Pain in the back of the knee is known as posterior knee pain or popliteal pain as there we have the popliteal tendon and the popliteal muscle. It could be a sign of many different conditions. In this article we will explain the nature of some of the causes of pain behind the knee, their symptoms other than pain, the usual reasons for them to develop and how we can treat them.
Baker’s cyst – nature, symptoms, reasons for developing, treatment
The Baker’s cyst or also called popliteal cyst is a condition which involves swelling at the back of the knee. This cyst is a lump that forms due to buildup of synovial (joint) fluid which lubricates the knee joint. This fluid’s secretion may become excessive as a result of pressure done to the knee. When that happens, the fluid leaks into the popliteal bursa (a sack filled with fluid that is located between the hamstring muscle tendons and the knee bones) and forms the cystic swelling known as Baker’s cyst. People who suffer from arthritis have a 50% chance of developing a Baker’s cyst, so arthritis is known to be the most common cause of it (that is, osteoarthritis, but rheumatoid arthritis is also said to be among the probable causes). There are also other conditions that could lead to its development. These include gout which is an inflammatory condition; knee injuries such as cartilage tear, etc. Baker’s cysts are common among people at the age of 40 and are said to affect women more than men. The cyst can sometimes be small and sometimes large. It usually produces pain, stiffness and bruising in the knee but sometimes there are no symptoms at all. It is important to determine whether you have a blood clot or a cyst, as blood clots require immediate medical attention. If you have a painful cyst, treatment has to fix the problem that is causing it to develop (arthritis, cartilage tear, etc.). A popular way of treating the cyst itself is draining it (removing the excess fluid with a needle). Your doctor may prescribe some anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen for the pain and swelling but you need to be careful with them, as they have many side effects. The thing with cysts is that they tend to come back, especially if the person is suffering from arthritis, so you will need to strengthen your knee and stretch your tight muscles by doing exercises to help prevent this from happening.
Biceps femoris tendonitis (Hamstrings tendinitis) – nature, symptoms, reasons for developing, treatment
The biceps femoris tendon is one of the hamstring tendons. It is located along the back of the knee and problems with it cause pain. The tendon gets inflamed where it attaches to the bone and this can be the result of a tear that has not properly healed or in many cases of overuse. This condition is called tendonitis but that is not totally accurate, as tendonitis refers to an acute inflammation of the tendon but here we are usually talking about pain that is caused by overuse and degeneration of the tendon, involving chronic pain, so a broader term such as tendinopathy should be used. You may irritate the tendon while running or cycling for too long, by doing activities that involve accelerating and decelerating. Pain and swelling where the tendon attaches to the bone are among the symptoms of biceps femoris tendinopathy, as well as stiffness in the morning and/or after a workout. If there is injury involved, then you could use ice to reduce pain and swelling. After the initial stage, applying heat seems to be more of use. You may need to take some anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen but this is only done in the early stages. Another treatment that is said to accelerate the healing process is the ultrasound or laser treatment. Rehabilitation consisting of stretching and strengthening exercises should be considered immediately after the pain has been reduced.
Posterior cartilage/Meniscus tear – nature, symptoms, reasons for developing, treatment
A meniscus injury could develop either due to an injury or due to cartilage wear and tear over time. A tear occurs in the cartilage that lines the knee joint. The meniscus has two parts, the medial one, located at the inner side of the knee, and the lateral one, located at the outer side of the knee. Its role is to act as a shock absorber, that is, to ensure the proper distribution of stress done to the knee. Usually, the medial part gets torn. This can happen due to several sports activities such as football, skiing or rugby, or with age, as cartilage wears away and can get ruptured more easily if used every day. The symptoms of a meniscal tear are the following: pain when trying to strengthen the knee; swelling (if there has been a sudden injury); knee locking (when the leg gets in one place and you are unable to change its position). When it comes to torn knee cartilage, the healing process is a long one and unfortunately, sometimes it does not regenerate the way it has to. If we are looking at a rather small meniscus injury, non-surgical treatment has to be considered. This involves the usual PRICE treatment (that is, protect, rest, ice, compress and elevate), as well as using knee support such as a knee brace to provide stability to the knee, and of course doing exercise that will allow for the strengthening of the muscles around the knee joint and thus for reducing the effect of the meniscal tear. If all of this does not help, this means that the tear is more severe and you may need to undergo surgery to resolve the problem. This is done to remove any bits of cartilage and sew up the tears. After that, you will again need to exercise daily in order to restore your knee’s strength and movement.
Runner’s knee – nature, symptoms, reasons for developing, treatment
This is a term that is used for a number of conditions that involve the knee. For example, this may mean we are dealing with the so-called patellofemoral pain syndrome. Runner’s knee is said to be the most common injury among athletes that is cause by overuse. It is not only a condition runners suffer from, it may also be found among people who do biking or jumping etc. If you have runner’s knee, this means that your patella (kneecap) has gone out of place and it has started to irritate the femoral (thighbone) groove, leading to the wearing away of the cartilage beneath the kneecap, which in its place causes pain in the back of the knee, as well as tenderness and/or swelling. When you try to bend your knee, the pain feels worse. Sometimes there is a popping sensation. Runner’s knee has to be treated in time as it may lead to the development of arthritis. One of the more usual causes of runner’s knee involve hitting your knee or falling on it and thus dislocating it; overusing it and thus irritating your nerves and straining your tendons; having fallen arches, which leads to knee pain; or not having strong leg muscles. Fortunately, runner’s knee is not a condition that typically requires undergoing surgery, so you may successfully treat it by avoiding activities which may be harmful to your knee; taking anti-inflammatory drugs; using the tested RICE formula (rest, ice, compress, elevate); as well as doing the appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises that your doctor may recommend to you.
Some people feel mild pain at the back of the knee that seems to have been there all the time, some may experience sudden and sharp pain without having had any problems with their knee beforehand. You may recognize yourself in one of this conditions or another you have read about, but you need to know that you have to consult a specialist when you feel some kind of pain and/or have swelling or other symptoms. The doctor will evaluate your condition and give you the best treatment for it. Remember not to undergo home treatment if you are unsure of your knee problem as you may actually make it worse.