As the body’s largest and one of its most significant joints, the knees are naturally more prone to injury and joint damage. This is because the knees are composed of many different and critical components that can tear and strain such as tendons, cartilage and ligaments, and bones that can get misaligned and fractured.
Some injuries to the knee resolve or get better on their own through care and rest. Extreme and more serious knee injuries, though, may need other medical interventions or even surgery to get better. Knee pain can also be attributed to other health conditions that may gradually cause serious damage to the knees if not immediately addressed such as arthritis.
Possible Causes of Pain Behind the Knee
1. Leg cramps may cause pain behind the knee
The tightening of muscles, called cramps, occur mostly to the calf muscles of individuals. However, other muscles have been shown to cramp as well such muscles in the legs like the back part of the thigh beside the knee. Leg cramps are more likely to occur right after exercising or after strenuous physical activity. They are also more likely to occur to pregnant women.
Other medical conditions that may result in leg cramps include disease of the liver, the presence of mercury or other toxins in the blood, tetanus or other infections, dehydration, and other possible nerve issues with the patient’s legs. Cramps usually come and go and will last from a couple of seconds with some as long as ten (10) minutes. It will usually have the muscle spasm or contract and will commonly leave behind pain in the area of the spasm or cramp after a few hours, making the patient feel sore even after the cramp has passed
2. Jumper’s knee can lead to pain behind the knee
Jumper’s knee is usually caused by a tendon injury, specifically, the ligament or cord connecting the patient’s shin bone to his or her patella or kneecap. It is also called patellar tendonitis and can occur to patients who frequently and intensely perform jumps and quick changes in movements or direction such as when playing certain sports like volleyball and basketball. The said quick movements may result in small or microtears and damages to tendons which eventually lead to the swelling and weakening of the said tendons.
This kind of injury will usually present pain in the area under the kneecap with the pain usually getting worse with continued physical activity and lack of medical treatment. Jumper’s knee also has other symptoms such as trouble straightening or bending the knee, stiffness, and weakness in the joint
3. Injury to the hamstring or biceps femoris tendonitis may cause pain behind the knee
The hamstring is one of the most sophisticated muscle group in the human body primarily composed of three (3) major muscles which include the biceps femoris muscle, semimembranous muscle, and semitendinosus muscle. These clustered groups muscles are responsible for aiding individuals to bend their knees. An injury to any one of the above-mentioned muscles is referred to as a hamstring injury or a pulled hamstring.
This can occur when the hamstring muscles are stretched beyond their working limit or overstretched. In fact, stretching the hamstring muscles may result in a torn hamstring which requires rest and healing for at least a number of months. Hamstring injuries are usually associated with sudden and sharp pain and specific injuries to the biceps femoris usually result in pain behind the knees.
Pulled hamstrings also have other symptoms which include weakness behind the legs, bruising and swelling in the affected or injured area. This kind of injury is usually experienced by athletes who are required to run fast or quickly in such sports as tennis, track, basketball, and soccer.
4. Baker’s cyst may result in pain behind the knee
A sac filled with fluid that develops behind the knees is called a baker’s cyst. The fluid found within the sac is called the synovial fluid which is originally intended as a lubricant of the knees and joints. However, certain medical conditions such as a knee injury or arthritis may result in the increased production of synovial fluid which in turn, will result in the development of a cyst.
Baker’s cyst will usually be accompanied by symptoms such as difficulty or stiffness when moving and flexing the knee, swelling at the back of the knee and pain behind and around the area of the knee. Baker’s cyst symptoms will usually worsen if the individual or the patient is physically active. Cysts that burst will commonly be experienced by patients as sharp and sudden pain. Fortunately, baker’s cysts have been known to resolve on their own. However, for more extreme cases of baker’s cyst, people may be advised their healthcare partner or doctor to consider, draining of the cysts, steroid injection, or physical therapy.
When to consider seeing a doctor
Patients with pain behind the knee are advised to see their doctors for further medical treatment if they experience changes in the appearance of the knee, a leg that can no longer support the patient’s weight, breathing trouble, swelling or warmth in the affected knee or leg, and severe or extreme pain.