Knee pain is a common symptom affecting people of all ages and activity levels. People experience different types of knee pain which may indicate the cause of the problem.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021


If you have sudden on-set joint pain this is likely due to an injury or trauma, whereas a chronic ache or dull pain may be caused by an underlying condition such as osteoarthritis or tendonitis.

Causes of knee pain

The most common knee pain causes are:

If you experience knee pain when bending, walking and even resting that lasts longer than a few days, then it could be a sign of joint damage. Ageing is a major cause of worn out knee joints, often due to osteoarthritis. Other factors such as genetics, previous injury and lifestyle can play a part, so speak to your GP if you're experiencing any of these symptoms.

If you have sore knees related to osteoarthritis, you may also experience other symptoms in your knee such as:

  • Creaking
  • Limping
  • Reduced movement
  • Stiffness

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

Book an appointment with a Spire GP today

Conditions related to knee pain

Sports injury

Knee pain is a common symptom of injuries and conditions related to sports and activity, including meniscus tear. If your knee pain is the result of a sudden injury – particularly a twist or excessive stretch – then you might have a sprain or strain, or other damage to cartilage or ligaments.

Overuse or repetitive movement

If the pain has appeared gradually and you haven't experienced any obvious or sudden trauma then you could be experiencing tendinopathy, which is often brought on by repeated running or jumping, or bursitis (also known as housemaid's knee).


Knee pain can also be caused by joint diseases and conditions unrelated to any injury. If you're aged over 50, there's a chance that knee pain is a sign of osteoarthritis, or another form of arthritis. Knee pain in teenagers can be caused by Osgood-Schlatter disease, a condition often related to bone growth and overuse.

Getting a diagnosis for knee pain

You should see your GP about severe or ongoing knee pain as soon as possible, particularly if it's:

  • Affecting your sleep
  • Affecting your overall mood and positive wellbeing
  • Preventing you from getting on with your everyday life

After an initial consultation, your GP may refer you for an X-ray to check for fractures or deterioration, or an MRI scan to assess the muscle and cartilage. If your GP suspects osteoporosis, they'll recommend a bone density scan.

Treatments for knee pain

Treatments for knee pain vary widely depending on the cause. These are some of the most common treatments:

It’s best to speak to your GP if you're experiencing prolonged pain. Don’t let knee pain prevent you from enjoying life.

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