Sore knees can be caused by a variety of factors, including injuries, overuse, and misalignment. It can be difficult to pinpoint the source of your pain, so a thorough evaluation by a doctor or physical therapist is often needed.
Let’s take a look at the most common causes of sore knees and how you can go about fixing them:
Overuse of the knee is one of the most common causes of soreness. Short or long sessions of repetitive activities like running, jumping, stair climbing, and squatting can put a lot of pressure on the knee joint. Over time, this can lead to stress and inflammation in the knee area.
The best way to address this issue is by decreasing the frequency and intensity of activities that over-stress your knees. Taking regular breaks and incorporating stretching exercises into your workout can help reduce any pain or inflammation you’re experiencing in your knees. Additionally, avoiding overtraining after an injury is important for recovery as it will help prevent further damage to the joint.
Injury is the most common cause of sore knees. When a knee joint is forced into an unfamiliar and uncomfortable position, ligaments, tendons, and muscles can be damaged or become weak leading to joint stiffness, pain, and discomfort. Injuries can range from minor sprains caused by overuse to more serious conditions like ACL tears or cartilage damage due to a traumatic event.
If you suspect that you have sustained an injury to your knee seek medical attention as soon as possible in order to reduce your risk of further damage or chronic issues.
One of the natural causes of sore knees is aging. As people age, their cartilage wears away and tendons, ligaments, skin, and muscles become less elastic. Even when performing everyday activities such as walking or climbing stairs, individuals may experience knee pain because of this wear and tear. Other symptoms that may accompany sore knees include swelling, stiffness, locking joints, or increased difficulty with walking.
Osteoarthritis is another frequent cause of sore knees in older individuals. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition that affects joint cartilage and can restrict movement in the knee by causing inflammation, pain, and stiffness. Other factors such as genetics and certain medical conditions can also contribute to osteoarthritis in the knee joint.
Injured or torn ligaments or meniscus (the connective tissue within the knee joint) can also lead to exacerbated cases of soreness in the knee joint. These injuries can range from mild to quite severe depending on their severity and are most often caused by physical stress from sports performance or from a sudden impact due to falls or blunt trauma to the leg area. If an individual experience prolonged activity-related pain it’s best for them to seek medical attention for diagnosis and treatment options specific to their individual injury case.
One of the most important steps in fixing sore knees is first to diagnose it. Knowing what is causing your sore knee can help you get to the root of the issue and find a better solution for longer-term relief. Different parts of the knee can be affected by different causes, so it can be beneficial to have a doctor diagnose you to get the best treatment plan for your sore knees. Let’s learn more about the diagnosis process.
The first step to determining the cause of your sore knees is to have your doctor perform a physical exam. The exam will include an assessment of the range of motion within the knee joint, any unusual swelling or redness, and other signs that could indicate damage within the joint. Your doctor may also assess your ability to perform certain physical activities, such as walking and squatting. This information can help them determine what type of treatments might be most effective for them.
In some cases, imaging tests or further diagnostic tests may be required in order to rule out underlying conditions that could potentially be causing knee pain.
X-rays are an important tool used in diagnosing knee pain. Using X-ray technology, a doctor can rule out some potential causes of soreness and get a better look at the underlying condition of the knee joint. An X-ray can identify bone arthritis, bone fractures, or other issues with the bones in the knee.
In addition to X-rays, a doctor may order additional imaging tests such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or computed tomography (CT) scan to get more detailed images of the inside of the joint and further diagnose any potential problems. These scans can also provide valuable information about ligament tears, swelling, and inflammation that might not be seen on an X-ray.
A physical exam may also be performed to test muscle strength and check for signs of injury such as tenderness around the joint or swelling. If any treatments like medications or physiotherapy are recommended following a medical diagnosis, it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions and take preventive steps to avoid strain or further damage to your knees.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic tool used to image the inside of the body in order to detect pain, tears, and other problems related to weak or sore knees. The MRI technology works by using a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed pictures of parts of the knee.
An MRI scan produces pictures from any angle, providing clear and precise images that can be used for diagnosis and treatment planning.
An MRI of the knee includes detailed images of the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage around the knee joint. The procedure can also detect fluid and swelling caused by an injury. As such, it is an effective way to diagnose problems with joints that are difficult to evaluate through other methods such as X-rays or physical examinations. An MRI can also be used in combination with other imaging tests such as ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scans in order to form a comprehensive picture of what is happening inside your knee joint.
If you’re experiencing pain in your knees or have had an accident involving your knees, telling your healthcare provider about it during a routine visit is usually enough for them to determine if an MRI scan is necessary for further diagnosis.
Sore knees can be caused by a variety of factors, from overuse injuries, improper form, or even from inactivity. Depending on the root cause, you may need to adjust your lifestyle or activities to ease your pain. Fortunately, there are treatment methods available to help you heal your sore knees. Different treatments can be tailored to the specific causes of your knee pain.
We’ll explore some of the most common treatments and methods for healing a sore knee:
Rest is one of the most important treatments for sore knees. It’s best to avoid activities that cause pain and strain on your knees, such as running and jumping. Take frequent breaks from activities that may bother your knees and schedule regular rest periods throughout the day.
