There are a number of things that can cause knee pain, but one of the first steps in making a diagnosis is narrowing down the location of the pain. If your problems originate behind the knee, here are some of the possible culprits and how your doctor will likely treat.

Posterior Meniscus Tear

The meniscus consists of cartilage that lines the knee joint, and it basically serves as a shock absorber when you're walking, running, and jumping. It can tear from an injury or from normal "wear and tear." Cartilage does tend to get somewhat brittle with age, and when this happens, it can tear when you're engaged in normal activity, like walking up the stairs.

A posterior tear happens at the back of the joint, and the symptoms include pain behind the knee, a feeling of instability, locking of the knee, trouble straightening the leg, and swelling.

If you are diagnosed with a posterior meniscus tear, your doctor will initially recommend rest, ice packs, and elevating the leg. As time progresses, you may be given exercises to implement as well as a knee brace for regular use. Occasionally, if healing doesn't progress as expected, surgery may be necessary.

Hamstring Injury

The hamstrings are a set of muscles that run along the back of the thigh from the hip all the way to the knee. They are responsible for stabilizing the knee and for allowing your leg to bend back when you're walking. They also propel you forward when running.

If one of the hamstrings tears, you'll either experience general pain behind the knee or a sharp pain that occurs with sudden movement.

Treatment is similar to when you have a meniscus tear as far as using ice packs, resting, and elevating the leg. But instead of using a leg brace, your doctor may recommend massage therapy or a compression bandage.


Arthritis occurs when you have changes in the bone that lead to pain and inflammation around the joint. Osteoarthritis is the most common type, and it occurs most often with people over the age of 50. This kind of arthritis doesn't result from an injury.

If you have arthritis behind the knee, symptoms usually include morning pain and stiffness, clicking or grinding sounds, decreased mobility, swelling, locking, and increased pain with rainy weather.

Doctors will often prescribe a number of different treatments for arthritis, and a lot of it will depend on the severity of your symptoms as well as your budget and lifestyle. Treatment options include exercise, knee braces, heat or ice packs, oral medications or corticosteroid injections, special footwear to "cushion" your walk, and other assistive devices like a cane or walker.

Knee Sprain

A knee sprain is an injury that can occur when one of the ligaments in the knee tears or overstretches. It can happen if you accidentally twist your knee or suffer a blow to the leg.

If you sprain your knee, you'll likely suffer with generalized pain around the joint as well as swelling, possible bruising, and decreased movement. Treatments are fairly simple and include ice packing as well as resting and elevating the leg. Eventually, as the knee begins to heal, your doctor will talk with you about gentle exercises that will continue to promote healing. Knee braces and compression bandages are also used for added support.

Bakers Cyst

Behind your knee is a fluid-filled sac called the popliteal bursa. It's there to prevent friction between the muscles and bones, but on occasion it can swell and become what's known as a Bakers Cyst.

At first, you may not notice much more than a little, squishy bump behind the knee. But if it gets big enough, it can lead to pain and stiffness when trying to bend the leg or when standing for long periods of time.

A Bakers Cyst is usually caused by osteoarthritis, but it can also appear if you have suffered a blow to the back of the knee. Your doctor will generally recommend a number of treatments that may include ice packs, oral medications, special exercises, corticosteroid injections, pulsed electromagnetic energy, and possibly surgery.

To learn more about these issues and proper treatment, contact resources like Laguna Medical LLC.