What is the pain in the back of my knee?

By Jared S Ernest, PT

Pain Behind the Knee

There can be several causes of this type of pain behind the knee. We have listed the most common injuries related to the back of your knee. Some of these conditions are very serious and you should seek medical attention right away. Other factors can determine the cause of the injury. Your medical history, a physical exam and special testing.  The goal of this article to to explain the possible causes for pain behind your knee and to provide you some treatment options.  We want you to able to get back to things you love without knee pain.

Pain in the back of the knee

Man holding his knee

Hamstring Strain

The first possible cause can be biceps femoris tendonitis or hamstring tendonitis.  This is a medical term for the inflammation of the hamstring tendon which is a muscle that attaches on the back of the upper leg.  You can also have a strain or muscle pull to the hamstring muscle.  This muscle hooks into the back of the knee. Pain mainly occurs with bending of the knee and can be caused by kicking sports, running downhill and sprinting.  The best way to treat this condition is to rest, ice and start to slowly improve your hamstring flexibility.  See the image below for a seated hamstring stretch.

Image of hamstring stretch

Image of hamstring stretch

Baker’s Cyst

Next is a Baker’s cyst. This medical condition is officially known as a popliteal cyst. With this problem, there is localized swelling at the back of the knee which causes increased pressure that results in pain. The classic sign of a baker’s cyst is a golf ball sized knot on the back of the knee.  There are both conservative and more aggressive treatment options for this issue.  Sometimes the cyst may need to be drained.

What is the pain behind my knee

What is the pain in the back of my knee?

Popliteus Tendonitis

Another possible condition can be popliteus tendonitis. The popliteus muscle is a small muscle in the back of the knee that works to turn the lower leg bone in. Symptoms typically include tenderness with pushing in at back of knee. Pain may also occur with the knee bent and foot turned outward.  This condition is treated with rest and ice.

Gastrocnemius Pain

Another possible issue is gastrocnemius pain, which is inflammation of the large calf muscle. This calf tendon starts at the back of the knee and continues down into the heel. This problem is usually an overuse injury with pain at the inside of the back of the knee.  The Achilles tendon is also prone to tendonitis or a tear or rupture.  The patient will feel a “pop” or feel a sharp pain in their lower calf area.  If you feel a popping sensation in the back of your lower leg, you need to be properly evaluated by a physician.

Calf stains are treated with the RICE Technique.  Rest, ice, compression and elevation of the lower leg.  Learn more about Achilles Tendon injuries in this ARTICLE. 

Lower Leg Injuries

Anatomy of the lower leg

Deep Vein Thrombosis DVT (Blood Clot) Popliteal Vein

A very serious issue to be aware of are Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).  DVT is commonly referred to as a blood clot, which usually occurs following surgery or long periods of immobilization. Typical symptoms of DVT include swelling in the affected leg as well as pain that feels like cramping or soreness. This area will sometimes be red and warm to touch.  A patient will sometimes have a fever and pain with the squeezing of the calf muscle. The popliteal vein is one of the most common locations for the development of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). These can be life-threatening when a portion of a thrombus to breaks off and forms a pulmonary embolus as it travels to the lungs.   If you have these symptoms, call your doctor immediately or seek out medical attention right away.

Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries

Posterior cruciate ligament injuries (PCL) can also cause pain at the back of the knee. The PCL is a ligament that keeps the knee from bending back the wrong way and is injured when the knee is forced the wrong way. Symptoms can also include minimal swelling and a feeling of instability.

JOI Rehab since its inception has routinely treated these conditions successfully with experienced clinicians. With our new state of the art additions of laser and Graston therapy, we can further speed your recovery.

JOI and JOI Rehab

We hope that his article has been helpful in explaining all of the issues which can cause pain in the back of your knee.  The team at JOI and JOI Rehab can help you with any condition of the knee.  JOI Physicians continue to offer online new patient appointments. This is another option to make it more convenient to make new patient appointments with less phone hold times. Follow the link below to select your JOI MD and schedule online.  You can now schedule follow up appointments and cancel appointments with our physicians on the JOI Portal.

You can still call 904-JOI-2000 to make new patient JOI Physician Appointments if that is your preference.

To make appointments with JOI Rehab, please call 904-858-7045.

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