May 01, 2020

Knee pain

When arthritis isn't the problem

Not all knee pain is caused by arthritis, and it's common for people to misdiagnose their knee pain. Get a better understanding of what can go wrong, and try certain exercises can help prevent knee pain.

Knee pain

If your knee has been bothering you lately, you're not alone. Knees are prone to injury. Their location leaves them exposed to trauma, and they are constantly used.

If you're an older adult, you might assume your knee pain is from osteoarthritis of the knee — in which the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones wears down over time. But there are many other possible reasons for the pain. Mayo Clinic experts say it's common for people to misdiagnose their knee pain, so it's wise to let a health professional help figure out what is wrong and what to do about it.

If not arthritis, then what?

Possible sources of nonarthritis knee pain include:

  • Degenerative meniscal tear — Each knee has tough, rubbery pieces of cartilage (menisci) that act like a cushion between your leg bones. A forceful twist or rotation of your knee — such as with an aggressive pivot or a sudden stop and turn — can lead to a torn meniscus. In addition, older adults may experience a degenerative meniscal tear with little or no trauma. A meniscal tear may not cause any symptoms. Or it may cause pain, swelling or stiffness — or a feeling that your knee locks when you try to move it. Rehabilitative therapy for a torn meniscus is very often effective, and may include rest, activity modification, ice, medication, a knee brace and physical therapy. If the pain continues or your knee locks,...