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Knee Pain

Knee Pain Causes and Treatments

Knee Pain Houston

The most common cause of disability in the United States, joint pain is caused by many different conditions, including arthritis, sports-related injuries and common overuse of the affected joint.

Joints are the connections between bones and not only do they provide support, they help mobility. So, when a knee joint is damaged – whether from a disease or injury – the result is some degree of pain, affecting a person’s daily routine.

According to one national survey, one-third of adults reported having joint pain within the previous 30 days. The most common complaint listed was knee pain.

Knee pain can range from mild to severe, which may impair walking.

Causes of joint pain in the knee include:

  • Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
  • Bursitis
  • Chondromalacia patellae or anterior knee pain

Anterior knee pain occurs at the front and center of the knee. This pain begins when the kneecap does not move properly and rubs against the lower part of the thigh bone.

Anterior knee pain may involve a number of different problems, including chondromalacia of the patella and runner's knee or patellar tendinitis. Playing sports that place extra stress on the kneecap may cause anterior knee pain. It may also be caused by an abnormal position of the kneecap or other reasons.


The most common cause of joint pain is arthritis – an inflammation of the joints where bones meet.

Although there are more than 200 different types of arthritis, all involve damage to cartilage. Cartilage acts like a cushion for the bones and it covers the ends of bones where they meet to form a joint. When the knee cartilage is damaged, bones rub together when an individual moves and this friction causes knee pain.

Three basic types of arthritis may affect the knee joint:

1. Osteoarthritis

The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, often called “wear-and-tear” arthritis because it occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of the bones wears down over time. Osteoarthritis affects millions of people around the world and symptoms can develop slowly and worsen over time.

OA is usually slowly progressive. It most often found middle-aged and older people.

Factors leading to OA include:

  • Heredity; OA runs in families
  • Being overweight
  • Fractures or other joint injuries
  • Jobs that involve kneeling or squatting, as well as jobs that involve lifting, climbing stairs or walking
  • Playing sports that involve direct impact on the knee joint

2. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Another major type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory type of arthritis that occurs when the body’s immune system does not work properly. Gout is another common type of arthritis and it occurs when there is an excess of uric acid in the tissues and blood. RA can occur at any age. RA generally affects both knees.

3. Post-traumatic arthritis

Post-traumatic arthritis can develop after an injury to the knee. This type of arthritis is similar to osteoarthritis and may develop years after a fracture, ligament injury or meniscus tear.

  • Pinching of the inner lining of the knee during movement (plica syndrome)
  • Gout
  • Infections caused by a virus
  • Injury, such as a fracture
  • Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
  • Septic arthritis (joint infection)
  • Tendinitis
Learn more about arthritis by visiting the Arthritis Foundation.

Trauma/Sports-Related Injuries

Joint pain may be due to an injury, perhaps work-related or from a sports activity, and the cause is likely known. A physician can determine if the pain is from a strain, sprain, tear or fracture. A sprain can occur when a joint is twisted while bearing weight; a strain occurs when too much force is placed on a muscle. A tear can be the result of a trauma, such as falling on an outstretched arm, and a bone fracture occurs when there is a break in the continuity of bone.

Overuse of Joints

When a joint is “overused” this means that repetitive activity has been done over a long period of time, leading to inflammation and pain in a joint. Athletes may be particularly prone to such pain. Symptoms may disappear for a short time with rest, but they are likely to return.

Long-term joint pain, no matter the cause, ranges from mildly irritating to a chronic, debilitating condition. There are many proven treatment options that can reduce pain and inflammation and preserve joint function.

Houston Knee Pain Locations

Read about the treatment options available for knee pain in Houston at a Memorial Hermann Joint Center near you.

Knee Pain Prevention

Did you know there are simple things you can do now to prevent joint pain down the road?

Knee problems can happen to anyone so it is important to keep these “don’ts” in mind to protect your knees from damage.

