Pain Behind Knee - What Causes It & How To Cure It In 2021

Struggling with pain behind knee? I know, it sucks. However, injuries of the knee are, actually - a common problem. If you are a sports person or even just an occasional jogger, you might have found yourself suffering from some kind of knee pain. Pain in the knee is completely understandable since it is the largest and most complex joint in our body, bearing our whole body weight throughout all our daily tasks. This article will help you understand how to prevent and cure knee pain, or simply grasp the physiology and the pathophysiology behind one of our most important, supporting body parts, which highly affects our overall physical performance.

To go any further with our investigation, let’s first define what our enemy, pain behind the knee is.

woman with knee pain

What Is Pain Behind The Knee

Pain behind the knee, also called posterior knee pain, is a common patient complaint. We often tend to think about knee pain as a problem of the front and the sides of the knee. But pain that comes from the back of the knee is probably even more frequent. The two main causes of pain behind the knee are a sudden activity and overuse of the muscular tissue. 


Athletes, especially women, are most prone to all sorts of knee pain. Knee pain is an ailment of old age as well, usually caused by osteoarthritis (the wearing away of knee cartilage material). Luckily, there are ways to trick Mother Nature and put off knee problems or even prevent them altogether, as you will see in this article.


The medical diagnoses for pain behind the knee consist of some kind of pathology of the bones, musculotendinous structures, tendons, and/or the bursas. Medical data shows that women are more prone to knee pain than men. Female athletes are 1.5 to 2 times more likely than their male counterparts to injure their anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, which has a huge impact on the functioning of the knee joint.


Different types of injuries, such as fractures, twists or medical conditions, such as arthritis, gout and infections can cause knee pain.

If you have ever experienced swelling, throbbing or discomfort behind knee during specific activities or movements, such as strengthening, bending, running, squatting, or issues, such as blood clots, this article will be useful as a thorough explanation on the causes, symptoms and treatment of pain behind knee.


You are curious to know what the heck has been the problem with your pain behind knee? Let’s take a closer look at  the common medical conditions and injuries which cause pain behind the knee.

woman with pain behind knee


The Most Common Causes And Symptoms Of Pain Behind Knee

The number of causes of pain behind knee is huge, so I will take a look at the most common ones and those that are most alarming and should be a warning signal to see a doctor immediately.

The less serious knee injuries can cause vague discomfort or instability in your knee, pain behind your knee, but also pain at the front of the knee. To be able to recognize the more serious ones, I gave a brief anatomy of the knee below, with the origin of the injury and the symptoms that follow.

Among the many injuries that can bring your knee pain is a hamstring strain. Hamstring is a group of three muscles that run down the back of your leg, from your thigh to your knee and enable bending of your knee. Commonly, when you hurt your hamstring, you'll feel a sudden discomfort which can cause knee pain and difficulty walking or bending the knee. If stretched too far, the muscle can entirely tear, which can take months to heal.

A leg cramp
is an episode of sudden discomfort in the muscular tissue of the leg triggered by an uncontrolled contracting (reducing) of the leg muscular tissue. The majority of leg cramps take place in the calf bone muscular tissue as well as, much less frequently, in the feet and thighs. Pains may last from a couple of seconds up to approximately ten minutes. 

Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most typical kinds of arthritis (joint inflammation). OA of the knee occurs when the cartilage material — the padding in between the knee joints — breaks down. This can cause pain, rigidity, and also swelling. 

Runner's Knee is a common injury by overuse that causes pain at the front of the knee, all around or behind the kneecap. It is most frequent in runners but also affects sports people who participate in cycling or hiking. The main symptoms are pain in and around the kneecap that occurs when you are moving; pain after sitting for a long time with the knees bent; rubbing, grinding, or clicking sound of your kneecap when bending and straightening your knee. The Kneecap might become tender to the touch.

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the most important ligaments and it helps stabilize your knee joint. The ACL connects the thighbone to the shinbone. ACL is usually torn during sports. Any kind of a sudden stop or a change in direction can cause it and it is most common in group sports such as basketball, soccer and volleyball. What you will feel if you have torn your ACL is a loud pop or a "popping" sensation in the knee, followed by severe pain and inability to continue activity; rapid swelling; loss of range of motion; a feeling of instability.

Below-the-knee Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot develops inside the leg veins below the knee. The clot can extend above the knee veins or migrate to the lungs and cause serious complications. You may have redness and tenderness or pain in the area of the clot. However, about half of people with DVT get no warning signs.

The most alarming symptoms, which should warn you to go to the doctor immediately are as follows: 

  • Bruising on the back of the knee or calf
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Redness behind the knee
  • Warmth behind the knee 
  • Painful swelling on the back of the knee or calf

Now that you know what might have caused your lingering or acute pain, you will be more apt at searching for the right diagnosis, and to help you do that, I have composed a list of the most common tests/procedures the doctor might want to conduct in order to diagnose you properly.

doctor and a patient with pain behind knee

How To Get Diagnosed? 

