Knee Pain Diagnosis: How did the Pain Started?


Accurate knee pain diagnosis is the best method of ameliorating your knee pain.  Healthcare professionals utilize the latest technology for diagnosing knee pain such as X-ray, MRI, ultrasound, arthroscopy and radionuclide bone scan followed with medical history and physical exam. Some of the questions asked by doctors are

What started the knee pain? How often have you had it? Have you had it before?
 Did the pain begin suddenly? Did the pain begin gradually?

However, the following sections consists of some simple knee pain diagnosis methods, which can help you in determining the actual cause of your knee pain.  After going through all the three sections, you will pinpoint your specific knee problem. However, all the information provided is for education purpose and we highly encourage you to visit your doctor as soon as possible.

knee Pain Diagnosis

Section 1: Knee Pain Symptoms: Identifying & Diagnosing the Problem

Section 2: Knee Injury Diagnosis: Knee Pain Location Guide

Section 3: Knee Pain Diagnosis: How did the pain Started? (YOU ARE HERE)

Here in section 3, we will be making knee pain diagnosis using:

  1. Sudden Knee pain
  2. Gradual Knee Pain

If the knee pain starts suddenly, then this is the sign of specific knee injury or condition, which you may have contacted while twisting your knees in sports, sudden and direct blow to knees and bending the knee in wrong direction. And, if you experience gradual knee pain, which increases over a period of time, then it is an indication of underlying knee condition such as Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, Medial Meniscal Tear or Lateral Meniscal Tear and knee osteoarthritis.

Below, we outline brief description of common causes of knee pain according to the sudden onset and gradual onset of pain. Each category is further divided sub-categories i.e. common conditions associated with the sudden and gradual onset of pain. We hope, you will find this information beneficial in aiding accurate knee pain diagnosis.


1) Sudden Knee Pain

The athletes which are most vulnerable to sudden knee pain are often involved in sports, which requires highest level of intensity on the ground, moving fast, changing directions quickly, twisting movements, kicking the ball, impacting and tackling, an opponent, tackling, sprinting, rapid acceleration and deceleration such as football, basketball, mixed martial arts, soccer, netball, and skiing. The most common knee injury associated with sudden onset of pain is ligament or cartilage tear. Severe pain will experienced instantly followed with knee contusion i.e. inflammation, tenderness and bruising.

1) Medial Meniscal Tear

Medial Meniscal TearTearing of medial meniscus or cartilage can be due to sudden twisting of knees, squatting and tackling. The cartilage is located inside the knee, which acts as shock absorber between shin bone and thigh bone. The epicenter of the pain will be inner side of the knee. Inflammation, popping sound and knee locking are the symptoms of meniscal tear. The medial meniscus tear is also called as Torn Medial Meniscus, Medial Cartilage Tear, Medial Meniscal Dysfunction, Bucket Handle Tear of the Medial Meniscus and Torn Meniscus.

2) Lateral Meniscus Tear

This injury is caused due to tearing away of cartilage issue or lateral meniscus, which is located on the outer side of the knee. The pain will be also on the outer side along with swelling, popping sound and knee locking sensation. Lateral meniscus tear is often caused to the athletes associated with football, soccer, basketball, netball and skiing. Sometimes, the tear also develop due to injuries to cruciate or collateral ligaments, or medial meniscus.

3) MCL Tear or Medial Collateral Ligament InjuryMCL tear

The medial collateral ligament is thick band of tissue located inside the knee, which connects thigh bone to shin bone. It stabilizes the knee by preventing it from bending inwardly. Sudden blow to outer side of the knee will result in MCL tear along with ACL tear. Sometimes, it will be stretch and sometimes it is complete tear, which will be painful and serious injury. Knee instability, swelling, medial knee pain and difficulty in bending the knee will be experienced in MCL injury.

