Knee Pain

Knee Pain: Causes and Relieving Knee Pain

Find out what could be causing your knee pain and how to treat it here. 

Knee pain is an incredibly common injury and can be caused by a whole host of reasons. These can vary from an acute traumatic injury, an underlying medical condition or other bio-mechanical issues caused by other areas of the body such as the foot or pelvis. Problems in these areas mean that mean sensitive supporting structures of the knee are put under strain and end up causing you knee pain.

Knee pain can target a specific point on the knee or it can be more diffused affecting the whole entire knee.

There are a whole host of reasons why you could be suffering from knee pain. Therefore it is usually best to have a thorough assessment in order to accurately diagnose and treat the problem. The good news is it is usually possible to fully relieve your knee pain, although sometimes the answer involves surgery. Our osteopaths and podiatrists are highly skilled experts trained to get to the root cause of your knee pain and get you back normal as soon as possible!

Symptoms of Knee Pain

  • Swelling and stiffness of the knee area
  • The knee feels weak or unstable
  • Clicking, popping or crunching noises in your knee
  • Inability to fully straighten or bend your knee

When should you seek help?

  • If you can’t put your full weight on your knee
  • If your knee is swollen
  • If you can’t fully bend or straighten your knee
  • If you can see an obvious problem with your knee
  • If your knee is unstable and feels like it ‘gives way’ or clicks constantly with or without pain.

What could be causing your knee pain?

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it highlights some of the main problems we see in the clinic as osteopaths and podiatrists.

  • Injuries
    • ACL Injury – This is the tearing of an internal ligament called the Anterior Cruciate Ligament, which connects your thigh to your lower leg. They are common injuries especially in sports that require a sudden change in direction such as rugby, football, netball and even vigorous golf!
    • Torn Meniscus Cartilage – The meniscus is a tough rubber-like but silky smooth cartilage that acts as a shock absorber for your knee as well as aiding the congruency of your knee joint. Unfortunately it is vulnerable to tearing if you twist your knee suddenly when you have weight on it, especially if it is also a little bent.
    • Knee Bursitis – Bursa’s are present throughout the body and generally act as lubrication to cushion tendons or ligaments over a joint. In the knee there are several that can become inflamed and swollen, hot and red, and painful! 
  • Mechanical Problems
    • Patella Tendinitis – Tendinitis is an irritation of one of the tendons, the thick connective tissue that joins your bones together. The patella tendon connects your kneecap to your tibia (shin bone) and can often become irritated with repetitive jumping or a biomechanical problem with your quadriceps muscles.
    • Loose Body – Sometimes a small piece of bone can dislodge from your knee joint and float into the joint space. This will only be a problem if it interferes with your movement of the knee, causing your knee to feel locked, crunching or like you can’t bend or straighten your knee properly.
    • Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome – The ITB is a thickened band of connective tissue, which starts at the outside of your pelvis and extends all the way to just below your knee joint. It helps with stability of your knee joint while you are standing, walking or running. Usually this starts causing problems because of mechanical issues with your feet, hips pelvis and lower back and a thorough analysis of your gait can often identify what is going wrong.
    • Dislocated Patella (kneecap) – Laxity in the muscles and tendons surrounding the patella can cause it to slip out of place. Sometimes it may stay displaced and you will need to have it ‘re-located’.
    • Back, Hip and Foot pain – If you have any pain in your body it may affect the way you are walking or using your body and in turn, placing unnecessary strain through your knee. As your knee has little capacity to cope with too much change it is usually the first place to complain, giving you pain and discomfort.
    • Knee Arthritis – There are several types of arthritis, the most common type is the ‘wear and tear’ type, also called osteoarthritis and will get worse with age. Generally if you have had lots of trauma to your knee this wear and tear might be accelerated but the wear and tear can also be managed and maintained by specific strength and flexibility exercises.

 What can you do at home?

What can you do at home but please bear in mind that you should always get a diagnosis for why your knee pain is there, it will save you time and pain doing unnecessary exercises.


  1. Chair knee extension: Sitting in a chair, rest your foot on another chair so the knee is slightly raised. Gently push the raised knee toward the floor using only leg muscles. Hold for 5 – 10 seconds and release. Repeat 5 times on each leg.
  2. Heel slide knee extension: Lie on your back, with left knee bent and left foot flat on floor. Slowly slide the left heel away from your body so both legs are parallel. Hold for 5-10 seconds, return to starting position. Repeat 5 times on each leg.
  3. Knee flexion: Sitting in a chair, loop a long towel under your foot (resting on the floor). Gently pull on the towel with both hands to bend the knee, raising your foot 4 – 5 inches off the floor. Hold for 5 – 10 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 times on each leg.
  4. Hamstring stretch: Standing, put one foot in front of you, toes up. With hands on the small of your back (or one hand holding a chair for balance), bend the opposite knee and hip (not your lower back), until you feel the hamstrings stretch. The upper body comes forward at the hip. Hold for 5 -10 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 times on each leg.

Strength Exercises

  1. Wall slide: Leaning with your back against a wall, bend your knees 30°, sliding down the wall, then straighten up again. Move slowly and smoothly, using your hands on the wall for balance. Keep feet and legs parallel, and do not allow knees to go out over the toes. Repeat 5 -10 times.
  2. Bent-Leg Raises: Sitting in a chair, straighten one leg in the air (without locking the knee). Hold for about one minute. Bend your knee to lower the leg about halfway to the floor. Hold for 30 seconds. Return to starting position. Work up to 4 reps on each leg.
  3. Straight-Leg Raises: Sitting in a chair, rest your foot on another chair. Lift the foot a few inches off the chair while keeping your leg straight. Hold for 5 -10 seconds. Return to resting position. Repeat 5 -10 times. (Also work on increasing the time, up to 2-3 minutes if possible.)
  4. Abductor Raise: Lie on your side, propped on one elbow. The leg on the floor bent, the other straight. Slowly lift your upper leg, hold for 5 -10 seconds, then lower. (Ankle weights will increase the intensity). Do 1-3 sets with 12-15 repetitions each. Remember to rest in between sets.
  5. Hamstring Curl: Stand with the front of your thighs against a surface (a table or wall). Flex one knee up as far as is comfortable. Hold for 5 – 10 seconds, then lower slowly. If possible, do not touch the floor between repetitions. (Ankle weights will increase the intensity.) Do 1-3 sets with 12-15 repetitions each. Remember to rest in between sets.
  6. Step-Ups: Stand in front of a step, like a sturdy bench or stairs, about two feet high (or less if necessary). Step up onto the support, straighten your knees fully (without locking them) and step down. Maintain a steady pace. If you are comfortable with your balance, pump your arms while doing this exercise. Start with 1 minute, slowly building your time. Gets your heart pumping too!
  7. Stationary Bike: Biking is a good way to increase strength and range of motion. Make sure you have the right positioning of the legs. At the bottom of the pedal stroke, the bend in the knee should be 15 degrees. Start with 10 minutes and slowly increase your time.

Depending on your current level of activity and mobility, a good start is 3 stretching and 3 strengthening exercises, 3-4 times a week. Stretching can be (and should be) done everyday if possible to prevent stiffness and achy joints. These stretches can be done a few times a day if needed.

Get in touch with our team if you have any questions or would like to know how podiatry and osteopathy may help with your knee pain: