Causes of Knee Pain Without Injury: Understanding the Root of the Problem

By Last Updated: October 24th, 20239.4 min readViews: 1260

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About the Author: Daryl Stubbs
Daryl Stubbs
Daryl Stubbs is a multi-disciplinary health professional, combining his roles as an award-winning athletic therapist, registered massage therapist, and certified holistic nutritionist to offer a comprehensive approach to wellness. Graduating in 2013, Daryl has been recognized as the best massage therapy clinic in Victoria for 2022 and 2023 and has received national athletic therapy awards. He is known for his holistic approach to health, focusing on treating the body as a whole. Clients appreciate his focus on the science of probiotics, supplements, gut health, and the human body, ensuring a well-informed and evidence-based approach to their wellness journey.

Knee pain is a common complaint, especially among older adults. While injuries are a common cause of knee pain, there are many other factors that can contribute to discomfort in this joint. In fact, knee pain without injury is often caused by a combination of factors, including age, weight, and activity level.

One of the most common causes of knee pain without injury is osteoarthritis. This condition occurs when the cartilage in the knee joint begins to break down, causing pain, stiffness, and swelling. Osteoarthritis is more common in older adults, but it can also occur in younger people who have experienced a previous injury or who engage in activities that put a lot of stress on the knee joint.

Another factor that can contribute to knee pain without injury is excess weight. Carrying extra weight puts additional stress on the knee joint, which can lead to pain and discomfort over time. In fact, research has shown that losing weight can significantly reduce knee pain in overweight and obese individuals. Other factors that can contribute to knee pain without injury include overuse, muscle imbalances, and poor alignment.

Anatomy of the Knee Joint

The knee joint is the largest joint in the body and is responsible for bearing weight and facilitating movement. It is made up of three bones: the femur, tibia, and patella.

Bones of the Knee Joint

The femur, or thigh bone, is the longest and strongest bone in the body. It forms the upper part of the knee joint and connects to the tibia, or shin bone, at the knee joint. The patella, or kneecap, sits in front of the knee joint and provides protection to the joint.

Ligaments of the Knee Joint

The knee joint is held together by four major ligaments: the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), and lateral collateral ligament (LCL). These ligaments provide stability to the knee joint and prevent excessive movement of the bones.

Cartilage of the Knee Joint

The knee joint also contains two types of cartilage: articular cartilage and meniscus. Articular cartilage is a smooth, white tissue that covers the ends of the bones in the knee joint and allows for smooth movement of the joint. The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between the femur and tibia.

Injuries to any of these structures can cause knee pain. However, knee pain can also be caused by medical conditions such as arthritis or gout. It is important to seek medical attention if knee pain persists or is accompanied by other symptoms.

Non-Injury Causes of Knee Pain

Knee pain can be caused by various medical conditions, not just injuries. In this section, we will discuss some common non-injury causes of knee pain.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It is caused by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints, including the knee joint. As the cartilage wears away, the bones in the knee joint rub against each other, causing pain and inflammation. Osteoarthritis is more common in older adults, but it can also affect younger people who have had knee injuries or who are overweight.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints, including the knee joint. The body's immune system attacks the lining of the joints, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect people of all ages, but it is more common in women than in men.

Gout

Gout is a type of arthritis that occurs when uric acid crystals build up in the joints, including the knee joint. The crystals cause pain, swelling, and inflammation. Gout is more common in men than in women, and it is often associated with a diet high in purines, which are found in red meat, seafood, and alcohol.

Bursitis

Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints. When the bursae in the knee joint become inflamed, it can cause pain and swelling. Bursitis can be caused by overuse, injury, or infection.

Tendinitis

Tendinitis is the inflammation of the tendons, which connect muscles to bones. When the tendons in the knee joint become inflamed, it can cause pain and stiffness. Tendinitis can be caused by overuse, injury, or infection.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is a condition that causes pain in the front of the knee, around the kneecap. It is often caused by overuse or misalignment of the kneecap. People who participate in activities that involve a lot of running, jumping, or squatting are at a higher risk of developing patellofemoral pain syndrome.

In conclusion, knee pain can be caused by various non-injury medical conditions, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, bursitis, tendinitis, and patellofemoral pain syndrome. If you are experiencing knee pain, it is important to consult a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.

Other Causes of Knee Pain

While injuries are the most common cause of knee pain, there are other conditions that can cause discomfort in the knee joint. In some cases, the pain may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Here are some other causes of knee pain without injury:

Infection

An infection in the knee joint can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness. This type of infection is called septic arthritis, and it can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Septic arthritis is a serious condition that requires prompt medical treatment to prevent damage to the joint.

