Sudden Knee Pain: Causes and Treatment


If you suffer from discomforting and distressing sudden knee pain, you are not alone. As a matter of fact, knee pain is the second leading cause of chronic pain amongst Americans. It is one of the most debilitating conditions that can have a huge impact on your daily life.

Forget about playing your favorite sport or running, at times, even walking within your house can get excruciatingly painful. Most people who are suffering from sudden knee pain, experience a drastic decline in their physical activity as well. Keeping the level of activity while experiencing a constant pain is not easy.

Although there are many treatments available, it is not easy to treat knee pain. Most of the people trying to get rid of their sudden knee pain share a common experience. After getting tossed around between the doctors, specialists and even surgeons, rather than losing the pain, patients lose their hope. The situation gets even worse when the doctors, specialists and the physical therapists all have different approaches. Even if you decide to go under the knife, there is no guarantee that the knee pain will go away after the surgery. More often than not, the knee pain comes back even after surgery.

After trying almost every treatment that exists, it is quite common for patients to get disheartened and frustrated. Many people just give up. They accept that knee pain is a part of their life now, and they will have to live with it for the rest of their lives. So, rather than focussing on ‘treating’ the pain itself, ‘managing’ it becomes the priority. And we all know that it is a slippery slope.

Pain management with drugs is not the true solution. More often than not, chronic knee pain leads patients to harder painkillers that can have some serious ramifications. Resting becomes the only solution, and quickly, the once very active individual becomes severely restricted. 

Well, if the situation above describes you, we have great news! What you are about to read in this extensive guide, is going to change the way you look at knee pain. This guide will not only help you get instant relief from your sudden knee pain; it will help you move a step closer to complete freedom from suffering.

One of the most common misconceptions about treating sudden knee pain is taking rest. Now, resting does help, don’t get me wrong, but only if it is not overdone. Most people who suffer from sudden knee pain tend to immobilize their knee while resting. Although it may give you some relief, to begin with, it is not good for the knee on a long term basis. The key to getting an instant and a longer lasting relief from knee pain is to keep the knee moving naturally. A set of exercises stretches, and movements can help your knee get the desired mobility that is essential for getting instant pain relief.

Sudden knee pain is complex and treating it with just one approach is not a smart idea. In this guide to Instant Knee Relief, we take a holistic approach. Apart from simple stretching exercises and self-massages, we will also focus on proper nutrition and other remedies that you can try. If you want to get a long lasting relief from knee pain, a combination of all these approaches is essential.

Now, before we go ahead, there is one important thing that we must keep in mind. There is no magic cure for knee pain. Don’t expect that if you implement all the tips and remedies given in this guide, you will be able to run a marathon tomorrow! This guide presents some of the best ways to instantly relieve your knee pain and help you fast track your way to a pain-free life.

So, let’s get the ball rolling!

What are the causes of sudden knee pain? 

Knees are one of the most important load-bearing joints of your body. As a result, they are under constant stress. It is used for almost every movement that you perform all throughout the day. Any unnatural change in the movement of the joint can lead to pain. If you don’t take proper care, erratic movements and overuse can put an additional strain on the knees that may result in pain. Here are some of the most common reasons for your sudden knee pain.

  • Sitting around for long periods

Although overusing your knee can surely have some drastic consequences, sitting around for extended periods of time is equally bad. If your job calls for sitting for extended periods of time, the muscles and tendons of the knee can get quite stiff. The stiffness often leads to chronic pain. The situation can get worse if you sit in wrong positions. Many people have a habit of crossing their legs when they sit. This posture can put stress on the kneecap and often results in pain.

Another factor that may be causing you pain is the furniture. If you are sitting in an uncomfortable chair that is not ergonomic, you may end up with sudden knee pain. The position, height and the alignment of the chair are critical to prevent undue stress on the knees. Certain sitting positions are worse than the others. If you have your chair set too low, or if you bend your knees for a long time while sitting, it is almost certain that you will have knee pain.

  • Excess weight

Obesity is one of the common causes of knee injuries leading to sudden knee pain. The increase in body weight puts an unnecessary amount of stress on the knees and may result in injuries. The most vulnerable parts of the joints due to the excess weight are the cartilages. The extra weight accelerates the cartilage breakdown that can be extremely painful.

  • Overuse and excess stress

Another common reason for sudden knee pain is overuse and excess stress, especially during exercise. Many people don’t realize that knees also require a period of rest between exercises. If you rush into the exercises and don’t allow time for the knees to rest, you are calling for trouble. Certain exercises that involve repetitive motion of the knee can cause the breakdown of the cartilage in the knee and result in pain.

