From walking to standing to bending over, we use our knees every single day. That means when our knees hurt, it can impact our day-to-day life and stop us from doing what we love. While high-impact sports are the most common causes of injury-related knee pain, there are plenty of daily activities that can also result in injuries and discomfort to this area of our bodies.
Common activities that may cause or worsen knee problems include:
Common Conditions that Cause Knee Pain (Or Worsen It)
Whether you are kneeling while working in the garden, running and playing with your kids, or simply walking up a flight of stairs, people of any age can experience pain when performing any of the activities listed above. Furthermore, the knee pain can be worsened by these common conditions:
- Osteoarthritis – Also known as OA or degenerative joint disease, this form of arthritis occurs when cartilage wears down, which results in painful bone-on-bone friction.
- Rheumatoid arthritis – Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a condition in which the immune system unnecessarily attacks the body, resulting in painful swelling and irritation, including at the joints.
- Weight – Excess weight increases pressure and potential pain on joints.
- Bursitis – Bursitis is the technical term of inflammation of the bursa sac, a fluid-filled sac that reduces friction between tissues. Bursae are all over the body, including in the knee. While overuse and injury are the most common causes of bursitis, infections may also result in this condition.
- Gout – Gout is a type of arthritis that results from uric acid buildup and crystallization in joints.
- Muscle weakness or inflexibility – Sometimes joint instability or muscle imbalances can result in knee pain.
- Injuries – Such as ACL tears, meniscus tears, sprains, ligament injuries, and more. Learn more about these below.
Physical exams, x-rays, and other tests may determine the exact cause of your knee pain. Luckily, there are plenty of treatment options available for knee pain and knee injuries, but the best one of all is prevention. It’s never too early—or too late—to take active steps to reduce the odds of injury and pain when performing activities that heavily rely on the knee.
Knee Pain When Squatting
Squatting is a common activity that many people find themselves doing throughout the day. Whether it’s part of your workout routine to strengthen muscles of the lower body or it’s simply picking up your children’s toys from the ground, squatting can have a serious impact over time, especially if not done correctly. Ways to reduce or prevent knee pain while squatting include:
- Wall squats – Wall squats can reduce stress on the knee while still delivering most of the benefits of standing squats. That fact makes this modified squat great for those experiencing knee pain, including pain caused by arthritis.
- Proper form – One of the most common causes of sports injuries is from overuse, or repetitive use of certain joints, ligaments, and muscles, especially when using improper form. To squat correctly, be sure to keep the back straight, keep the chest open, and have the hips, knees, and toes all pointed forward.
- Switch up your exercise routine – Not switching up your exercise routine every once in a while can make you more susceptible to overuse injuries.
- Keep moving – It may be hard to believe, but pain from arthritis and the like can actually worsen with disuse. So while it’s important to not go overboard (especially when you are injured), incorporating some form of mild physical exercise into your daily activities can help reduce knee pain.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways to relieve and avoid knee pain when squatting, which you can learn about here.
Knee Pain When Kneeling
Gardening, cleaning, praying, and playing with our children and grandchildren—there are plenty of activities that require us to kneel on a regular basis. Don’t let knee pain stop you from doing what you love. Ways to avoid pain while kneeling include:
- RICE method – RICE stands for Rest Ice Compress Elevate, and is a common treatment for injuries and pain in sports medicine. In other words, if an injury is new or worsening, rest the injury (avoid exercising it for a while), ice it, compress it, and elevate it.
- Knee braces – A knee brace can help stabilize the joint, which may reduce pain.
- A mat – Sometimes the surface you are on can trigger or worsen knee pain. Putting a mat or soft towel under your knees can cushion them and reduce that pain.
Knee Pain When Bending
If you experience pain when bending the knee, you could be doing any activity that simply requires you to move the knee back and forth, over and over again. This pain can be a painful grinding feeling when walking, popping in the joint when kicking, or locking in the knee that prevents you from “bending and snapping” like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid knee pain associated with these activities:
- Stretching – Proper warm ups and cool downs that incorporate stretching techniques can go a long way to alleviating tightness and pain in muscles, joints, and ligaments.
- Weight loss – Losing weight is one of the most effective ways to prevent and reduce knee pain. That’s because your knees experience the force of 1 ½ times your body weight from simply walking. That force goes up to 2-3 times your body weight with inclines and declines, and up to five times your body weight when squatting. Losing weight means reducing the pressure your knees face every day, which can mean significant reductions in pain.