Tumors

Tumors can develop in the bones or soft tissues of the knee joint, causing pain and swelling. Most knee tumors are benign, or non-cancerous, but some can be malignant, or cancerous. If a tumor is suspected, a doctor may order imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRI, to determine the nature of the growth.

Nerve Damage

Damage to the nerves that supply the knee joint can cause pain, numbness, or tingling in the knee and surrounding areas. Nerve damage can be caused by a variety of factors, including diabetes, infections, and injuries. In some cases, nerve damage may require surgical intervention to relieve the pain.

Other less common causes of knee pain without injury include:

  • Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
  • Osteonecrosis (bone death)
  • Paget's disease (abnormal bone growth)
  • Lupus (autoimmune disorder)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (autoimmune disorder)

It's important to seek medical attention if you experience knee pain without an obvious cause, as some conditions can lead to permanent joint damage if left untreated.

Lack of Mobility in Hips and Ankles

Knee pain can be caused by many factors, and one of them is a lack of mobility in the hips and ankles. When the hips and ankles are not flexible enough, the knees have to take on more stress and strain than they should. Over time, this can lead to knee pain and even injury.

One of the most common causes of a lack of mobility in the hips and ankles is a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting for long periods of time can cause the muscles in the hips and ankles to become tight and stiff, which can restrict their range of motion. This can lead to compensatory movements in the knees, which can cause pain and discomfort.

Another cause of a lack of mobility in the hips and ankles is muscle imbalances. When certain muscles are stronger than others, they can pull the joints out of alignment, which can limit their mobility. For example, if the muscles on the front of the hips are stronger than the muscles on the back of the hips, it can cause the hips to tilt forward, which can put more stress on the knees.

To address a lack of mobility in the hips and ankles, it is important to incorporate stretching and strengthening exercises into your daily routine. This can help to loosen up tight muscles and improve their range of motion. Some exercises that can be helpful include:

  • Hip flexor stretches
  • Hamstring stretches
  • Calf stretches
  • Ankle mobility exercises
  • Hip strengthening exercises

In addition to exercise, it is also important to maintain good posture throughout the day. This can help to keep the joints in proper alignment and reduce the risk of compensatory movements in the knees. Finally, if you are experiencing knee pain, it is important to seek medical attention to determine the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Poor Digestion

Poor digestion can lead to various health problems, including knee pain. When the digestive system is not functioning correctly, it can cause inflammation in the body, which can lead to joint pain.

One of the most common digestive issues that can cause knee pain is leaky gut syndrome. This condition occurs when the lining of the intestines becomes damaged, allowing toxins and undigested food particles to leak into the bloodstream. This can trigger an immune response, leading to inflammation in the body, including the joints.

Another digestive issue that can cause knee pain is food sensitivities. When someone is sensitive to a particular food, it can cause inflammation in the body, leading to joint pain. Common food sensitivities include gluten, dairy, and soy.

In addition to these issues, poor digestion can also lead to nutrient deficiencies. When the body is not properly absorbing nutrients, it can lead to a variety of health problems, including joint pain. Nutrients that are essential for joint health include vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

To improve digestion and reduce knee pain, it is essential to address any underlying digestive issues. This may involve making dietary changes, such as eliminating trigger foods, and taking supplements to support digestive health. A healthcare professional can provide guidance on the best approach for each individual.

Organ Tissue Tension

Knee pain without injury can be caused by various factors, including organ tissue tension. This is a condition where the connective tissues surrounding the organs in the body become tight and cause discomfort or pain.

When the organs in the body are under tension, they can pull on the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons. This can cause pain in different parts of the body, including the knees. Organ tissue tension can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress, poor posture, and lack of exercise.

One common cause of organ tissue tension is stress. When a person is stressed, their body releases hormones that can cause the muscles to tighten up. This can lead to tension in the organs, which can then cause pain in the knees.

Poor posture can also contribute to organ tissue tension. When a person sits or stands with poor posture, it can cause the organs to shift and pull on the surrounding muscles and ligaments. Over time, this can cause tension in the organs and lead to knee pain.

Lack of exercise can also contribute to organ tissue tension. When a person does not exercise regularly, their muscles can become weak and tight. This can cause tension in the organs, which can then lead to knee pain.

In summary, organ tissue tension is a common cause of knee pain without injury. It can be caused by stress, poor posture, and lack of exercise. By addressing these underlying factors, a person can often alleviate their knee pain and improve their overall health and well-being.

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