To determine the cause of knee pain, the doctor will rely on a proper examination of the knee joint. As I have pointed out, the knee joint is a complex organ. This is why there are different kinds of diagnoses and diagnostic techniques for pain behind the knee. Some of them are covered below:

Your doctor will examine your knee and take a history, asking about:

  • the type of pain you have (harp, stabbing)
  • when it started (for how long you have been having symptoms)
  • whether it comes and goes or it is persistent
  • how active you are (whether you are a sports person or simply enjoy recreational activities)
  • any accident or injury that could have caused the damage

Once your doctor has taken the anamnesis, they may want to run an  or they might suggest an X-ray or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. 

X-Rays Examination

X-rays make clear images with detailed visualizations of the knee joint and may discover bone spurs or narrowing of the joint. In these kinds of images, a healthy knee joint seems to have a gap between the bones because the cartilage material acts as a padding between the femur and the tibia. 

Before an X-ray exam, you might be asked to make dietary changes leading up to the time of the exam. You will meet X-ray professionals - a radiologist who specializes in imaging the human organs, a radiologic technologist trained to operate the equipment and a radiologic nurse, who monitors vital signs and administers medication.

Once escorted into the X-ray room you will stand, sit, or lie on a table that is near an X-ray machine. The machine will take several X-rays, and you might be asked to adjust position during the test. It is important to remain still during the examination. Drink plenty of liquid over the 24 to 48 hours following the scan.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the knee uses a powerful magnetic field to produce detailed pictures of the structures within the knee joint. It is typically used to help diagnose or evaluate pain, weakness, swelling or bleeding in and around the knee joint. MRI does not use ionizing radiation, and it can help determine whether you require surgery.

Unless you are told otherwise, you should take your regular medications normally. Leave jewelry at home since metal can affect this diagnostic procedure. If you suffer from claustrophobia or are anxious, you should  tell your doctor that so they can give you a mild sedative before the exam.

Joint line tenderness

Joint line tenderness is a test whereby the area of the meniscus (rubbery cartilage that absorbs the potential shock between your shinbone and thighbone) is felt, and the test is considered to be positive when there is pain in this region.

All of the above-mentioned procedures aim at finding the right therapy program for your pain behind the knee. So, let’s take a look at some you can expect to be prescribed by your doctor after the diagnostic process


One of the most widely used therapeutic processes is strengthening of the muscles around your knee to make it more stable. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy or various types of strengthening exercises based on the particular problem that is causing your pain.

In some cases, your doctor may propose injections (corticosteroids, hyaluronic acid, platelet rich plasma) directly into your knee joint.

If you have an injury that may require surgery, it's usually not necessary to have the operation immediately. Make sure to consider the pros and cons of both non-surgical rehabilitation and taking the surgery in relation to what most matters to you.


There are measures you can take at your home that will soothe your pain and possibly prevent further injuries or pain:

  • Rest. A day or two of rest may be all you need for a minor injury. More severe damage is likely to need a longer recovery time from pain.
  • Ice. A bag of frozen peas works well because it covers your whole knee. You also can use an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel to protect your skin. Don't use ice for longer than 20 minutes at a time because of the risk of damage to your nerves and skin.
  • Heat. A temporary pain relief may be caused by applying a heat pack or hot-water bottle to the painful area on your knee.
pain behind knee rehabilitation


What Is EPAT?

Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Technology (EPAT®) is a form of extracorporeal shock wave therapy. It is the most advanced, completely safe and highly effective non-invasive treatment method for pain.

EPAT’s success rate has been proven as equal to or greater than that of traditional treatment methods (including surgery). No risks, complications or long recovery periods. 

Through the application of this procedure, damaged tissues gradually recuperate and eventually heal. This non-invasive office/clinic based procedure is a breakthrough treatment option for a broad range of musculoskeletal conditions. 

A wealthy medical experience, cutting-edge engineering, and optimal quality are an integral part of each EPAT device. Substantial clinical studies and tests have proven its safety and efficacy. If performed by a qualified caregiver, Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Technology (EPAT) has virtually no risks or side effects, which has been cleared by the FDA.

How EPAT Works?

After coupling gel is applied to the specified treatment area to enhance effectiveness, EPAT pressure waves are released through the applicator which is moved over the area in a circular motion. EPAT’s technology is based on a unique set of pressure waves that stimulate the metabolism, enhance blood circulation and accelerate the healing process, causing damaged tissue to gradually regenerate and heal. 

Non-invasive low frequency (8-12 Hz) acoustic sound waves are released into the aching area. The sound waves act as pressure, and penetrate deep through your soft tissue, reaching the most distant areas.

EPAT for pain behind knee

How Will EPAT Help Me?

The beneficial effects of Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Technology (EPAT) are often experienced after only 3 treatments. Some patients report immediate pain relief after the treatment. The procedure eliminates pain and restores full mobility, thus improving your quality of life. Over 80% of patients treated report to be pain free and/or have significant pain reduction.

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