minutes until you observe a considerable reduction in the swelling.
Secondly, take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen to alleviate stiffness and pain.
Other methods would require a doctor, they include:
- Injecting corticosteroid medication into the knee
- Draining the fluid from the affected knee
- Surgery in worst cases (hope it never happens to you)
2. If you have Jumper’s knee
Immediately take rest from the activity that caused it: basketball, netball or any other sport you might be playing. The knee is a complex machine and needs rest if it incurs complications.
It is the first step of the R.I.C.E process which is common for treating a Jumper’s knee.
Apply an icepack on the knee area which will compress it and then elevate the knee using a splint, stool or with the help of a wall.
This elevation increases the blood flow to the knee to help in the healing. When you are involved in some light activity, make sure to wear a supporting knee brace to reduce the amount of weight applied on the knees.
As for the rehabilitation process, several exercises are recommended by the doctors.
Sandra Curwin and William Stanish (experts on the topic) especially recommended drop squats and came up with a 6-week program that helped the patients in increasing the tendon strength years ago.
There are other exercises as well, like the:
- Short-leg raises:
Lie on the floor with your good leg bent as shown above.
Tighten the muscles of the affected knee by straightening it and raise it 30 cm above the ground.
Hold there for 6-10 seconds before lowering the leg and repeat for 10-15 times.
- Step-up & step-down
Have a raised platform in front of you. Get on top of it and then descend. Repeat if for 10-15 times.
- Side-lying leg lift:
Lay on your good leg and raise the other leg at least 3-4 feet from it.
- Prone hip extension
Lie on your back and raise the affected leg 2-3 feet from the ground. Repeat this exercise for 15-20 times.
3. If There Is A Tear In Your Meniscus
Some Meniscus Tears will heal with time but some can not heal without treatment, so have a good diagnosis from your orthopedic first.
PRICE treatment is the first method of utilization. It means:
P=Protection: It means shielding your affected knee from any future damage that can lead to complications.
If playing sports was the reason of the tear, quit that instantly.
Don’t apply pressure or weight of any sort on it.
Keep it away from heat like hot baths or heat packs.
RICE is the same as discussed above in the 3rd point.
The second solution is to quickly get a stabilizer pad that prevents the application of weight on the knees. This ensures that the condition is not worsened and proper healing time is given to it.
The third method is the implementation of physical therapy exercises.
- Hamstring heel digs
Sit on your hips with both hands on the floor at the sides. Keep the good leg extended.
Bring the affected leg towards the body slowly by bending it and digging the heel into the ground so you are feeling a contraction of your hamstring.
Keep it there for 6 seconds and then extend it. Repeat it for 8-15 times.
- Hamstring curl
Lie on your stomach with a pillow underneath. Keep the good leg parallel to the ground and bend the affected leg to bring it above the buttocks.
Bend till you start feeling stress on the thigh. Repeat it for 10-12 times.
Once you are comfortable and stiff-free, start adding resistance to this exercise by attaching one end of a stretchable gym band with your foot and the other with a secure object or point.
- Single-leg balance
Position yourself in the form of “T” with arms extended out. Then, lift your good leg at 90 degrees to the ground so your affected knee feels the pressure.
Balance yourself for 10 seconds at least. Once you are comfortable in that, try balancing with your eyes closed and increase the time.
After that, take a pillow and try balancing yourself on it. As the pillow is not very steady, your affected knee will have to do additional work to keep your body stable and hence, it will become stronger.
But only do this after you are perfectly comfortable balancing on the ground for about half a minute.
- Leg raise
Lie on the back and bend your good leg. Now, straighten the affected leg and slowly raise it above the ground to a distance of at least 1 feet.
Keep it there for 3-5 seconds and then retract. Repeat it 10-15 times.
4. If you have behind the knee pain due to Arthritis
A report of arthritis.org estimates that 22.7% of American adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis (2017)
This is quite alarming. Since the number increased by 20% from 2002, it is estimated to follow the same trend in the future.
Here’s how to treat it at home.
Always use a good posture. As long as you are aligning with the natural joint movements without pressurizing the bones with “bad angles”, you will seldom incur Arthritis.
Millions of people have bad postures today because of the excessive use of digital devices. You should either buy a gadget that maintains the natural curve of the backbone or contact a therapist who can instruct you how to sit, run and move.
Practice acupuncture at the back of the knee. This is a widely popular Chinese technique that stimulates nerves and improves blood flow.
While the traditional method employs needles and requires professional assistance, you can do it at your home in a completely needleless way as well.
The third option is to use Topical Gels. These instigate the sensory nerve endings present at the backside of the knee and reduces pain signals delivered through the nervous system of the body.
The chair of physical therapy department at Seton Hall University regards capsaicin cream and NJ. Voltaren Gel to be most productive.
Tai Chi is the fourth solution. This Chinese practice is recommended by arthritis.org to relieve joint pain and improve the motion. It involves deep breathing and flowing actions.
If you are new to this form of yoga, here is a video to help you get started.
The fifth solution is to lose weight. According to Harvard Health, the force on your knee, when you move, is equal to 1.5 times your body weight.
So the more manageable the weight is, the lower will the knee experience the force.
Maintain a healthy diet which includes fresh juices, chopped vegetable salads, low-fat dairy, raw fruits, and daily exercise.
5. If you have cramps
You have to take rest from the activity which causes them. It’s not odd for football, soccer and rugby players to take a match off to treat cramps.
So, why can’t you?
Massaging with essential oils can be of benefit, too, especially if its lymphatic ginger oil.
Although lavender, peppermint and rosemary oils have therapeutic properties too but ginger is a proven muscle soother. It helps to soften the sore muscles and helps with pain relief.
The third method is to have a warm bath because it aids the relaxation and warmth the hardened muscles of the leg require.
You can always increase the effectiveness of this method by adding a few drops of essential oil in the bathtub and have a warm bath in it for 15 minutes.
6. If you have Bicep Femoris Strain (Hamstring injury)
Again, the first step is to rest. Avoid taking your leg in the posture/angle that causes throbbing pain in it.
The second step is to apply cold compression packs two to three times a day. It will reduce inflammation.
Once the injury has started to settle, do the exercise shown below.
You can also take medicines like ibuprofen and naproxen to help relieve the pain.
That’s it from our side. We hope our blog was helpful for you – If you have any questions, feel free to comment.
We hope to end the back knee pain in the world together and that too, by staying at home.