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Knee Pain When Bending

Knee Pain When Bending

If you experience pain in your knees every time you bend with no improvement over time, then it warrants a visit to the doctor. Learn how you can manage your knee pain with the help of some simple measures and a few exercises, through this article.
Bhakti Satalkar
Last Updated: May 6, 2018
The knee is made up of bones, cartilage, and ligaments. It is one of the most important joints that is used to support the entire weight of the body while performing a host of other activities. While the bones give the knees the necessary strength to bear the weight of the body besides bending them, the muscles give it the necessary tug to straighten and support the joints. The tendons connect the bones to the surrounding muscles, while the ligaments connect the primary bones to other bones.

The knee joints are prone to wear-and-tear because of their constant movement. This can lead to pain, swelling, and restricted movement of the joint. Here are some of the common reasons for knee pain when bending and flexing the muscles.

Knee Injuries

Knee injuries are a common cause for knee pain. Sprains, ligament tears, and straining of the muscles of the knees can lead to injuries. These can be caused by an accident, a forceful blow to the knee, or due to abnormal twisting or bending of the knees while performing certain activities. Common knee injuries that cause pain while bending the joints include:

Lateral Meniscus Tear

A tear or injury to the meniscus cartilage is known as a lateral meniscus tear. The knee joint is made up of the femur and the tibia. Between the two bones, there are two disc-shaped cartilages, also known as meniscus. These cartilages absorb the shock received when the femur strikes the tibia, during certain activities like carrying large weights. One of the cartilages is located on the inner side, and the other is located on the outer side. The cartilage on the outer side is known as the lateral meniscus. When there is a tear or injury to this cartilage due to twisting or engaging in certain weight-bearing activities, it is known as a lateral meniscus tear. Traumatic injuries in athletes and degenerative bone diseases in the elderly are some of the causes for this kind of knee injury.

Symptoms: When there is a meniscus tear, one will experience symptoms like pain while running or jogging, swelling of the knee joints, buckling in the knees, and a popping sound, especially when climbing the stairs. The individual may be unable to flex their knees or experience extreme pain while doing so.

Treatment: Based on the severity and reason for the meniscus tear, the doctor may suggest appropriate treatment for the injury. If the meniscus tear is caused by injury, then anti-inflammatory medication along with rest and elevation, may help in relieving knee pain. When the meniscal tear fails to improve, a surgery such as knee arthroscopy may be required.

Runner's Knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome)

An aching pain around the front of the kneecap caused by repeatedly bending the knees, a direct blow, misalignment of the kneecap, flat feet, or weak thigh muscles, can lead to runner's knee.

Symptoms: Pain when bending the knees while doing activities like squatting, walking, kneeling, or running, can be felt. There is considerable swelling along with a popping or grinding sensation while walking and flexing the knees.

Treatment: Use the RICE treatment, which involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation, to treat the pain. Using special shoe inserts, also known as orthoses or braces for the knees, can also help in a quick recovery. Surgical treatment like arthroscopy or knee realignment surgery, can help in recovering from severe cases of runner's knee.

Jumper's Knee (Patellar Tendonitis)

Jumper's knee is a sports-related knee injury that affects the patellar tendon. This tendon connects the femur to the tibia. Activities which involve a lot of jumping and landing, like basketball and other such games, can lead to jumper's knee. This injury is minor in the initial stage, but when left untreated, can soon cause constant pain and the inability to participate in any activities.

Symptoms: The symptoms can range from pain-only after performing an intense activity (minor injury), to extreme pain that causes immobility. Pain below the kneecap, weakness in the calf muscles, and stiffness in the knees, are some other signs of this injury.

Treatment: Resting, icing, and elevating the knees, can help in minimizing pain. To support the knees, an infrapatellar strap can be worn just below the kneecap. To desensitize the pain, anti-inflammatory medications and specialized injections may be given. Massages and minimum impact exercises may be recommended by the physiotherapist to strengthen the joints. In severe cases, surgery may be required.

