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Understanding Why Knee Pain Occurs

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

Understanding the Knee Region

To understand why knee pain occurs, it is important to understand the knee region. There are two main muscle groups called the hamstring muscle and quadriceps muscle. The hamstring muscle group works when you lift your heel toward your buttocks and is located at the back of your thigh. The quadriceps muscle group works when you straighten your leg when performing an activity, such as sitting down or going down steps and absorbs a large amount of force during heavy lifting.

The knee joint itself helps together with ligaments, capsules, and tendons. All force is absorbed and cushioned by the meniscus.

So What is The Purpose Of Our Knees?

Our knees are designed to support our body weight and provide us with smooth controlled movement during physical activities like running, heavy lifting, or climbing up and down steps. Unfortunately, the knee is susceptible to straining that can damage/tear joint surfaces, a meniscus, or ligaments.

Now Let's Try To Understand Mechanical Pain (the most common pain in joints)!

Mechanical pain occurs when a structure is overstressed or compressed by an impacting event involving a single event or repeated action. Mechanical pain does not only occur with the knee but also with any region of the body. For example, if you take your finger and bend it backward you will feel it start to stretch. When you stop, the pain goes away. You see, when you start to feel pain, your body is warning you that you should stop overstretching, but if you keep going, then eventually the tissues in the joint will tear. At that point, the pain will last even after you remove the stretch. Now, the pain could go away in a couple of days, but if you keep putting the same strain on the structure then the pain prolongs for weeks, months, or even years.

This Is Why Knee Pain Most Commonly Occurs...

Mechanical knee pain occurs when knee ligaments, menisci, capsule, and other tendons are overstretched or overloaded. Overstretching your knee could occur with a sudden strain like twisting the knee or falling onto it. Unfortunately, those sudden strains can not be avoided because they are unexpected (but luckily they are not very common).

However, less severe (and way more common) strains are caused by postural stresses like sitting in a position for a long period of time or frequent repetitive activities. When this occurs, the soft tissues (ligaments, capsules, and tendons) may adapt to that position, and then when we try to move them to a new position, pain and malfunction occur! The sneaky part is that when the pain occurs, it is not necessarily when the injury occurred, you could have been damaging it for years already unbeknownst to you.

So if your knee has adapted to a bent position, then every time you try to straighten it during walking, it will hurt, or vice versa. Then of course we blame it on arthritis or meniscus tears when that was never the problem. Even worse, people get knee replacements and other surgeries unnecessarily. Meanwhile it could have been a very simple fix with what we call knee corrective movements.

Tissue Damage In The Knee

Many also think that knee pain is caused by muscle strains. Muscles can be overstretched but will heal quickly and rarely cause pain lasting for more than two weeks. However, long-lasting pain is caused by overstretching the other soft tissue (ligaments, capsules, and tendons) around the knee causing damage. Once the soft tissue is damaged, it has to go through a healing process and pain will occur until the healing is complete.

So how does it go through the healing process? Well... with corrective knee movements and manual treatments which will need to be performed to regain normal knee flexibility and movement. This not only reduces pain but reduces the risk of future injury!


  1. Most knee pain occurs due to postural stresses (being in an unnatural position for an extended period of time).

  2. Generally, knee pain is the result of ligaments, capsule, and tendons being overstretched or overloaded... NOT MUSCLE INJURY!

  3. Once mechanical knee injury occurs, it cannot adapt to the normal demands placed on it, causing ongoing pain.

  4. After an assessment, corrective knee exercises must be completed to regain normal function and eliminate pain.

To learn more about corrective knee exercises and which might be right for you, feel free to give us a call and speak with our knee pain specialist 201-485-6114 !

Thank you for reading and good luck in your knee pain journey! Feel free to take a look around the website, there is plenty of information, free physical therapy pain relief guides from our knee pain specialist and ways you can reach out to us.

👉🏽If and want answers NOW about how to get knee pain relief SPECIFIC TO YOUR KNEE INJURY, feel free to Apply For A FREE Discovery Session. This can be done Virtually or In The Clinic...

👉🏽Or, Get our Knee Specialists FREE Guide with Tips for Quick Knee Pain Relief:

If you have further questions regarding this blog post or other tips that can help you to relieve Knee Pain, Contact Us at Skyline Physical Therapy!

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