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Pain Behind the Knee: Why It Hurts & How To Get Relief

Pain Behind the Knee: Why It Hurts & How To Get Relief

Knee pain can come in many forms, and pain behind the knee can be a tricky one to diagnose as this type of pain can result from a variety of sources. The best way to determine the cause of pain behind your knee is to have a comprehensive evaluation by a physical therapist. They can identify your source of pain and determine the best course of care to get you relief.

Why it hurts?

The knee is a highly complex structure and therefore, there are numerous sources of pain behind the knee, including:

  1. Knee Joint Pain due to a Baker’s Cyst

A Baker’s cyst, sometimes called a popliteal synovial cyst, is fluid that forms as the body’s response to cartilage damage, creating swelling and tightness and consequently pain, especially when straightening the leg. These cysts often resolve on their own.

  1. Knee Pain from Athletic Hamstring or PCL Injury

A number of knee injuries come from athletic activities. Muscle strains occur as a consequence when one fails to stretch, warm up, or cool down. Tears often occur due to over-exercise and going beyond one’s limits. Inadequate footwear can also contribute to an injury as well as previous injuries that make one more susceptible to future ones. Also, overuse of the joint is bound to result in wear and tear over time.

  1. Knee Pain Caused by a Blood Clot or Tumor

A tumor in the soft tissue or bone will cause pain even when there is no weight on the knee. This causes trouble bending, as a mass of new tissues will be formed in the knee.

Blood clots on the other hand will be reflected in symptoms resembling a Baker’s cyst.

  1. Knee Pain due to Nerve or Artery Compression

This is not a common phenomenon, and usually happens to sportsmen with enlarged muscles that are close to the popliteal artery. The abnormality of the artery’s position relative to its surroundings can cause restricted blood flow to the area, causing pain behind the knee, as well as swelling, spasm, and cold and tingling sensations. This condition can result in vascular damage over time and can threaten the vitality of the limb.

Another rare condition is peroneal nerve entrapment, which happens when one is running, causing shooting severe pain behind the knee.

How to get relief?

The treatment for these conditions involves rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, and sometimes even surgery.

  1. Rehabilitation Exercises

Do low impact yet effective exercises such as swimming or cycling. Additionally, physical therapy exercises can be used to help strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee joint.

  1. Stretch

Stretching is crucial to ensure that soft tissues of the knee receive their fair share of nutrients carried by the blood. Do standing hamstring and calf stretches. While lying down, use the wall as an aid to stretch your hamstrings. Also, Tai Chi can do wonders in improving balance and decreasing joint stiffness.

  1. RICE

This acronym stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation and is the first advice when it comes to acute injury.Wear a compressive bandage, elevate your knee, and put ice packs on it. Keep in mind that you don’t rest too much as you risk weakening your muscles and this will only add to your pain.

  1. Acupuncture

Acupuncture will increase the blood flow to the injured knee, helping to decrease inflammation in the area. Also, it is shown to loosen the most painful ‘trigger’ points in the fascia, which is the outer layer protecting the muscles and all tissues in the body.

  1. If overweight, lose weight

If your ideal weight is far from reach, even small improvements make a difference on the weight carried by the delicate knee joints.

  1. Use Supportive Aids

Orthopedic shoe inserts absorb the shock when you walk. Also, don’t feel embarrassed to use a walking aid such as a cane to relieve the pressure from your knee so as to ease the pain until it goes away.


Depending on the cause of the pain you’re experiencing behind your knee, treatment will vary. In some cases, rest, ice and physical therapy can set you on the path toward recovery. In other cases, with more serious conditions, medical intervention may be warranted. If you’re suffering with pain behind your knee, don’t ignore it – speak to one of the physical therapists at Blue Hills Sports & Spine Rehabilitation. The physical therapist will take a detailed history and perform a thorough physical examination to determine the source of your pain and direct you toward appropriate treatment.