A strong knee enables you to perform various activities with ease. However, you may sometimes experience pain in and around the knees due to many common reasons. Similarly, there are various situations in which you may experience pain in the back of the knee. It is also known as posterior knee pain and there are many causes that can lead to this condition.
While proper evaluation is essential for diagnosis of pain behind the knee; appropriate timely treatment can provide relief and limit further damage. It is also worth knowing about the rehabilitation and therapeutic exercises to reduce discomfort and protect from pain in back of knee or posterior knee pain.
What Can Cause Pain In The Back Of The Knee Or Posterior Knee Pain?
Knee joint is very complex and the long bones of thigh and legs allow the hinge like movement of the knee joint. There are muscles, ligaments and tendons around the knee that support the knee joint from all sides, stabilize the joint and facilitate knee movements. The cartilage between the joint acts as a cushion and prevents friction, shock or any damage to the knee joint. Any damage to these structures can cause knee pain and discomfort.
Just as there are many causes of pain in the front of the knee or around the knee, there are various causes of pain in the back of the knee. Some of these causes include:
Pain In The Back Of The Knee Caused Due To Baker's Cyst
Swelling of localized type in the back of the knee, also called as popliteal cyst. It occurs due to the inflammation of popliteal bursa, located at the pit in the back of the knee. It can occur gradually or due to a blow to the back of knee. Inflammation due to injury or arthritis causes excess fluid to spread around the area and cause swelling of the bursa and back of the knee pain.
Back of the Knee Pain or Posterior Knee Pain Caused Due To Injuries
Injuries to the soft tissues surrounding the knee, particularly in the posterior compartment are common. In the back of the knee, there is posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), which is responsible for keeping the leg bone from moving far back. The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) can get injured during sports activities, accidents or blows, especially, when the knee is hit in a bent position. Overstretching of knee ligaments, commonly called knee sprain or complete ligament rupture can cause pain in the back of the knee or posterior knee pain along with other symptoms.
Another common injury causing back of the knee pain is the meniscus tear. Meniscus is a cartilage that lines the knee joint and acts as cushion. It is located in a C- shape along the inner and outer side of the joint. Meniscus injuries occur with sudden twisting, forceful knee movements or overstraining a previously injured cartilage. When the posterior part of either side gets injured or damaged, it can cause pain in the back of the knee with swelling and inability to bend the knee.
The posterior part of the thigh has a group of muscles called hamstring muscles. Injury to these muscles can occur during knee bending or movements with sudden increase or decrease in speed causing pain in the back of knee or posterior knee pain.
Bone injuries like fractures or in certain cases, injury to the nerve passing through the back of knee, during certain movements or sports can cause posterior pain.
Pain In The Back Of The Knee Or Posterior Knee Pain Caused Due To Arthritis
Conditions like arthritis caused by degeneration or other causes can lead to changes in the bone structure. This can cause pain in and around the knee joint including the posterior side along with swelling and stiffness of knee.
Back Of the Knee Pain Caused Due To Tendonitis
There are structures called tendons, present at the point of muscle origin and insertion. The tendons associated with the posterior thigh and calf muscles are present at the back of the knee joint. When these tendons get inflamed, there is pain in the back of the knee joint. The common conditions include biceps femoris tendonitis, popliteus tendonitis and gastrocnemius tendonitis.
Other Conditions That Can Cause Pain in The Back of the Knee or Posterior Knee Pain
Some other conditions that can cause back of the knee pain or posterior knee pain may include disturbances with blood circulation in the leg like deep vein thrombosis (DVT), claudication or cramping pain in legs due to inadequate blood supply. Other bone and joint disorders like bone diseases, tumors, etc. affecting the back of knee can cause posterior knee pain.
Risk Factors For Pain In The Back Of The Knee Or Posterior Knee Pain
Some common risk factors associated with pain in back of knee include previous knee injuries; obesity; excessive strain on knee; leg or feet deformities like flat feet; improper conditioning; inadequate muscle strength or flexibility.
Treatment For Pain In The Back Of The Knee Or Posterior Knee Pain
Treatment for pain in the back of the knee or posterior knee pain is based on the cause and varies with the underlying condition. Injuries causing back of the knee pain are generally treated with rest, ice, compression, elevation (R.I.C.E. formula); medications and sometimes may require surgical repair. Other bone and joint conditions, tendon and soft tissue damage causing posterior knee pain are treated with conservative or surgical management, as appropriate. Vascular or nerve involvement, tumors, causing pain in the back of the knee requires proper diagnosis and management by concerned specialties.
Recovery Period For Pain In The Back Of The Knee Or Posterior Knee Pain
As the causes of pain in back of knee vary, the recovery period also differs. Certain injuries that cause posterior knee pain make take few weeks to heal, while those undergoing surgery may take a longer time for complete recovery from pain in the back of the knee.
Exercises For Pain In Back Of Knee Or Posterior Knee Pain
Physiotherapy and specific exercises monitored by physical therapist need to be initiated in order to regain free movements of the knee and prevent further damage.
In general, proper warm up and stretching before playing sports or running is important. Basic stretching and strengthening exercises for the hamstring and calf muscles can help to keep the knee joint strong and prevent injuries.
- Supine Heel Slide Exercise For Pain In Back Of Knee Or Posterior Knee Pain: Lie on the back with legs straight; move the toes front and back to feel the stretch in calf muscles. Then slide the heels to raise the knees till they bend and touch the heels close to the body.
- Prone Knee Bend Exercise For Pain In Back Of Knee Or Posterior Knee Pain: Lie on stomach with legs straight; bend knees towards the body, hold and straighten them again. These are also done using weights under supervision.
- Standing Knee Bend Exercise For Pain In Back Of Knee Or Posterior Knee Pain: Stand and lift your leg from behind to bend the knees, hold the ankles and touch heels to the buttocks. Hold for few seconds and release. Weight can be used here too. It is advisable to follow an expert's advice.