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Back of the Knee Pain

author image Martin Hughes
Martin Hughes is a chiropractic physician, health writer and the co-owner of a website devoted to natural footgear. He writes about health, fitness, diet and lifestyle. Hughes earned his Bachelor of Science in kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and his doctoral degree from Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Ore.
Back of the Knee Pain
Numerous conditions can cause pain in the back of the knee. Photo Credit legs of runner image by jimcox40 from <a href="http://www.fotolia.com">Fotolia.com</a>

Numerous conditions can cause pain in the back of your knee, including injuries of, or damage to, muscles, tendons and ligaments in the posterior knee compartment, according to the Sports Injury Clinic website. Traumatic injuries, repetitive strain injuries and certain medical conditions -- especially conditions involving the lower extremity blood vessels -- can cause pain in the back of your knee.


The knee is one of the most important and complex joints in your body. According to the Southern California Orthopedic Institute, the bones of the knee -- the femur, or thighbone, and the tibia, or shinbone -- form a hinge joint that allows the knee to bend and straighten. Overlying the knee joint is the patella or kneecap, which helps protect the knee joint and increases the efficiency of the quadriceps muscle group on the front of the thigh. Within the knee joint is articular cartilage, which helps absorb shock and decrease friction between moving bones. Ligaments help stabilize and strengthen the knee on all sides.


Numerous conditions or injuries can pain at the back of your knee. According to the Sports Injury Clinic website, some of the more common causes of pain in the posterior knee include posterior cruciate ligament sprain or rupture, strains of your popliteus muscle, rupture or inflammation of the hamstring tendons, deep vein thrombosis, avulsion or rupture of the biceps femoris muscle and a Baker's cyst -- a painful swelling of the bursa or fluid-filled sack situated behind the knee.


Symptoms associated with pain in the back of the knee largely depend on the cause of the pain and the tissue type affected. MayoClinic.com states that common signs and symptoms associated with knee pain, including posterior knee pain, include aching, burning or sharp pain in the affected area, swelling and stiffness in the involved knee, knee weakness or instability, audible noises emanating from within the knee joint during knee movement and knee locking. In most cases, symptoms only manifest on one side of the body, but posterior knee pain can be bilateral or occur on both sides of the body in some individuals.

Risk Factors

Certain risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing pain in the back of the knee. According to MayoClinic.com, common risk factors for knee pain, including posterior knee pain, include age, sex, carrying excess weight or being obese, structural abnormalities such as leg length inequalities and flat feet, loss of muscle flexibility, muscle imbalances, muscle weakness and previous knee injuries. Participating in certain sports, such as alpine skiing, basketball and running, may also increase the risk for pain in the back of the knee.


Treatment for pain in the back of your knee varies based on the severity or degree of discomfort you are experiencing and the cause of your pain. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, knee pain, including pain in the back of your knee that is caused by musculoskeletal problems, usually responds well to conservative therapies, such as rest, ice, compression, elevation and temporary activity modification. In rare cases, a surgeon might need to reattach a tendon that has avulsed, or pulled away from the bone, at the back of your knee.

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