A third of all doctor visits that are related to muscle and bone pain are caused by aching knees. In the United Sates it is one of the most common complaints that spans the generations. It is extremely common among athletes, with about half of all athletes suffering from some form of achy knees each year.

Sprained ligaments, tears in the meniscus, tendonitis, and runner’s knee are the most common reasons for sore knees. These are just a few of the issues that people may have with their knees, since the knee is a very complex joint there are many other issues and health problems that may cause bad knees.

Causes and Treatments of Aching Knees


Meniscus Tears

Description: Each knee has two meniscuses, crescent shaped pieces of cartilage, which provide cushion between the kneecap and the bone. If either of these tears or breakdowns you will experience swelling and pain around your knee.

Solution: Taking an anti-inflammatory as well as icing the knee will help prevent swelling of the meniscus. Including exercises that stretch and strengthen your leg muscles will help prevent aching knees. If the pain continues to persist long after an activity, it is best that you consult your doctor for proper care.


Simple Sprain or Strain

Description: A simple sprain or strain may occur when you have overworked your leg tissues. This damage is not permanent, but the stretched tissues in your knee do need a bit of time to heal properly.

Solution: Most of the time you can cure this type of pain by protecting the knee, resting, applying ice and compression, and keeping the knee elevated for about 15 minutes several times throughout the day. One of the best ways to prevent this type of achy knees is to warm up before you do any exercising or strenuous activities.


Torn Ligament or Tendon

Description: Ligaments connect your bones to your joints, and tendons connect muscles to the bone. When either of these is torn during endurance sports or daily activities, they cause a lot of pain. Tearing the ones located on the sides of your knees will create pain even when you are resting. Most of the time, the pain worsens when bend and extend your knee, causing it to swell and get warm.

If your knee feels as though it will not support you, then you have probably torn one of the main ligaments of the knee. This can happen if you suddenly change direction and twist your knee.

Solution: It is important that you consult your doctor if you have a torn ligament or tendon. They will refer you to a specialist to aid in treatment; if it’s severe enough you may even need surgery to repair the damage.


Patella or Kneecap Pain

Description: You will usually experience this pain in the front of your kneecap. Your patella (kneecap) should move up and down smoothly as you bend and extend your leg. When the kneecap is off track, it will rub against the cartilage and bone that is nearby, causing aching knees and swelling. You may also experience some crackling noises when you bend your knee.

Solution: Building muscle endurance and strength in the quadriceps that are located on the front of your leg will help prevent this type of pain. Making sure that you stretch your hamstring muscles and tendons daily will help reduce patella pain. If you already have bad knees, avoiding activities such as running and climbing stairs will prevent further aggravation.


Anterior Knee Pain

Description: Pain at the front of your knees may not always have a precise cause. Sometimes the pain may be due to previous injuries, overuse of the knee, weak muscles, or a kneecap that is slightly out of alignment. Most of the time, the pain is a continuous, dull aching feeling in both knees. The pain is exaggerated when you have been sitting, kneeling, or using stairs for an extended time period.

Solution: This type of pain can easily be remedied with an ice pack and adequate rest. Doing daily exercises that strengthen and stretch the leg muscles around the knees will also aid in preventing sore knees.



Description: Older people suffer from damage to the surface of the knee bone or the buildup of fluid at the back of the knee. It is possible for younger people who suffer from obesity or have had serious knee injuries to endure this type of pain as well. Most of the time there is mild swelling of the tissues making it difficult and painful to bend and extend your knees repeatedly. Sometimes the knees may even lock up or feel like they are going to give out when you use them.

Solution: If you feel that this is the cause of your sore knees, then you should consult your general practitioner for the best treatment. They may suggest that you wear suitable footwear, use a walking stick, lose weight, or see a physiotherapist.



Description: Tendonitis is caused by overusing the tendon between the kneecap and shin bone. Overworking the tendon will create an inflammation, often referred to as jumper’s knee. Your knees may swell, feel tender, or even feel warm.

Solution: Most of the time using an ice pack with a pain reducer will help ease the pain. Giving the tendon adequate rest will help prevent future irritation.



Description: A buildup of fluid from consistent, repetitive movement may cause achy knees. This is most commonly found in those who have jobs that involve a lot of kneeling, such as carpenters and football players. Your knees may even have some swelling, be red and warm, and be tender to the touch.

Solution: Giving your knees adequate rest is the best way to treat bursitis. Applying an ice pack or taking painkillers will aid in reducing the pain. If the redness spreads, the pain does not go away, you have an increased temperature, or an infection develops, you need to visit your doctor immediately.


Septic Arthritis

Description: If your knees are extremely painful, hot, and swollen, then you may have septic arthritis. This happens when your knee becomes infected; it may sometimes be mistaken for gout.

Solution: If you have any of the symptoms along with a low grade fever, you should immediately seek the attention of your doctor. Draining the fluid from the knee and a regimen of antibiotics is one of the only treatments for this disease. If it continues to persist or is severe enough, then surgery may be your only option.


Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease

Description: When the bone at the top of the knee is damaged during a growth spurt, teenagers and young adults may experience pain, swelling and tenderness known as Osgood-Schlatter’s disease. This most commonly occurs in children who are active in sports that involve extended periods of bending and extending the knee.

Solution: The best way to treat this disease is to restrict activity and use painkillers along with ice packs to relieve the pain. Most of the time the disease cures itself after the child stops growing, however it may extend into adulthood.



Seek immediate medical attention if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • The inability to put weight on your knee

  • Have a swollen and aching knees

  • The inability to bend and extend your knee

  • Notice a deformity around your knee

  • Have redness, pain, and swelling accompanied by a fever

  • Your knee feels like it is constantly giving out


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