4) ACL tear or Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuryacl tear

Anterior cruciate ligament is one among the four important ligaments in the knee. Overstretching the knee, twisting and bending in wrong direction, awkward landing from jump and rapid deceleration will result in ACL tear. Popping sound, knee instability, inflammation is experienced along with severe pain. ACL tear can be either partial tear or complete rupture.

5) PCL Tear or Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injury

PCL TearThe posterior cruciate ligament is among the important ligaments in the knee, which connects thighbone and shinbone. It is located on the back of the knee and prevents the shinbone to move backwards. Sudden powerful blow or falling awkwardly on the knee will result in the PCL injury. Posterior knee pain, popping sound and knee instability are the prominent symptoms of PCL tear.

6) Patellar Dislocation

Patellar DislocationPatella (kneecap) is a thick bone protecting the front side of the knee joint. Sudden and direct blow to knee-front or twist may lead patella to move out of groove resulting in massive pain and swelling. Young athletes especially involved in soccer, ice hockey and gymnastics are most vulnerable to patellar dislocation. 16-20 years aged group are more commonly affected with this condition. The patient will feel continued pain and sense of knee instability throughout the treatment.

Knee Pain Diagnosis

2) Gradual Knee Pain

Gradual knee pain is often caused due to long running, squatting, jumping, brisk walking, kneeling and kicking. It is the often caused in the anterior or front region of the knee, which indicates the result of patellofemoral pain syndrome, medial meniscus tear, knee osteoarthritis, etc. The pain will be gradual for a period of time and upon irritation or injury, it will worsen and worsen creating painful sensation all the time. Here, we will outline some of the most common causes of gradual onset knee pain.

1) Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Patellofemoral Pain SyndromePatellofemoral pain syndrome is one of the most common  causes of anterior knee pain, wherein the pain is gradually develop over the kneecap. It is often caused due to prolonged repetitive activities like running and walking. In this condition, the kneecap rather than to move in the groove, it moves towards outer side of the knee resulting in damage to cartilage. Swelling and pain can be experienced in this condition. According to healthcare experts, it can even be caused due to abnormal knee cap movements, muscle imbalance and flat feet.

2) Osteoarthritis

OsteoarthritisOsteoarthritis affect millions of people worldwide especially above 50 aged group or those who have previous history of knee injury or pain. It is also refer to as wear and tear arthritis. This condition happens, when cartilage lining the knee joint wears down over a period of time as we age. Even it can be due to trauma or hereditary. Pain, inflammation and weakness in the knee can be experienced. In addition, it will limit your daily activities.

3) Osgood Schlatters

Osgood SchlatterThis condition is most common among teenagers and young athletes. Due to sudden growth spurt and excessive sporting activities, a lump will develop on the upper part of the shin bone (just below the knee). The lump will clear up in 1-2 year. It is uncommon above 16 years teenagers. Children playing basketball, football, volleyball, soccer, tennis, figure skating, and gymnastics are most vulnerable to Osgood Schlatters.

4)  Patella Tendonitis or Jumper’s Knee

patellor tendonJumper’s knee is often caused due to massive strain on patellar tendon. When jumping and kicking, a lot of force goes through tendon, which connects kneecap and shin bone (tibia). Sometimes, due to excessive force, it may develop small tear resulting in pain in the anterior part of knee. Patients will experience severe pain when they change their prolonged position from sitting to standing or vice versa and during morning, knee stiffness is also caused. Basketball and volleyball players are most diagnoses with this condition.

5) IT Band Syndrome or ITBS

ITBSThe illotibial band is thick fibrous reinforcement that runs from hip and knee. It stabilizes the knee during running. Due to excessive running, hiking, cycling and squatting, severe pain and inflammation will develop causing pain on the lateral side of the knee. It is the one of the leading causes of lateral knee pain in runners and cyclists.

In this section, we have described an overview of knee pain diagnosis according to sudden onset and gradual onset of knee pain. In the previous section, we have covered knee pain symptoms and knee injury diagnosis.

Hope, you have identified the accurate problem in your knee. However, we highly encourage you to visit your doctor or physiotherapist as soon as possible.