Ice can be used to reduce inflammation and decrease pain. Apply an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables (such as peas) to your knee several times a day for 20-30 minutes at a time. Stand during ice treatment when possible because sitting can cause additional strain on the knee joint. Make sure not to put ice directly on the skin; use a thin barrier, like a towel, between the ice and the skin to prevent tissue damage from frostbite or cold burns.
Over-the-counter pain medications can help alleviate discomfort associated with sore knees. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or aspirin are effective in reducing inflammation and providing short-term relief from painful knees.
If you are experiencing a knee syndrome—such as swollen or inflamed ligaments—you may want to consider additional treatments such as massage therapy, physical therapy, braces, or injections of corticosteroids into the joint space.
Ice is an effective, inexpensive treatment for sore knees. It decreases inflammation and swelling in the affected area, helping to reduce pain. When the pain has subsided, it hastens healing by increasing circulation to the affected area and reducing stiffness.
To apply ice:
- Wrap a few pieces of crushed or cubed ice in a towel, forming an ice pack.
- Lie down in a comfortable position and place the ice pack directly over the sore knee for 15-20 minutes at a time.
- Remove the ice whenever you feel numbness or burning on your skin so as not to damage your skin from frostbite.
- Repeat this process two to three times per day until you experience relief from soreness in the knee joint.
Compression is one of the most common and recommended treatments for sore knees. Applying a compressive bandage or brace around the injured area can help reduce swelling, and discomfort and improve the range of motion.
Compression can be achieved through the use of sports braces, knee pads, and wraps that support your joint while still allowing you to move freely. This type of compression supports your knee while muscle contraction bends, straightens, twists, or rotates it. It’s important to apply the wrap properly to ensure that you receive the most support possible from it. An experienced healthcare provider can help select and apply the proper compression wrap for you.
The elevation is often one of the first steps recommended in treating sore knees. This technique is simple and works by elevating the area to reduce swelling and discomfort. Keeping your knee elevated as much as possible will reduce pressure on the joint, provide more room for movement, and minimize inflammation.
When using elevation as a treatment for sore knees, it’s important to keep the affected leg elevated above heart level for best results, either by using a pillow or using a support such as a donut cushion. Adding some ice at this time will also help to reduce swelling and discomfort. For best results, elevate your knee for at least 30 minutes every few hours each day.
Exercise is one of the best ways to fix sore knees. It can strengthen the muscles and joints in the area, which can help reduce pain and discomfort. Not only that, but certain exercises may help improve the range of motion and flexibility in the knees.
Let’s discuss some of the best exercises for sore knees:
Stretching your knee is a great way to reduce the pain that results from injury or inflammation. It increases the range of motion and can help improve your mobility. To get started, try these simple stretches:
- Quadriceps Stretch: Position yourself facing a wall and stand two to three feet away. Place your foot behind you, keeping it flat on the floor, bending your knee behind you. Reach back with one hand and pull your heel toward your glutes while keeping your knee centered over the foot that is planted on the floor. You should feel this stretch in the front of the thigh closest to the wall. Hold for up to 30 seconds and repeat on each side up to three times for each leg.
- Hamstring Stretch: While seated in a chair, keep one leg straight out in front and tuck your toes underneath for stability. Bend forward at the waist until you feel a stretch along the back of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat up to three times on each side. Do not lock out or push further if it causes any pain or discomfort in your lower back or knee joint as this can cause injury; instead, stop at a comfortable point where there is still some tension felt.
- Knee Flexion/Extension Stretches: Sitting comfortably, place one foot flat on the floor with the heel pointed straight ahead and extend the out in front of you so the calf runs perpendicular to the body, forming a right angle with the hip. With one hand holding just below their kneecap, gently pull their foot towards themselves until they start to feel tightness in the back of their knee (for extension) then hold for 15–30 seconds before slowly releasing afterward; alternately, curl their toes towards them (for flexion) as far as they comfortably can while also holding just below their kneecap before performing similar holds (15–30 seconds). Repeat 3–5 sets depending on comfort level before changing legs/repeating steps accordingly.
Strengthening exercises for your knees will help keep them fit, flexible, and reduce pain. Ideally, you should aim to do these exercises three times a week, but the frequency can depend on individual needs. Before any exercises start warm-up the leg first by doing some light cardio or dynamic stretches.
For knee strengthening, focus on strengthening and stretching the quadriceps and hamstrings, as these muscles work in synergy to stabilize the knee joint during activity. This will help ensure a strong foundation of support and reduce any stresses that may be placed upon it when exercising.
- Wall Squats – start by standing with your back against a wall and feet slightly wider than hip-width apart to provide balance when performing squats. Keeping your back flat against the wall, squat down until your thighs become parallel with the ground then slowly return to standing position (repeat 10-15 times).
- Manual Isometrics – this is a useful exercise for quadriceps strengthening without much movement involved. Place one hand behind the knee of your affected leg and the other hand atop your kneecap, then press both hands gently together (as hard as is comfortable without causing discomfort), holding for 10 seconds before releasing (repeat 3-4 times).