One of the most common knee injuries that are seen in people who train is the wear and tear of the tendon of the kneecap (called the Patellar tendon). It is crucial to track your kneecap (patella) when you flex or extend your knee. For a smooth and pain-free movement, the patella needs to glide freely. If for some reason, the tendon does not do its job, the patella will not glide freely and will result in inflammation and pain. There are many causes of this to happen, but the two most common causes are weak hip muscles and a faulty footing.

  • If you have flat feet, you tend to track your shinbone inward while you do exercise such as squats. It causes a misalignment of the knee and results in the patella rubbing against the bones, inflammation, and pain. 
    • The other reason is weak hips. Many people don’t realize that hip muscles play a major role in keeping the knee in the proper position. If your hip muscles are not strong, your knee can track laterally to the axis when you make repetitive motions such as while running and jogging. It puts an extra strain on the patella leading to inflammation and pain.

Similarly, some erratic movements while playing a sport or exercising may cause the knee ligament to tear. It can cause internal bleeding, swelling, and pain. These injuries are quite common while playing contact sports such as football and soccer.

  • Diet

One of the hallmarks of any painful injury is chronic inflammation. Although inflammation is good for the body, chronic inflammation can spell disaster; especially when you have a condition like a knee pain. What you eat can influence the amount of inflammation as well. Numerous studies show that certain foods can increase inflammation and result in worsening of chronic pain.

If your diet consists of these inflammation-causing foods, you may be susceptible to knee injuries and pain. There are some foods that you can wreak havoc as far as inflammation is concerned. Here are some foods that you should try to avoid.

  • Trans Fats
    • Sugar
    • Refined carbohydrates
    • Fast foods such as cheeseburgers
    • Alcohol
    • Monosodium Glutamate (it is the flavor enhancer that is used in many fast food products, commonly called Ajinomoto)

How does the knee work?

As I said earlier as well, the knee is one of the most important load-bearing joints of the body. As a result, almost any activity that you do impacts the knee more than any other joint in the body. So, before we go into the details of how to get relief from knee pain, we need to understand how the knee joint works. Let’s get familiarized with this very important joint.

So, the knee is a ‘hinge’ joint. It’s almost like a hinge on a door. Well, I say almost as unlike the hinge on the door, the knee has a small degree of rotation as well. This action creates a complex joint that is capable of performing a greater range of motion enabling us to get more out of the leg muscles.

The two most important groups of muscles that are responsible for the proper and smooth motion of the knee are the quadriceps and that hamstrings. Both these muscles provide the necessary support for the movement. If any one of these muscles is weak or underdeveloped, it can lead to undue stress on the knee leading to injuries.

The knee is a complex joint and consists of as many as seven different types of tissue:

  • The Bones: The three bones that form the knee joint are the Tibia (or the shank bone), The Femur  (or the thigh bone) and the Patella or the kneecap. All these bones play a crucial in the proper functioning of the joint.
  • The Ligaments: Ligament is a type of connective tissue that connects two bones together. Ligaments help to hold the bones of a joint together and hence provide some level of stability to the joint. There are many ligaments present in the knee, and they have specific functions. There are eight interior ligaments and six lateral ligaments providing the knee the much-needed stability. These ligaments are at constant stress and as a result knee injuries resulting from damages to these ligaments are very common. Athletes and people who run or jog are more susceptible to such injuries.
  • The Muscles: Joints don’t have any muscles and knee being a joint does not have one either. However, many muscles support a joint and help in the proper smooth movement of the joint. The most important muscles that are responsible for the effective functioning of the knee joint are:
    • Quadriceps: The muscles that make up your front thigh.
    • The hamstrings: These are the muscles that make up the back of the thigh.
    • Other smaller muscles: Apart from the Quadriceps and the Hamstrings, other smaller muscles help the knee during flexion, extension, and rotation.
  • The Tendons: These are the type of connective tissue that connects muscles to the bones. Tendons are very crucial as that help the muscles to move the bone and hence the joint. The quadriceps connect to the knee using the quadriceps tendon.
  • The Bursa: These are sac-like structures that are filled with a fluid called synovial fluid that prevent the friction between the bones when they move. As the knee bears a lot of loads, there are eight, synovial fluid filled sacs in the joint.
  • The Cartilage: The cartilage provides a smooth surface that allows the bones to glide in a joint. The cartilage present in the knee acts as a pad between the bones and helps them to move without any difficulty. It also acts as a shock-absorber to absorb the excess shock that can come from the impact. Thus, a healthy cartilage is required to prevent the direct bone on bone impact.
  • The Fat: And then there is a healthy layer of fat surrounding the knee. This layer provides extra padding and prevents injuries resulting from bumping your knee.

