Knee Pain When Bending: Causes, Prevention & Treatment

The knee bends many times throughout the day. Some bends are more extensive, such as when sitting, while others are minor, such as when walking. No matter what, your knee goes through many bends throughout the day, and this continual use can wear on the knee joint. 

In addition to the normal wear and tear the knee can endure, the multiple parts that make up the knee, such as the tendons, ligaments, muscles, and bones, may also sustain an injury, which may cause pain when using the knee. 

Many cases of knee pain can be managed with home remedies, but for knee pain that persists, an online doctor is a great resource to further discuss treatment options. 

What Does It Mean If Your Knee Hurts When You Bend It? 

The knee joint is where multiple components come together, including bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. If there is pain when bending the knee, one of the parts may be irritated or injured. 

If the knee hurts when bending it, it is important to consider what part of the knee hurts (i.e., the top, back, or side) and if any other part of the leg hurts. These two considerations go a long way in helping to identify the cause of the pain.

What Can Cause Knee Pain When Bending? 

Various conditions can cause knee pain when bending, also ranging in severity.  

Tendonitis

Tendonitis occurs when a tendon becomes irritated, most often from repeated use and general wear and tear. 

Some types of tendonitis that can cause knee pain (and where the pain resides) include:

  • patellar tendonitis (burning or pain at the base of the kneecap)
  • hamstring tendonitis (pain behind the knee and thigh)
  • quadriceps tendonitis (pain above or in front of the knee)

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease characterized by inflammation of the joints and deterioration of the cartilage. Those with osteoarthritis of the knee have symptoms of swelling, diffuse knee pain, and stiffness in the morning. 

Injury

With all the parts of the knee, it’s not uncommon for it to sustain an injury. Knee injuries most commonly occur when the knee quickly changes directions or is hit by something that causes it to bend in an unnatural way. In some cases, this pain is present at all times, while with other injuries the pain worsens or flares-up when bending the knee. 

Some symptoms common to knee injuries include swelling, sharp pain, and difficulty moving the knee. 

Bursitis

Bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that prevent bones from rubbing together, but in some cases, they can become irritated and inflamed. When this happens to the knee bursae, you may have warmth, swelling, and pain over or below the knee. 

How To Prevent Knee Pain That Comes from Bending? 

Implementing the following tips can help prevent knee pain that flares up when bending the knee.

Try Low-Impact Exercises

In many cases, consistently partaking in high-impact exercises can put considerable strain on the knee, which can lead to knee pain. To prevent knee pain from bending, it’s recommended to stick with low-impact activities as they are gentler on the knee while still allowing you to remain active. 

Some low-impact activities include:

  • walking
  • swimming
  • cycling 

Warm Up and Cool Down

This is an often-skipped part of a workout, but properly warming up is a great way to increase lubrication in the joints and get the muscles warmed up and loose. On the opposite end, the cooldown is a great time to stretch out the muscle and prevent tightness from occurring.  

Lose Weight

Because the knees are weight-bearing joints, placing too much weight on them can cause excess stress and increase the risk of knee pain. For those who are overweight, try losing some weight to lessen the stress on the knee. Low-impact exercises are a great option to add to your exercise routine to get moving while still protecting knee mobility.  

Areas Of Knee Pain When Bending 

As discussed earlier, when you have knee pain, it is helpful to consider where the pain is located, as this information can help narrow down the cause of the pain and what part of the knee is affected. 

Inner Knee Pain When Bending 

Pain in the inner knee is often due to:

  • medial meniscus injury
  • patellar tendonitis
  • osteoarthritis
  • medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury

Outer Knee Pain When Bending 

Pain that affects the outer knee may be due to:

  • lateral meniscus tear
  • lateral collateral ligament (LCL) injury
  • osteoarthritis

Pain Behind the Knee When Bending

If there is pain behind the knee when bending, the likely cause is:

  • baker’s cyst
  • hamstring tendonitis
  • knee injury

Top Of Knee Pain When Bending 

Some conditions that can cause pain to the top of the knee when bending include:

  • osteoarthritis
  • quadriceps tendonitis
  • knee bursitis

Pain In Front of The Kneecap When Bending

Conditions that cause pain to the front of the kneecap include:

  • quadriceps tendonitis
  • patellar tendonitis
  • patellofemoral pain syndrome
  • patellar fracture
  • knee bursitis

Treatment For Knee Pain When Bending 

Home treatments for knee pain typically focus on two areas, resting the knee and treating the symptoms. 

Rest

While you do not want to avoid using the knee entirely, try to avoid any activities that make your knee hurt. 

Instead, try some low-impact activities (e.g., walking, swimming, biking) while healing the knee to keep up movement while avoiding anything too strenuous. 

If all movement, including walking, causes significant pain to the knee, be sure to seek medical attention as the cause of pain is likely something more severe. 

Apply Ice (or Heat)

For those with swelling in the knee, try ice to reduce swelling and ease some of the pain. Ice your knee for 20 minutes at a time, a few times a day, until the knee no longer hurts. 

For those with arthritis or other types of stiffness in the knee, it is better to apply heat as it can increase circulation and increase mobility. 

Over-The-Counter Medication

For those with swelling in the knee, taking an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce swelling and ease the pain. 

Physical Therapy

A doctor may recommend physical therapy for those with knee pain to strengthen the muscles that support and move the knee. In some cases, weak muscles can cause problems with the knee, so strengthening the muscles can remedy these problems. 

Physical therapy often consists of stretching the muscles around the knee as well, decreasing tension in the muscles and decreasing the amount of pressure sustained by the knee joint. 

How Do I Know If My Knee Pain Is Serious? 

Knee pain that is serious often appears immediately following an injury or trauma, and is usually followed by difficulty bending or straightening the knee. If this situation applies to your knee pain, be sure to visit a doctor right away to diagnose your knee pain. 

Should I Go to The Doctor If It Hurts to Bend My Knee? 

If there is severe or sharp pain when bending the knee, it is best to go to the doctor as the cause of the knee pain may be something serious that requires more extensive treatment. Some causes of knee pain, such as a tear in a ligament, require surgery to repair the damage and relieve pain. 

In other cases, a doctor may want to immobilize the knee until it has healed and will use a brace or cast to accomplish this. It is recommended to see a doctor before doing this as, in some cases, using a brace when that is not the ideal treatment can cause additional damage to the knee or surrounding parts of the body. 

When To See a Doctor? 

It is recommended to see a doctor if any of the following apply to you:

  • chronic knee pain
  • severe knee pain
  • limping
  • inability to bend or straighten the knee
  • knee weakness
  • swelling or redness in the knee
  • fever
  • popping or crunching noise accompanied by pain

Get Help from An Online Doctor 

An online doctor is an excellent resource to discuss knee pain and its potential causes. With DrHouse, you can meet with a virtual doctor in as little as 15 minutes to discuss the cause of the pain and what treatment can help relieve it. 

Key Takeaways 

The knee is a complex joint that combines bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. All of these parts mean that it is common for the knee to become injured and experience pain, which is often more prominent when bending. 

General wear-and-tear is the most common cause of knee pain, but other conditions can affect the knee, and locating where the knee pain is can go a long way in diagnosing the cause of the pain. 

Lifestyle changes can be implemented to prevent knee pain from wear and tear, while home remedies are helpful for treating many cases of knee pain. More serious cases of knee pain, which are often accompanied by difficulty bending the knee, may require treatment by a doctor. Online doctors such as those in the DrHouse app can help diagnose the cause of knee pain and recommend a treatment.

Sources

DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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