Back of the Knee Pain: Possible Causes

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TENS Machine All You need to know Knee Pain

Knee pain is common in many people. However, when we talk about knee pain, we immediately think of the front of the knee or the anterior knee. Posterior knee pain is pain in the back of the knee area.

Posterior knee pain is one of the less common pains in people and because of that, there are less information about what is it and how to treat posterior knee pain.

Posterior (back knee) pain can be caused by many problems such as: Baker’s Cyst, hamstring injuries, popliteal injuries, meniscal injuries, arthritis and so on.

The diagnosis of each of these conditions can be rather complicated and uncertain.

The treatment of posterior knee pain also largely depends on the cause and the source of the pain. That’s why it is so important not to ignore the pain and discover the cause of it.

Getting diagnosed 

As we said above, posterior knee pain is less common than other knee pains. That fact, plus the complicated anatomy of the posterior knee area are both reasons why the process of getting diagnosed can be difficult and quite complicated.

For a correct diagnosis there are several important things that must be taken into consideration.

First, a complete medical history is more than necessary in order to see the records of some current or previous injury, other past injuries, surgeries or conditions, past pains, the period of pain, the severity of the pain, the correct location of the pain, your lifestyle, etc.

Then, depending on the results, some physical tests and evaluations can also be done, as well as other procedures relevant to your condition.

Most Common Causes

Baker’s Cyst

Baker’s Cyst is a very common cause and source of posterior knee pain. This is a condition where there’s a swelling in the back of the knee caused usually by some other knee injury or condition, such as arthritis. The swelling in the posterior knee is actually an inflammation of the popliteal bursa.

The symptoms of Baker’s Cyst are the swelling in the back of the knee, pain in the posterior knee area and perhaps a feeling of tightness in the back of the knee. You will feel pain while bending the knee, straightening the knee, even while walking and kneeling.

Meniscus/ Cartilage Tear

This is when the cartilage lining the joint in the back is torn. This cartilage can be torn usually with some sudden movements like twisting or it can happen slowly if you suffer from some wear and tear conditions, such as osteoarthritis.

If you suffer from cartilage tear, you will feel pain in the back of your knee, feeling of instability, maybe swelling and difficulties to strengthen the knee. You will feel pain in the back of the knee when you’re walking, running, going up stairs, etc.


Different forms of arthritis can also be a cause for posterior knee pain. Osteoarthritis (wear and tear of the bones) or rheumatoid arthritis (inflammations) can both cause pain in the back of the knee.

If your posterior knee pain is caused by some type of arthritis, you will probably feel morning stiffness, limited knee movements, pain in the back of the knee, swelling, and so on.

Your pains will worsen after long rests, cold weather and difficult activities. Arthritis usually comes on over time and it is most common in older people.

Hamstring Injury

Hamstring injury is actually a torn hamstring muscle at the back of the thigh. This is a condition which can happen suddenly, after an injury.

The symptoms of this condition are: pain at the back of the knee where the hamstring tendon is attached to the bone, sharp and worsened pain when you are performing sudden movements and motions.

Ligament Tear/Overstretch

As the name applies, this is a posterior knee pain caused by torn or overstretched ligaments. The symptoms of this condition are the following: pain in the back of the knee, maybe swelling, sometimes instability of the knee, limited movements, etc.

Ligament tear or overstretch can be caused by some sudden movement of the knee or by some other forceful injury.

Caused by other pain

When you feel posterior knee pain, the problem might not always be in that area. Sometimes the problem can be in the front of the knee, in the spine, or somewhere else, but you might feel the pain in the posterior knee.

So, if your doctor doesn’t find any of these above causes of your posterior knee pain, try to search for some other condition you might be affected with.

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