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Knee Pain Overview (cont.)

Risk Factors for Knee Pain

Any activity that could injure the knee is a risk factor for developing knee pain. Doing strenuous athletic activity without proper warm-up can increase risk for knee pain.

Obesity is a risk factor for osteoarthritis of the knee. Smoking is a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis.

Complications of Knee Pain

The major complication of knee pain is inadequate mobility and ability to walk. Long-term knee pain that is caused by diseases of the knee joint can lead to permanent damage to the knee and loss of function.

Prevention of Knee Pain

Knee pain has a host of causes. Many types of pain are difficult to prevent, but you can do some general things to reduce the likelihood of sustaining a knee injury.

  • Stay slim
    • Staying slim reduces the forces placed on the knee during both athletics and everyday walking and, according to some medical research, may reduce osteoarthritis.
    • Keeping your weight down may also reduce the number of ligament and tendon injuries for similar reasons.
  • Keep limber, keep fit
    • Many knee problems are due to tight or imbalanced musculature. Stretching and strengthening, therefore, also help to prevent knee pain.
    • Stretching keeps your knee from being too tight and aids in preventing both patellofemoral syndrome and iliotibial band syndrome.
    • Strengthening exercises particularly of the quadriceps (straight leg raises and leg extensions are two excellent exercises, but please see a book on exercise and training for more) can help prevent knee injury.
  • Exercise wisely
    • If you have chronic knee pain, consider swimming or water exercises.
    • In water, the force of buoyancy supports some of our weight so our knees do not have to.
    • If you don't have access to a pool or do not enjoy water activities, at least try to limit hard pounding and twisting activities such as basketball, tennis, or jogging.
    • You may find that your aching knees will act up if you play basketball or tennis every day but will not if you limit your pounding sports to twice a week.
    • Whatever you do, respect and listen to your body. If it hurts, change what you are doing.
    • If you are fatigued, consider stopping; many injuries occur when people are tired.
  • Protect the knee
    • Wearing proper protection for the activity at hand can help avoid knee injuries.
    • When playing volleyball or when laying carpet, protecting your knees may include knee pads.
    • When driving, knee protection may include wearing a seat belt to avoid the knee-versus-dashboard injuries as well as injuries to other parts of your body.

Medically reviewed by Aimee V. HachigianGould, MD; American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery


Bauman A. On Your Knees. Runner's World 35.5 (2000): 26.

Hart, L. Knee Pain. Woman's Day 63.17 (2001): 44.

Lally, S. End Knee Pain Forever. Men's Health 5.5 (1990): 64-67.

Levy, A.M., and M.L. Fuerst. Sports Injury Handbook: Professional Advice for Amateur Athletes. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1993.

Roberts, D.M., and T.C. Stallard. Emergency department evaluation and treatment of knee and leg injuries. Emerg Med Clin North Am 18.1 Feb 2000: 67-84, v-vi. [Medline].

Tintinalli, J.E., G.D. Kellen, and J.S. Staphczynksi. Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. McGraw-Hill; 2000.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/19/2016

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