Tendons are the fibrous tissues connecting your muscle to your bone. They enable the muscle to move the bone by contracting. When a tendon is damaged or overworked, it can cause pain in the back of your knee, which can be very uncomfortable and debilitating.
In fact, it is one of the most common causes of knee pain. Although tendon pain behind the knee can be treated, there are many potential causes. As such, you must get a proper diagnosis of your condition to effectively treat and manage your tendon pain.
Posterior Knee Anatomy
The posterior knee is the area at the back of your knee. It’s where the tendons of the hamstring, rectus femoris, and gastrosoleus muscles attach to your knee joint. The posterior knee is composed of several structures, including:
Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL)
The MCL is a band of connective tissue that connects your thighbone and shinbone at the inner side of your knee. It helps to stabilize the knee joint, preventing excessive stretching or tearing in any direction, thereby keeping the femur (thighbone) from sliding from side to side.
Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL)
The LCL is found on the outside of your knee and performs a similar role as the MCL. It helps to stabilize the knee joint, preventing excessive stretching or tearing in any direction.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)
The ACL is the band of connective tissue connecting your thighbone and shinbone at the front of your knee. It helps to stabilize the knee joint, preventing excessive rotation or overextension in any direction, thereby keeping the shinbone from sliding forward.
Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL)
The PCL is located on the back of your knee and performs a similar role as the ACL. It helps to stabilize the knee joint, preventing excessive rotation or overextension in any direction. The primary difference is that the ACL prevents the tibia from sliding forward, while the PCL prevents it from sliding backward.
The hamstring muscles are a group of three muscles located on the back of your thigh. They help bend and straighten the knee, as well as rotate the lower leg inward or outward.
The popliteus muscle is a small muscle located on the back of your knee. It helps to bend, rotate, and stabilize the knee joint. It’s critical to both the closed-chain phase and open-chain phase of the gait cycle, which is the process of walking.
Extensor muscles are present in every joint in the body and are responsible for straightening a limb. The primary extensor muscles at the knee are the quadriceps and calf muscles. Unlike most of your extensor muscles, those in your knee are directed forward instead of backward.
What Does Tendonitis Behind The Knee Feel Like?
Tendonitis is the inflammation of a tendon due to overuse or injury. It can occur anywhere in the body where a tendon is present, including behind the knee. Pain associated with tendonitis behind the knee usually happens when you move or press on the affected area.
It’s worth noting that there are several types of tendonitis behind the knee, including patellar tendonitis, gastrocnemius tendonitis, and popliteus tendonitis. Each type of tendonitis can cause different types of pain.
With that in mind, the following are some of the general symptoms of tendonitis behind the knee:
- Pain with jumping, running, or walking
- Pain when bending or straightening the leg
- Tenderness behind the lower kneecap
You should consult a healthcare professional if you experience any of the above symptoms. Because of how much the knee is used in our day-to-day lives, you must get your condition properly diagnosed and treated. If you don’t, you may risk further injury or long-term damage.
Common Causes Of Pain In The Back Of The Knee
There are a variety of causes that can lead to tendon pain behind the knee, including:
Traumatic injuries to the knee, such as a fall or direct blow, can cause inflammation and swelling of the tendons. More specifically, inflammation and swelling of the tendons are caused by the release of inflammatory proteins, which are intended to speed up healing but can also irritate and damage surrounding tissue.
This can lead to pain in the back of your knee, as well as reduced mobility.
Misalignment of the knee joint can cause extra strain on certain tendons due to the imbalance in muscle tension. Misalignment can lead to inflammation and pain in the back of your knee, especially during activities that require a lot of movement or weight-bearing.
There are several ways in which your knee joint can become misaligned, such as injury, wear, and tear caused by aging, or a chronic condition.
Strains or Sprains
Strains and sprains occur when the muscles or ligaments are stretched, twisted, or torn. Both strains and sprains can cause inflammation and pain in the back of your knee, as well as reduce your range of motion. Strains and sprains typically occur due to overuse or sudden movements, such as during sports activities.
Overtraining or repeated movements can cause inflammation and pain in the back of your knee. This is because the tendons become strained as a result of frequent use. The pain may worsen during certain activities, such as running or jumping, but it can also occur when you’re resting.
Medical Conditions That May Cause Pain In The Tendon Behind The Knee
There are many different medical conditions that can cause pain in the tendon behind the knee. The following are some of the most common of these conditions:
A Baker’s cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms in the back of the knee when a joint becomes inflamed. The swelling and pain associated with a Baker’s cyst can cause discomfort, as well as tightness behind the knee. These cysts form due to a buildup of too much lubricating fluid, which can occur as a result of arthritis or torn cartilage.
The patellar tendon connects the kneecap to the shinbone. Patellar tendonitis is characterized by an injury to the patellar tendon. This condition can cause pain and tenderness behind the kneecap, as well as swelling and difficulty with straight leg raises. It’s often caused by overuse or repetitive strain on the tendon.
It’s a common injury caused by activities that involve jumping (such as basketball or volleyball).
A calf tear is an injury that occurs when the calf’s muscle fibers are torn. The most common cause of this injury is overstretching, which can cause pain and swelling behind the knee. In some cases, moving or putting weight on your leg may also be challenging.
Knee arthritis affects the joint tissue in the knee, causing pain and stiffness. It’s most commonly caused by wear and tear over time, as well as age-related degeneration of the cartilage. Symptoms include swelling, tenderness, and difficulty with movement.