Injury to any of these structures can lead to sudden knee pain. Although all of the components of the knee are very well protected, overuse and improper movement can put unnecessary stress on several elements resulting in some serious injury. Some of the most common knee injuries that can lead to knee pain are as follows:

  • Fractures and dislocation: The most common bone in the knee joint that can get fractured is the Patella. Although the heads of the tibia and the femur can also develop a fracture, they are much less common. A high-energy trauma such as a fall from a height or a collision on the field can cause the patella to fracture.  

Dislocation of the knee is also a common source of a knee injury and subsequent pain. Wrong movement or an undue stress can cause the bones in the knee, especially the tibia and the femur to fall out of the alignment, resulting in the dislocation of the joint.

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury: The ACL is one of the most important ligaments that controls the back and forth movement of the knee along with the Posterior Cruciate Ligament. A tear in this vital ligament is quite common in athletes playing sports such as basketball, soccer or football. A sudden change in direction can put a tremendous amount of stress on ACL that can lead to a tear.
  • Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) injury: The PCL works in tandem with the ACL in the front and back movement of the knee. The tear in PCL usually results from a direct impact on the front of the knee such as during accidents or playing contact sports. Unlike the ACL tears, the PCL tears tend to be partial and more often than not, heal on their own.
  • Collateral Ligament Injuries: The collateral ligaments are present on the sides of the knees. Injuries to these ligaments can occur if the knee is excessively bent sideways, which is not a natural movement for the joint. These injuries are least common occurring only in certain cases of accidents.  
  • Meniscal Tears: The meniscal cartilage present in the knee can also sustain tears if the knee is twisted or pivoted. Such injuries are commonly found in people engaged in sports such as football and basketball. The risk of meniscal tear increases with age as the cartilage weakens as you age.
  • Tendon Tears: The tendons holding the muscles to the bones can also get torn. These tears are quite common in middle-aged people who play recreational sports that involve running or jumping.

Exercise for sudden knee pain?

One of the most common misconceptions that people have regarding treatment of knee injuries is that the only solution is to take rest. Although resting does help to reduce the stress and help the knee heal faster, research has proved that certain exercises can be of great help.

Most people that I meet seem to think that exercise will probably make the situation even worse, which is simply not true. Although it is very important to choose the correct exercise that will help you get rid of the knee pain. If you are in pain, it is not a great idea to engage in exercises that will cause a heavy impact on the knee. Many low impact exercises can get rid of even the worst kind of knee pain. 

However, when it comes to exercise for relieving knee pain, consistency is the key. Over 200 scientific studies point out that if you do certain exercises regularly, you can get a long term relief from knee pain. So, if you pick the correct exercise and if you stick with it on a regular basis, I assure you that you will get a long term relief from your knee pain.

Exercising for the treatment of pain can be a new thing for you. I understand that it can even sound a bit counterintuitive to some of you. But trust me, and I speak from experience, exercises do work. There are many ways can help you alleviate the pain and help you to rehabilitate. 

  • Strengthening the muscles: One of the most common causes of knee injury is weak muscles. The muscles surrounding the knee are critical in the proper functioning of the knee joint. If any of these muscles are weak or underperforming, the whole joint can misalign. It may put unnecessary stress on some components of the knee joint that we saw in the earlier section. The stress can cause injuries and a long lasting, nagging pain. So, one of the ways to get rid of the pain is to strengthen the muscles that support your knee joint so that it will function properly and the stress on the joint components will be relieved. The muscles that you should be working on include;
    • The Quadriceps
    • The Hamstrings
    • The adductors, and
    • The Glutes

As we will see in the following sections, exercising these muscles will help to strengthen them so that they can support the knee joint better.

  • Lose weight: As I said earlier as well, being overweight can put stress on your knees. Exercise can help you reduce weight as well which in turn can help you release the excess stress on the knees.

Final words

One of the most important things to remember is that any joint thrives on movement. As many experts agree, some activity is always better than no activity.  Low impact exercises as brisk walking, cycling, etc. can help you get rid of the knee pain. However, too much movement, especially the wrong kind can have an adverse impact on the joints. Hence it is important to choose the correct exercises to relieve the pain.

 Another common reason for the pain in many people is a lack of muscular strength. To get a prolonged relief from the pain, you must strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee joint. The major muscles surrounding your knee joint such as the quadriceps, the hamstrings, adductors, and the glutes need strengthening.