- Hamming Curl – this exercise focuses on hamstring strength which can help support poor knee alignment and correct any existing imbalances in that area. Lie face down on an exercise mat facing facedown with your hip held up off the ground slightly while keeping your core tight throughout the exercise (positioning each leg a hip-width apart). With your knees bent at 90 degrees curl your heel forward towards the buttocks before returning the heel to starting position near the glutes (repeat 10-15 times).
Improved balance is a key component of strengthening the muscles around your knees and is an important part of any knee injury prevention routine. Strengthening key muscles around the knee helps bolster stability within the joint and reduces the likelihood of injury. Regularly completing single-leg balance exercises can help you build proprioception and stability, which help ensure symmetrical movement on both sides of the body.
Single-Leg Balance Exercises
- Single-leg ankle reaches: Stand on one leg. Without bending your knee, lean to one side and reach down toward your toes with the opposite hand for several seconds before returning to an upright position. Perform 10 reps on each side.
- Single-leg alpha reaches: Stand on one leg with your arms in an “alpha” position (chin tucked, elbows back, fingers pointing forward). Lean to one side while keeping your hip level and reaching down towards your toes with the opposite hand while maintaining a flat-footed stance on the standing leg. Return to the start position and repeat 10 times on each side.
- Single-leg march: Come into full plank position with palms placed flat o the floor at shoulder width apart; squeeze glutes to level out hips; lift left foot off ground and engage core; bring right knee towards the chest, hold 3 secs then switch legs repeat 10 times each side; lower hips slowing back into starting plank position.
Prevention is always better than cure, and this is especially true when it comes to knee pain. Taking the time to learn how to move and exercise properly, as well as introducing some simple modifications to your daily routine, can help to reduce the risk of developing sore knees.
In this section, we will talk about the various ways in which you can prevent sore knees from occurring:
Wear proper footwear
When choosing footwear, you should always keep your sore knees in mind. Shoes that don’t provide enough arch and heel support can put added pressure on your joints and cause discomfort. Thus, it is important to select shoes that provide the support you need while still being comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time.
It is advisable to buy shoes made of breathable materials such as mesh to allow air circulation and reduce moisture buildup inside the shoe. Additionally, look for midsoles with cushioning foam layers or gel-filled pads within the sole of the shoe that can offer extra padding and flexibility. Opt for shoes with ample toe room so your toes are not cramped or squished together. Additionally, try to find a pair of sneakers with an angled sole—this angle will help counteract knee bending and improve alignment throughout physical activity.
Lastly, avoid wearing high-heeled shoes more than necessary as this will add pressure on your knees as well as cause imbalances throughout the lower body muscles.
Maintain a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most effective ways to prevent or reduce knee pain. Carrying excess weight places extra strain on your knees, which can lead to or worsen existing knee injuries and disorders. Excess weight also increases the risk of developing arthritis in the knees over time.
If you’re overweight or obese, losing even 5% of your body weight can make a big difference in alleviating knee pain and improving mobility. Fad diets are not recommended; instead opt for weight loss methods that include eating more fruits and vegetables along with lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats in moderate portions combined with physical activity suited to your fitness level. Talk to your doctor if you need help getting started.
Warm up before exercise
Before beginning any type of physical activity, it is important to perform a warm-up routine. Doing some light stretching and dynamic movements helps to encourage blood flow, loosen up the muscles, get the joints lubricated, and prepare the body for exercise.
A good warm-up should last anywhere from five to 10 minutes. Examples of dynamic warm-ups you can perform before an intense workout include:
- Lunges with a twist
- High knees
- Jumping jacks
- Leg swings both forward and sideways
- Arm circles
- Leg raises
Incorporating dynamic movements is beneficial as they help to increase the range of motion while also activating your glutes, quads, and other major muscle groups related to knee stability during physical activity.
Once you have completed the warm-up part of your routine, join in on your chosen activity or training program – protecting your knees against injury at all times. When returning home after a day at the gym or even before getting out of bed in the morning (if you wake up with sore limbs), apply some heat (not hot) around your knees for about 15 minutes to help increase blood circulation and reduce pain in just minutes!
Frequently Asked Questions
- Stay active: Exercise can help strengthen the muscles around the knee, improve flexibility, and reduce pain.
- Take over-the-counter medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Wear a knee brace: Knee braces can help reduce strain on the knee joint and provide additional support.
- Apply ice: Ice can help reduce inflammation. Apply it to the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day.
- Avoid high-impact activities: High-impact activities such as running and jumping can put added strain on the knee joint and should be avoided.
- Stretch: Stretching the muscles around the knee can help reduce pain and improve flexibility.
- See a doctor: If the pain persists despite home treatments, see a doctor for a more comprehensive evaluation.
There are many potential causes for sore knees. Common causes include overuse, age-related wear and tear, and injury. It is important to see a doctor to determine the exact cause of your sore knees so that you can receive appropriate treatment.
Knee pain can start at any age, however, it is more common in older adults. Knee pain is most often caused by wear and tear on the joint, overuse, and injury.
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Alan Walker is an author, researcher, and contributing writer at Spine Institute NY. He is a typical introvert, coffee fanatic, and freelancer.”