Potential Origins of Knee Pain: Diagnostic Considerations for Effective Management

a man talking to two doctors

When your knee is painful, there are times when diagnostic tests fail to reveal the culprit. Diffuse pain that comes and goes or pain that manifests only in certain postures and movements require deductive reasoning. Symptoms-based analysis helps doctors in identifying causative factors.

Before a knee surgeon cuts open the joint to see what is going on inside, it is important to determine where the problem really lies. Doctor Mitchell Larsen shares some insights to help you gain a better understanding of the problem and the solution.

Joint articulation

The joints that comprise the knee are between the thighbone (femur) and lower leg (tibia) and between this articulation and the kneecap (patella). The knee joint doesn’t have as much variety of movement as the ankle and hip, but it is not as simple as it seems. The complex arrangement of bones, ligaments, cartilage, joint capsule, and muscles attachments makes it difficult to identify the cause of dysfunction.


Ligaments connecting the bones provide stability to the knee. The cruciate ligaments within the joint and the collateral ligaments at the sides perform different functions. When the knee experiences direct trauma or excessive torsional forces, the ligaments may incur microscopic tears. Even the slightest disruption in joint mechanics due to ligament injury may cause pain at certain motions.


Meanwhile, the meniscus located between the thighbone and lower leg is a shock absorber. As a person ages, the cartilage wears away and bearing weight on the joint when standing and walking may become painful.


Problems related to muscles are not usually associated with pain. However, muscle imbalance is one of the silent causes of pain and limitation of movements of the joint. A slight shift in the articulation of the bones due to weakened muscles on one side and a stronger pull on the other side leads to changes in force absorption and joint mechanics. All these manifest as pain eventually.

A surgery might be a good solution to your knee problem. However, the exact cause of the intense pain you feel should be clarified first. Do not hesitate to consult the experts on joint problems for a diagnosis and treatment.