Knee Pain – Causes and Treatment


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Knee pain is something which can affect individuals of all ages and activity levels. It is important that your knee pain is diagnosed early in order to develop a clear understanding of what structures are actually contributing to the pain in your knee.

What’s Causing My Knee Ache?

There are various causes of pain in the knee, some of the most common causes include:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA) (normal age-related “wearing” of joint surfaces- note: the pain in your knee is not a good indicator of OA severity!)
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome (usually caused by malalignment or abnormal tracking of the knee cap)
  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears
  • Medial collateral and lateral collateral ligament (MCL/LCL) tears
  • Cartilage/meniscal tears
  • Patella tendinopathy (previously referred to as patella “tendonitis”)
  • Fat pad inflammation (a structure behind that knee that is easily aggravated AND has a very good nerve supply i.e. can cause a lot of pain!)


How To Relieve Pain in the Knee?

Irrespective of whether you have acute knee pain or chronic knee pain, if research has taught us anything it is that exercise is our most powerful tool in improving both knee pain and overall knee function. A tailored physiotherapist-led exercise program involving a combination of exercises can allow you to take control of the pain in your knee and get back to the activities which you most enjoy.

Some of the key areas involved in tackling knee pain include:

  • Thorough assessment of functional activities (such as walking, squatting, running and other daily activities) – To determine which activities may be causing you pain
  • Knee strengthening exercises – To allow the muscles around the knee to support the knee joint and ensure appropriate tracking of the patella
  • Hip strengthening exercises – To allow the muscles of the hip to provide a stable base for the knee to work from
  • Soft tissue massage through surrounding connective tissue – To alleviate any pain or discomfort around the knee joint and provide you with a pain-free range of motion to perform the aforementioned exercises


A graphical image showing the pain point of a knee highlighted in red colour
A woman shown performing lunges on the gym floor in order to relieve knee pain

Research Supports Exercise in Managing Pain in the Knee

Exercises which target BOTH the hip and knee have been shown to be most beneficial in improving both knee aches and function.

Despite contrary belief, casual running (with correct technique) has not shown to increase your risk of OA and may actually be beneficial for your knees!

Conservative management (in other words, exercise) has been shown to be equally as effective as surgical management for improving symptoms related to cartilage tears in the long term.

Experiencing Pain in the Knee? Contact Your Local Physiotherapist!

At Healthy Bodies Physiotherapy, we pride ourselves on not only being able to confidently assess our patients during various functional activities, but also use our sound knowledge of exercise to tailor an exercise program to suit your individual needs and goals – whether that be simply being able to walk without knee pain or participate in more high intensity activities such as squatting or running. For more information and to book an assessment, call 03 9584 6919 or get in touch with us online!


Collins, N. J., Barton, C. J., van Middelkoop, M., Callaghan, M. J., Rathleff, M. S., Vicenzino, B. T., … & de Oliveira Silva, D. (2018). 2018 Consensus statement on exercise therapy and physical interventions (orthoses, taping and manual therapy) to treat patellofemoral pain: recommendations from the 5th International Patellofemoral Pain Research Retreat, Gold Coast, Australia, 2017. Br J Sports Med, bjsports-2018.

Roberts, W. O. (2018). Running causes knee osteoarthritis: myth or misunderstanding.

van de Graaf, V. A., Wolterbeek, N., Mutsaerts, E. L., Scholtes, V. A., Saris, D. B., de Gast, A., & Poolman, R. W. (2016). Arthroscopic partial meniscectomy or conservative treatment for nonobstructive meniscal tears: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic & Related Surgery, 32(9), 1855-1865.6