Knee Pain When Running
Running is an extremely popular activity; it’s also extremely high impact, which increases the odds of injury. Fortunately, a few simple precautions can reduce those odds, including:
- Stretching (before and after) – Again, with running having such a heavy impact on the knee area, be sure to prep the joint and loosen up the surrounding muscles with some light stretching; do this not only before the run but also afterwards for good measure.
- Strength training – Muscle imbalances or joint instability can result in knee injuries. One way to avoid this particular problem? Strengthening exercises. Muscle groups to work include the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes.
- Wear proper footwear – Not just any shoe will do for a high-impact activity like running. Be sure to wear proper footwear with shock absorbers.
Knee Pain When Walking
Walking isn’t a high-impact activity like running, although it may still cause discomfort for some people. Ways to avoid or minimize this discomfort include:
- Keep walking (yes, really) – Walking with knee pain can be, well, a pain, but not walking can make everything worse and even limit the range of motion of your joints over time. That’s why experts recommend low-impact activities like walking and stretching exercises, such as yoga, for people with arthritis.
- Use walking aids – Crutches, canes, or walking sticks can reduce the pressure placed on your joints, which in turn can reduce pain and discomfort when walking.
- Walk on soft surfaces – Tough, firm terrain is unforgiving on the joints. Try mixing up where you take your daily walk. For example, swap out asphalt outdoors for an indoor circuit with softer floors that can cushion your footfalls.
Knee Pain When Biking
Experts commonly recommend biking and swimming to people with knee pain. If cycling is the cause of your knee pain, however, you can try the following:
- Adjust your seat – If your seat is too high or too low, your knees will have to work at odd angles, which can put them under unnecessary strain.
- Adjust your posture – Proper posture is an easy way to reduce the odds of injury and pain with any activity. For cycling, proper posture means straightening your back and pointing your knees and toes forward rather than inward or outward.
- Adjust your gears – Riding in lower gears reduces the resistance you face when you pedal your bike, which can make the activity easier on your joints.
Frequently Asked Questions About Knee Pain
What Can I Do for Daily Knee Pain?
How you treat knee pain will depend on the severity of your discomfort and what is causing the pain in the first place. That said, common treatment options for knee pain include:
- Physical therapy – If you have a severe injury, you want it to heal correctly; a physical therapist can guide you through the healing process.
- Knee surgery – In severe causes, joint replacement—such as hip or knee replacement surgery—can reduce the knee pain you experience.
- RICE (Rest Ice Compress Elevate) – For painful and swollen injuries, the RICE method is the gold standard of sports medicine.
- NSAIDs – Use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for pain relief.
- Low-impact physical activities – Complete daily activities, like stretching exercises, to improve your joint’s range of motion and reduce joint pain over time.
- Proper footwear – Wear proper footwear with shock absorbers for any physical activity.
What Injuries Can Cause Knee Pain?
Traumatic events, overuse, and regular wear and tear can all result in painful knee injuries, such as the following:
- ACL tear – A torn ACL refers to an injury of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the ligament that connects the shinbone (tibia) to the thigh bone (femur) at the knee.
- PCL damage – PCL damage is damage to the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), a tissue within the knee that connects the tibia and femur.
- MCL damage – The MCL (medial collateral ligament) is a ligament on the inner side of the knee. Like the PCL and ACL, it also connects the tibia and femur. Damage to the MCL may result in pain on the inner side of the knee.
- Iliotibial band syndrome – Also known as ITBS, this syndrome occurs when the iliotibial band (IT band) tightens to the point that it rubs painfully against the femur.
- Meniscus tear – Menisci are cartilages in the knee that absorb shock between the femur and tibia. A sharp, forceful twist can result in a torn meniscus.
- Tendonitis – Tendonitis is the technical term for inflammation of a tendon (connective tissue).
- Patellar tendinitis – The patellar tendon connects the tibia to the kneecap. Injury to this tendon is known as jumper’s knee or patellar tendinitis.
- Fractures, sprains and other ligament injuries.
How Do I Know If my Knee Pain is Serious?
People should talk to their healthcare providers when they experience:
- Pain that is severe and persistent
- Tenderness and warmth around the knee joint
- Significant swelling
- Reduced range of motion
Get Started at Kneecare Clinics
Reduce knee pain and restore your quality of life. You can find a deeper level of enjoyment in your personal relationships, careers, hobbies and more with the help of Kneecare Clinics! Contact us now or speak to our patient advocate to get started.