Decoding Knee Pain: Understanding What Your Pain May Indicate

Decoding Knee Pain: Understanding What Your Pain May Indicate

Dr. Chris Daily


Physical Therapist and Golf Performance Specialist

Knee pain is like a puzzle, especially as we get older. If you're over 50, figuring out why your knee hurts can be tricky. 

In this blog let's explore what different knee pain locations might mean using my knowledge as a Dr of Physical Therapy plus some insights from expert medical studies I have read recently.

1. Anterior Knee Pain: A Look at the Front

  • Patellofemoral Pain(Kneecap Area): Think of this as "runner's knee." It's common in younger, active folks but can happen to anyone. If squatting brings pain right at the front of your knee, it might be this. The anterior knee pain in this condition has been noted to have about a 91% sensitivity and 50% specificity for kneecap pain.
  • Quadriceps Tendon Issues: The quadriceps are the big muscles on your thigh. Issues here can cause pain at the front of your knee too!
  • Patellar Tendon Complications: This tendon connects your kneecap to your shin. Similarly, issues with the patellar tendon can cause knee pain.

2. Medial/Lateral Joint Line Pain: Deciphering Side Pain- Decoding Side Aches

  • Meniscal Tears: Imagine your knee as a hinge; the meniscus is the cushion inside it. Pain on the inner or outer side of your knee could mean a tear here, especially if you've had a recent twist or injury.
  • Osteoarthritis (OA): This is the "wear and tear" arthritis. Over 45 and feeling pain on the sides of your knee during activities? This might be the culprit.

3. Posterior Knee Pain: Understanding the Back of the Knee

  • Baker's Cyst: Ever heard of a knee cyst? It's like a balloon of fluid behind your knee, causing pain. It can be common.
  • General Swelling: Other forms of swelling in the posterior knee area can also cause discomfort and pain.

4. The Challenge of Accurate Diagnosis:

From my time as a Doctor in clinic and from many reviews and studies I've read, its not always straightforward to match knee pain with specific problems based on where it hurts. 
For example, in knee arthritis or certain types of meniscus tears, the spot of your pain might not line up with the actual problem.

So, while where your knee hurts can give us some clues, it's not always a clear-cut answer. If you're over 50 and your knees are giving you trouble, it's a good idea to talk to a doctor who can help solve the knee pain puzzle.