1. Don’t ignore knee pain

Listen to your body. If pain persists, have it checked out by your doctor.

2. Don’t be overweight

Extra pounds put extra stress on your knees and can aggravate existing arthritis. 

3. Don’t skip rehab and rest

After a knee injury don’t be too eager to get back to regular activities and skip the all-important rest and rehabilitation.

4. Don’t ignore your ACL

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the most commonly injured knee ligaments. Sports that involve quick cuts, twists and jumping – soccer, basketball, football, volleyball – put you at higher risk. An athletic trainer can offer helpful techniques to avoid this injury.

5. Don’t overdo

Follow hard training days with easy ones to give your body time to recover.

6. Don’t forget other muscles around your knees

You can keep your knee stable and balanced by keeping the muscles around your kneecap, hip and pelvis strong. Exercises such as knee extensions, hamstring curls, leg presses and flexibility exercises are important.

Houston Knee Pain Locations

Read about the treatment options available for knee pain in Houston at a Memorial Hermann Joint Center near you.

Nonsurgical Knee Pain Treatment

Knee Pain Treatment can Get You Going AgainIf you have osteoarthritis of the knee, your physician will help you decide the best option to treat knee pain.

Arthritis of the knee is treated with nonsurgical measures in the beginning. Nonsurgical treatments fall into four major groups: lifestyle changes, exercise, supportive devices and other methods.

The purpose of chronic knee pain treatment is to relieve pain, increase function and generally reduce your symptoms.



Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes include minimizing any activity that puts stress on your knee, losing weight for less pressure on your knee, and switching from high-impact exercises like running to low-impact exercises like swimming or cycling.

Exercise & physical therapy

To increase range of motion and flexibility and strengthen your leg muscles, spend time exercising. Physical therapy and exercise are often helpful to reduce pain and improve function. Your doctor or physical therapist can help you develop a personalized exercise routine.

Supportive devices

To relieve pressure from the knee, consider using supportive devices like wearing energy-absorbing shoes or inserts, walking with a cane, or wearing a brace or knee sleeve. Knee braces will be even more helpful if the arthritis is centered on one side of your knee as the brace will assist with stability and function. Choose between an “unloader” brace that shifts pressure away from the affected portion of your knee or a “support” brace that helps support your entire knee.

Drug treatment

Many types of drugs can help arthritis of the knee. Pain relievers are usually the first choice of therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee and knee pain. To reduce swelling in the joint, use anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen.

These medications, however, can interact with other medications you are taking, such as blood-thinners. Be sure to discuss these issues with your doctor.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs like Motrin, Advil and Aleve, are available in both over-the-counter and prescription forms. Like all pain relievers, NSAIDs can cause side effects including changes in kidney and liver function as well as a reduction in the ability of blood to clot.

For moderate to severe knee pain, your doctor may prescribe a COX-2 inhibitor, which can reduce pain and inflammation to help with functioning. If you are taking a COX-2 inhibitor, you should not use a traditional prescription or over-the-counter NSAID.

Glucosamine and chondroitin

Another option for pain relief is glucosamine and chondroitin, taken as oral supplements. They may be particularly helpful in the early stages of osteoarthritis of the knee. Be sure to use as directed on package inserts and with caution.


Corticosteroids are strong anti-inflammatory drugs that can be injected into the joint to help with moderate-to-severe pain and significant swelling. These can only be given up to four times a year.

Alternative therapies

Alternative therapies include the use of acupuncture and magnetic pulse therapy. Find a qualified practitioner and along the way, keep your physician informed.

Other methods

Other measures may include applying heat or ice, doing water exercises, applying liniments or elastic bandages.

If nonsurgical knee pain treatment options have failed, you may be a candidate for knee replacement surgery.

Learn more about knee replacement surgery »

Where to Get Treatment

Houston knee pain treatment is available at a Memorial Hermann Joint center near you. See locations.

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