Patients suffering from knee pain are commonly seen in clinical practice. Pain may be caused by local structures within or around the knee, or, may be referred from other sources (such as the lower back or hip joint).

Sudden onset knee pain often occurs in athletes involved in fast moving change-of-direction sports, kicking sports, contact sports and those sports which involve twisting movements or rapid acceleration and deceleration (such as football, soccer, basketball, netball and alpine skiing). These acute injuries often involve tearing of cartilage tissue or ligaments within the region. One of the most common causes of sudden onset pain in the knee is a Medial Meniscal Tear often presenting as pain at the inner aspect of the knee.

Gradual onset knee pain often occurs in those patients involved in sports or activities that involve running, repetitive squatting, lunging, jumping, twisting, kneeling or repetitive kicking. One of the most common causes of gradual onset pain located at the front of the knee is patellofemoral pain syndrome. Patients with gradual onset pain located at the inner or outer aspect of the knee are often due to either a medial meniscal tear or lateral meniscal tear. In older patients with gradual onset knee pain, the most likely cause of symptoms is degenerative changes in the knee or patellofemoral joint, such as knee osteoarthritis.

There are numerous other causes of knee pain, some of which present suddenly due to a specific incident, others which develop gradually over time.

Below are some of the more common causes of knee pain with a brief description of each condition to aid diagnosis. Conditions have been organised according to sudden or gradual onset and common or less common conditions for ease of use.

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