Hyperextension of the knee occurs when the joint is bent beyond its usual range of motion and can cause pain in the back of your knee. This injury usually happens when you forcefully straighten or rotate your leg too far. It is often caused by a fall, sports-related activity, or overstretching. Symptoms include swelling, tenderness, and difficulty with movement.
Chondromalacia occurs when the cartilage around the kneecap is damaged, causing pain and inflammation. It’s commonly caused by overuse or repetitive strain on the knee joint, as well as misalignment of the knee joint. Symptoms include tenderness behind the kneecap, swelling, and difficulty with movement.
A meniscal tear is when the knee joint’s cartilage becomes torn. This can cause pain, swelling, and tenderness behind the kneecap. It usually occurs as a result of contact sports, twisting or hyper-extending your knees excessively, or wear and tear from aging. Symptoms include discomfort when weight bearing on the leg and difficulty with movement.
Hamstring injuries occur when the muscles or tendons in the hamstring become strained or torn, thereby causing pain in the back of your knee, as well as swelling and tenderness. It’s usually caused by overstretching or repetitive strain on the muscles, such as during running. Symptoms include tenderness behind the knee and difficulty with movement.
Bursitis occurs when the bursae (the fluid-filled sacs cushioning and protecting the knee joint) become inflamed. This can cause swelling, tenderness, and pain in the back of your knee. It’s usually caused by overuse or repetitive strain on the joint, but it can also be caused by direct trauma to the area. Symptoms include swollen bursae, tenderness, and difficulty with movement.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis is when a blood clot develops in the deep veins of the body, such as in the legs. This can cause pain behind the knee, as well as swelling and tenderness. It can be the result of prolonged periods of immobility or injury, and symptoms include swollen veins, tenderness, and difficulty with movement.
At-home remedies such as rest, ice, elevation, and ibuprofen can be beneficial for pain in the back of your knee. Resting the affected area is vital to avoid further injury or aggravation. Applying an ice pack to the back of the knee can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Elevating your leg above heart level may also help to reduce swelling.
While ibuprofen or other over-the-counter pain medications can be taken to minimize discomfort, it’s worth mentioning that such medicines will only mask your symptoms and will not fix the root cause. If your pain persists, it is essential to seek medical attention.
When To Seek Professional Help
If you experience sustained pain or discomfort in your knee area, it is important to seek professional help. Pain in the back of your knee can indicate a more serious issue, so it is best to get yourself checked out by a doctor if the pain persists or worsens.
Ignoring pain in the back of your knee can lead to further injury or chronic conditions, so it is imperative that you seek medical attention if necessary.
Diagnosing Tendon Pain
Because there are a lot of different causes of pain in the tendon behind the knee, your doctor has to make an accurate diagnosis to ensure that it’s treated properly. The following are some of the methods your doctor may use to diagnose the condition:
Your doctor will likely perform a physical exam to check for tenderness and swelling in the back of your knee. They may also feel for any bumps or lumps, as well as test your range of motion. Doing so will allow them to identify the specific symptoms you’re experiencing, which can give them a better understanding of what the underlying condition might be.
Imaging tests such as MRIs, X-rays, and ultrasounds can help your doctor get a better view of the area to check for any underlying issues. These tests can also help them see if there is any damage or inflammation in the tendon.
Your doctor may also order blood tests so that they can check for signs of infection or inflammation. This can help them identify the specific cause of the pain in your tendon and also help rule out any other potential conditions.
Conventional Treatment Options For Posterior Knee Pain
There are several conventional treatments that traditional doctors will prescribe to treat pain in the knee. Generally speaking, most doctors recommend rest to reduce inflammation and allow the body to heal. Depending on the diagnosis and the severity of your condition, additional treatment may include:
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe certain medications. These may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or steroids. As previously mentioned, such medications are only helpful in treating the symptoms, not the underlying condition. Additionally, some medications have potential side effects that you should be aware of.
If you’re experiencing severe pain, your doctor may recommend injections. These can be corticosteroid or hyaluronic acid injections, which help reduce inflammation and relieve pain in the knee joint. However, injections are not without their share of risks. An injection can not only result in side effects but can also cause further tissue damage or infection.
In severe cases, surgery may be recommended. Depending on the diagnosis, this could include meniscus repair, ligament reconstruction, or removal of a loose body. Surgery is often a last resort as it involves risks such as infection and can even lead to further complications. Surgery can also be expensive and can require a lengthy recovery period.
Physical therapy is another treatment option for pain in the back of your knee. A physical therapist will help you strengthen the muscles and ligaments around the knee joint, as well as provide exercises to help reduce inflammation. They can also show you how to properly stretch and exercise the area to avoid future pain or injury.
How Neurofunctional Pain Management Manages Tendon Pain In The Back Of The Knee
We implement a Neurofunctional Pain Management approach as part of our Neuragenex protocol. This means that we use a combination of treatments designed to target, diagnose, and manage the source of the pain instead of just masking the symptoms. We use a combination of safe and effective treatment modalities that are drug-free and non-invasive, including:
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Lifestyle counseling is an approach to managing chronic pain that involves identifying, assessing, and modifying lifestyle factors contributing to an individual's pain. For example, lifestyle factors such as nutrition, physical activity, stress, sleep quality...
Experience Life Without The Debilitating Posterior Knee Pain
At Neuragenex, we understand the importance of dealing with pain in the back of your knee properly and quickly. Our team is dedicated to providing the best possible treatment for your condition.
We use a whole-person, Neurofunctional Pain Management approach to ensure that the root cause of the pain is identified and treated with safe and effective treatments to provide long-term relief from your symptoms.
A pain-free life is not impossible. Consult with us today on how to make it possible.