Everything You Need to Know About Severe Knee Pain

A man suffering from a severe knee pain

Everything You Need to Know About Severe Knee Pain

Have you been experiencing knee pain?

Knee pain is a common condition that affects people of all ages. According to studies, nearly 25% of adults in the United States experience knee pain at some point. Additionally, knee pain prevalence increased by approximately 65% over the last 20 years. Knee pain can affect mobility, mental health, mood, and independence. If left untreated, it can make it challenging to perform basic tasks and lower your quality of life. Fortunately, there are many proven ways to treat and manage knee pain.

In this article, La Clínica will walk you through everything you should know about severe knee pain, including its causes, diagnosis, and treatment.

The Anatomy of the Knee

Did you know that the knee is the largest joint in the human body? It’s made up of bones, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Three bones, including the patella, tibia, and femur, meet and form the knee joint. Ligaments, including the collateral ligaments located on the knee’s sides, support these bones. One can be found on the inside, while the other is on the outside. The collateral ligaments are responsible for controlling the sideways movement of the knee joint. On the other hand, the cruciate ligaments allow the knee to move forward and backward. They are located inside the knee joint and cross each other, forming an A-shape.

The cartilage in your knee joint protects it and the bones from injuries. They reduce friction and prevent the bones from rubbing together whenever you use the knee joint. The articular cartilage can be found on the ends of your shinbone and thighbone, whereas the meniscal cartilage protects the shinbone and the thighbone from rubbing together when you straighten or bend your knee.

The tendons in the knee are responsible for connecting the surrounding muscles to the bones.

Causes of Severe Knee Pain

A man holding his knee

Now that you know the anatomy and the structure of the knee, it’s time to discuss the common causes of knee pain. Some factors contribute to severe knee pain, ranging from chronic conditions to acute injuries. Without wasting time, let’s discuss the common causes of severe knee pain below:

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is among the most common causes of severe knee pain. It is an autoimmune disorder that can affect all the joints in your body. When it occurs, your body’s immune system attacks the synovium tissue causing pain, inflammation, and stiffness.


Tendinitis is the inflammation of the tendons that connect the muscles around the knee to the bones. It is often caused by overuse, repetitive strain, or injury.

Meniscus Tears

The meniscus can tear due to degenerative changes, sudden twisting, or trauma. Meniscus tears are categorized by severe pain, stiffness, and limited mobility.


Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage wears away with time. This exposes your bones, causing stiffness, inflammation, and severe pain in the knee. Because it is a degenerative condition, osteoarthritis is most common in older adults.


Your knee also has tiny fluid-filled sacs known as bursae. These sacs cushion the knee joint to prevent a knee injury. Unfortunately, they can become inflamed due to an infection, damage, or overuse.

Ligament Injuries

As mentioned earlier, the ligaments in your knee joint hold the bones together. These ligaments include the posterior cruciate, anterior cruciate, lateral collateral, and medial collateral. Injuries to these ligaments occur due to trauma. They tend to be painful and are accompanied by swelling and knee instability.

Other possible causes of knee pain include:

  • Osgood-Schlatter disease
  • Patellofemoral pain
  • Knee fractures
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans
  • Baker’s Cyst
  • Plica Syndrome

Diagnosing Severe Knee Pain

Doctor examining the knee of the patient

Typically, a medical professional will ask you questions and check your medical history before anything else. Expect them to ask you about the nature of the pain, including how it began, whether it’s continuous, and whether it gets worse due to any specific activities. After that, the medical professional will begin a physical examination to check your knee’s stability, range of motion, and overall function.

The medical professional will check the following knee pain diagnosis criteria:

  • Range of motion: The doctor will start by requesting you to flex and extend your knee and rotate it internally and externally to check the range of motion.
  • Stability: Next, expect the doctor to perform various stability tests, such as the Lachman test, to evaluate your knee’s stability. This test involves stabilizing the thigh and pushing your lower leg forward to access the integrity of your anterior cruciate ligament.
  • Function: Finally, the doctor will assess the ability of your knee to perform basic tasks like climbing stairs, running, and walking. They might also conduct a muscle strength test to evaluate the strength of the muscles supporting the knee joint.

Based on the results of these tests, additional diagnostic tests may be required. These include imaging tests such as MRIs, CT scans, and x-rays to provide more detailed images of your knee joint and the surrounding structures. Your doctor might also order blood tests, arthroscopy, joint aspiration, and nerve conduction studies.

How to Deal With Severe Knee Pain

Severe knee pain is incredibly debilitating and should be dealt with immediately. Failure to address it may hinder your ability to perform daily activities. Fortunately, there are many effective strategies for dealing with severe knee pain in the long and short term. Some of the most effective self-care strategies that can be done at home to manage severe knee pain include:

  • Taking a break from activities that cause the knee pain
  • Applying ice 20 minutes at a time, several times per day, to the knee
  • Using compression sleeves or bandages to provide support to the knee
  • Elevating your knee to enhance circulation and reduce swelling
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain

Long-term strategies for treating severe knee pain include injections, physical therapy, and surgery. Physical therapy is by far the most effective way to improve flexibility, strengthen the muscles and bones around the knee, reduce inflammation, and alleviate pain. A doctor specializing in physical therapy will work with you to create an individualized exercise plan based on your goals and unique needs. Surgery should only be an option if other interventions fail. All in all, your doctor will diagnose your condition and recommend the most suitable treatment.

A woman undergoing physical therapy of the knee

Get in Touch With an Expert Today

La Clínica is ready to help you deal with severe knee pain and any other injury or condition that might lower your life’s quality. Schedule your free consultation today to talk to one of our specialists.