Knee pain can affect us at any point in life and usually has a simple explanation that may be resolved with rest at home. Typical causes of knee pain often stem from injuries, such as sprains or strain in the muscles around the knee joint but can sometimes be an indicator of a more serious condition requiring treatment.

The Horder Centre is a nationally recognised, ‘Outstanding’-rated orthopaedic hospital. Our consultants specialise in the treatment of conditions affecting your bones, joints and soft tissue. We’ve outlined some of the different types of knee pain or symptoms you might experience in the infographic below.

Please note that this infographic is for informational purposes only and should not serve as a diagnostic tool.

Does your knee hurt when you are inactive? If your answer was yes, is your knee stiff or swollen? Pain and stiffness in the knees can be a sign of osteoarthritis, usually more common in older patients. If your knee does not hurt when you are inactive, do you experience pain when running, twisting or exercising? If your answer is yes, does the knee give way when you try to stand or straighten the knee joint? This could be a sign of a torn ligament or tendon, or damage to the cartilage. For frequent runners, this could be a sign of tendonitis. If your answer was no, but your knee is stiff or swollen, this could be a sign of osteoarthritis. This is usually common in older patients. If your knee is not stiff, and you do not experience pain when running, does it hurt when you stretch? Knee pain from overstretching or overuse could suggest a muscle sprain or strain. Do you experience sudden bouts of severe pain? Sudden attacks of pain that feel hot could be a sign of gout. If you do not experience sudden pain, have you noticed a change in shape or appearance of your kneecap? If you have had an accident and notice your kneecap has changed in appearance, you may have dislocated the kneecap. For any unexplained symptoms of knee pain, with no obvious sign of injury, you should see your GP as soon as possible.


  • If your knee pain lasts longer than a few days and cannot be treated at home, or you can no longer move it, see a GP as soon as you can
  • A very stiff knee joint could be a sign of osteoarthritis
  • A knee that gives way could suggest a torn ligament or cartilage damage
  • Sudden, very severe pain can be a symptom of gout or infection
  • Changes to the appearance of your kneecap may indicate dislocation
  • If in doubt about the potential cause of your knee pain, you should always consult your doctor or call 111 for advice.

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Page last reviewed on 19/11/2019