Knee Ligament Injuries

Ligament injuries in the knees can be extremely painful and debilitating. These are observed frequently in athletes, and can cause extreme knee pain when bending and flexing the muscles. There are many types of ligament injuries, that include injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), lateral collateral ligament (LCL), or medial collateral ligament (MCL). Extending the knee excessively, hitting the knees against hard surfaces, shifting weight from one leg to the other abruptly, or twisting the knee with the foot planted firmly on the ground, can cause these injuries.

Symptoms: Swelling around the joints, a loud snap at the time of injury, excessive pain and the inability to move the legs easily, are some symptoms of this injury.

Treatment: Apart from immediate treatment like RICE and anti-inflammatory painkillers, one can try certain strengthening exercises recommended by the doctor. In case of severe collateral damage to the ligaments, reconstruction knee surgery is the only way to get better.


The inflammation of the bursa or the fluid-filled sacs in the knee joints due to kneeling, squatting, or excessive friction, is known as bursitis. There are basically two types of bursitis - Prepatellar bursitis also known as housemaid's knee and Infrapatellar bursitis, also known as clergyman's knee. In both cases, the repeated minor trauma to the knees caused by squatting or kneeling, leads to knee pain.

Symptoms: Pain, especially when bending or flexing the knees, along with swelling, are some of the common symptoms of this type of knee injury. Although the pain while bending is not excessive, it can cause some amount of discomfort to the affected individual.

Treatment: To reduce the inflammation, anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroid injections may be prescribed. The doctor may aspirate the fluid-filled bursa by inserting a needle and drawing out the excessive fluid from the sacs. Physical therapy and the use of gel knee pads are used for strengthening the muscles. In case of chronic bursitis, surgery may be an option.

Other injuries that lead to knee pain when bending include tendinitis, a cartilage tear, hip or foot pain, Synovial Plica Syndrome, Osgood-Schlatter disease, and Iliotibial Band Syndrome.

Medical Conditions

Knee Osteoarthritis

This is a chronic condition that is characterized by degeneration of the cartilage protecting the ends of the bones. This can lead to excessive friction between the bones. Knee osteoarthritis can be caused by repetitive strain on the knee joints, an earlier injury, or obesity.

Symptoms: Depending upon the severity of the condition, a person may suffer from mild, moderate, or extreme pain. This is accompanied by a lack of flexibility in the knees, accompanied by stiffness and some swelling.

Treatment: Pain relievers in the form of oral medications, topical creams, and steroid injections, may be prescribed. In certain cases, hyaluronic acid injections are given to replace the lost fluid between the bones. Obesity is also one of the common causes of this kind of knee problem. Hence, dietary changes and moderate exercise meant to lose weight is recommended.

Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Knees

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disorder of the immune system. Rheumatoid arthritis of the knees is caused by the inflammation of the synovium membrane. The synovium, which is present in the joint cartilage, produces a lubricating liquid that is needed to keep the joints in perfect working order. The absence of this liquid can lead to damage to the joint.

Symptoms: Swelling, pain, and stiffness are some of the common signs of rheumatoid arthritis. In certain cases, extreme flu-like symptoms and fatigue may be felt.

Treatment: Anti-rheumatic drugs like methotrexate, sulfasalazine, azathioprine, or leflunomide, may be prescribed along with anti-inflammatory drugs. In case the non-surgical methods fail to ease the pain, the surgeon may opt for joint replacement surgery or synovectomy.

Other types of arthritis that cause knee pain include gout and lupus.

Immediate Remedy

To get rid of knee pain when bending, you should identify the reason for the pain and act accordingly. One of the best ways to provide immediate relief from the pain is by using the RICE method - Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

The therapy includes resting the knee as much as possible. If required, the knee can also be placed at an elevation.

Using an ice pack on the knee will help in reducing swelling, if any. This will have to be repeated every 3 to 4 hours for 10 to 15 minutes.

The next step in the therapy is the use of a compression on the knee. It will give additional support to the knee and help in keeping the swelling under check. If the pain is unbearable, then the need for a painkiller might be necessary. However, it is best to consult a health care professional for the same.

To elevate the knee, place it at a level that is higher than that of the heart. For this, a pillow or two can be placed under the knee to help reduce swelling.

Along with the treatment option provided, simple therapeutic knee exercises recommended by a physiotherapist can help in reducing the pain and strengthening the muscles.

Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.