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Why do I have pain behind the knee?

There are many causes of pain in the back of the knee. There are varying degrees of severity of each condition. Read on to find out more about what may be causing the pain behind your knee.
What Causes Pain Behind the Knee?
Possible causes for pain in the back of the knee include:
- Osteoarthritis: This is a wear-and-tear condition that wears down the cartilage and meniscus of the knee over time. Patients with this typically develop the pain over time, and are in their late 50's to 60's. Patients report feeling pain, soreness and tightness behind the knee. They frequently feel this at night, and it is worse with more walking.
- Meniscus tearsThe meniscus is a shock-absorbing cushion in the knee. Tears of the meniscus can cause patients to feel severe pain at the back of the knee. Frequently, patients are in their 40's to 50's, and many patients start having this pain after some event, for example a period of intense exercise or going on a holiday.
- Baker’s cyst: Baker’s cyst is a collection of fluid that builds up at the back of the knee. Baker's cysts may cause discomfort and swelling at the back of the knee, or many times they may not cause problems at all.
- Muscle strain/injury: This would be more clearly related to an episode of exercise. The muscles at the back of the knee include the hamstrings and the gastrocnemius. Muscle strains would typically get better on their own within a few days, and if such pain persists, a medical evaluation is needed. 
- PCL tear: The PCL is a ligament behind the knee. Again, the patient would usually have had a significant injury such as a sporting injury or road traffic accident.
- Other causes: Various other conditions can cause pain at the back of the knee, including blood clots in the veins and serious causes such as a tumour. The important thing is not to self-manage for beyond a short period of time and seek medical attention early. 
Diagnose and Treat Pain behind the Knee
For each condition, there are various ways of treating it, and this depends on the severity of each condition. We can tell the severity of each person's condition using information from the clinic assessment and scans, such as an MRI scan. 
Also, the most common causes - Osteoarthritis and Meniscus tears - are progressive conditions, meaning the conditions worsen over time if not properly treated. As the conditions worsen, simple treatment methods may start to become ineffective, and we may have to use more complex methods.
The broad groups of treatments are: 
- medications and physiotherapy
- Injections into the knee
- Key-hole surgical procedures
- Open surgical procedures

Frequently-asked Questions

  • What are the treatment methods for knee pain?

  • I have mild pain in the knee. Is it ok to continue with sports?

  • I injured my knee two weeks ago and it is still painful now. Should I get it checked?

  • Do I need a referral letter from my family doctor?

  • Will my insurance cover the treatment?

  • What advanced treatments do you have for my knee?

  • Surgery is a big thing. I am afraid...

Dr Ang CL

About Dr Ang Chia Liang

  • Graduated from National University of Singapore

  • Worked at Singapore General Hospital

  • Worked at The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in UK

  • Fellow of The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

  • Fellow of the prestigious  American College of Surgeons.

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  • Specialises in Knee injuries, degeneration, and complex knee issues

  • Uses treatments with sound scientific basis

  • Approachable and empathetic

  • Author of numerous book chapters on knee surgeries

Contact Information

38 Irrawaddy Road, Mt Elizabeth Novena Hospital Specialist Centre #08-35
Singapore 329563

We are a 3-min walk from Novena MRT Station. Take Exit A from the station.

Tel: 6970 5835

Fax: 6970 5935    

Email: contact@coc.sg

Opening Hours: Mon - Fri: 9am to 6pm, Sat: 9am to 1pm

Emergency consults, Call/Text/WhatsApp: 9623 7153

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