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How Do You Relieve Pain In The Back Of Your Knee?

Reviewed on 1/26/2021

What is pain in the back of your knee?

Pain in the back of your knee is relieved based on the underlying cause, which can include rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE), exercise and physical therapy, lifestyle changes, nerve blocks or stimulation, medication, and surgery.
Pain in the back of your knee is relieved based on the underlying cause, which can include rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE), exercise and physical therapy, lifestyle changes, nerve blocks or stimulation, medication, and surgery.

When people experience pain in the back of the knee, it is commonly referred to as posterior knee pain. This type of pain can be caused by many different things and can occur suddenly or gradually over time. A doctor can help diagnose the root cause of the pain in the back of your knee to help you find relief.

Symptoms of pain in the back of your knee

Many different things can cause pain in the back of your knee. If you have pain in the back of your knee, you may want to see a doctor if you are experiencing:

  • Severe pain in the knee, especially when walking
  • Swelling of the knee
  • Unstable knees that “give way” when climbing stairs
  • Audible pop sound coming from knee joint
  • Uncomfortable tingling or prickling feeling in the feet
  • Inability to live life without pain

Causes of pain in the back of your knee

Pain behind the knee can be caused by a variety of conditions such as the following:

Who gets pain in the back of the knee?

Pain behind the knee is most often found in adults as a result of wear and tear from daily activities such as walking, standing, bending, and lifting. Additionally, athletes who run and engage in sports that involve running, jumping, and quick pivoting of the knee may experience this type of knee pain. It is important to seek medical attention for any acute and/or long-term knee pain you may be experiencing.

Diagnosis for pain in the back of your knee

To diagnose the cause of pain in the back of your knee, a medical doctor may give you a physical exam. The doctor may also run additional tests, including:

  • An X-ray, which is an invisible magnetic energy beams to create images of internal bone and tissue
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is an electric transmission of energy, magnet, and computer that is used to detect damage or disease in the body
  • Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan), which is an electric transmission of energy and computer that creates extremely detailed images of bones, muscles, and organs
  • Arthroscopy, which is a medical procedure using a small tube inserted through a small incision into the joint. Images from inside the joint are projected onto a screen and used to determine the pain source
  • A radionuclide bone scan, which is a medical procedure where a tiny amount of radioactive material is injected into the bloodstream. A scanner is used to see the blood flow and determine the source of the pain

SLIDESHOW

Slideshow: Exercises for Knee Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain See Slideshow

Treatments for pain in the back of your knee

Healthcare providers usually treat pain in the back of your knee based on the underlying cause of the pain or injury.

Rest, ice, compression, and elevation

If you have sudden, intense pain in the back of your knee, the doctor may recommend that you rest and apply ice to your knee. In some cases, your doctor may also ask you to elevate (prop up) your leg while you’re sitting down to help improve the blood flow in your leg.

Exercise and physical therapy

Some exercises can help build muscle and relieve pain in the back of your knee. It is important to work with your doctor or physical therapist to determine which exercises are right for you so you can avoid potential injury.

Lifestyle changes

Your doctor may ask you to make some lifestyle changes to help relieve pain in the back of your knee. This could include things like maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding activities like running or placing too much pressure on the knees.

Genicular nerve blocks

This medical treatment blocks pain signals between the knee and the brain, which offers relief from pain in the back of your knee. This is a nonsurgical option done by injecting an anesthetic (a drug which results in the loss of sensation) into the affected area.

Peripheral nerve stimulation

This is a medical procedure where a surgeon puts electrodes (electrical conductor) and a battery pack near the nerves inside the knee. This creates an electrical current that tricks the body into turning off pain signals, which relieves pain in and around the knee.

Medication

This could include over the counter medications like acetaminophen (anti-inflammatory drugs) or stronger medications like opioids (strong pain-relieving drugs) and steroids (synthetic drugs that decrease inflammation) that are prescribed by a doctor.

Surgery

Your doctor may recommend surgery if the pain in the back of your knee is due to structural damage. The type of surgery depends on each person’s unique situation and circumstances.

Complications and side effects of pain in the back of your knee

Some treatments may cause possible complications and side effects. It is recommended to speak to your doctor about the best options available for you. For instance, if you receive peripheral nerve stimulation or genicular nerve blocks, you may experience:

  • Nerve damage
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Damage to the surrounding area
  • Worsening pain

Other medications may have different side effects. Consult your healthcare provider about possible complications of any medications you might take for relieving pain in the back of your knee.

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References
American Society of Anesthesiologists: "Knee Pain."

Cleveland Clinic: "Could Nerve Blocks or Radiofrequency Ablation Help Ease Your Knee Pain?"

Hopkins Medicine: "Knee Pain and Problems."

Infinite Wellness: "Knee Pop and Pain."

Mayo Clinic: "Knee Pain."

Sports Injury Clinic: "Pain Behind Knee."

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