11 Reasons for the Back of Knee Pain

back of knee pain

Are you suffering from back of knee pain? In this article, we will discuss the main causes of pain in the back of the knee, symptoms, find out the most effective prevention measures, and cure.

The knee part of your body is always prone to injuries and the pain behind the knee is also called ‘posterior pain’ and you may also develop swelling and you won’t feel comfortable bending your legs. Some of these injuries can heal on their own but some chronic conditions like arthritis can damage your knee gradually.

First, let us know about the symptoms of pain behind the knee, its diagnosis, and then the causes of this pain.

Depending on the cause, symptoms will differ for the pain behind the knee. Some may include swelling while others could be discomfort in leg movements. The symptoms are listed below;

  • Swelling of your leg behind the knee ( caused by popliteal cyst)
  • Swelling in the calf and cyst burst
  • Swollen leg caused by a clot (deep vein thrombosis)
  • Vague discomfort in your knee while walking
  • Some people may also feel pain in front of the knee
  • Pain when kneeling down
  • Pain on the legs while lifting weights

How do doctors diagnose back of knee pain?

When you visit healthcare centers for the treatment of pain behind the knee, doctors will examine and start with the case history by asking:

  • type of pain you are having
  • when did the back of knee pain start
  • your physical activeness
  • injury, accidents, and any other activity that may lead to pain in the back of the knee

After asking all these questions and depending on the signs, your doctors may recommend diagnosis tools like x-ray, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and posterior cruciate ligament injury to diagnose the causes for the back of knee pain.

What are the causes of back of knee pain?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), many causes lead to back of knee pain. However, we are going to discuss 11 causes of pain in the back of the knee in detail. Here goes the list:

  1. Leg cramps
  2. Jumper’s knee
  3. Hamstring injury
  4. Baker’s cyst
  5. Calf strain
  6. Meniscus tear
  7. Chondromalacia
  8. Arthritis
  9. Deep Vein Thrombosis
  10. Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury
  11. Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injury

11 Causes of the back of knee pain

Here are some of the causes related to the back of knee pain, how to prevent the pain behind the knee, and how to cure pain in the back of the knee.

1. Leg cramps

As per my understanding, leg cramps mean tightening of the muscles present in the legs. In most cases, it is observed that the muscles located in the calves are likely to cramp but other muscles present in the legs can also cramp.

The tightening of muscles in your legs can be caused due to excessive physical exercise. Other causes may include;

  • problems in the nervous system
  • dehydration
  • presence of toxins like mercury and lead in your blood
  • malfunctioning of liver
  • infections like tetanus

How to prevent leg cramps

Involuntarily cramping of muscles can lead to excessive pain and you may feel hard on the back of your knee. So, to prevent leg cramps and avoid back of knee pain, you can try:

  • Stretching and massaging your legs during the day and before going to bed will help in relaxing the muscles and prevent leg cramps
  • The inclusion of magnesium in your diet can also help prevent leg cramps
  • Drinking plenty of water and keep your body cells hydrated. You can also include water-rich foods in your regular diet plan
  • Give some exercise to your legs during the day
  • While walking or exercising, wear comfortable shoes

How to cure or treat leg cramps

If you are suffering from back of knee pain due to leg cramps, you may try:

  • If your leg cramps in the middle of the night, stand up and gently put some weight on the affected leg
  • Pressing the cramping muscles with a hot and wet cloth
  • walk around to ease the pain

2. Jumper’s knee

Tendon is a cord that connects Kneebone to the shinbone and the injury to this tendon is called the jumper’s knee or patellar tendonitis.

The injury to the tendon can happen while playing games and jumping on the hard surface frequently. These injuries may include:

  • tiny tears in tendons
  • swelling in the tendons
  • weakening of tendons
  • back of knee pain, and pain below the kneecap

4 Simple tips to prevent jumper’s knee

Jumper’s knee is related to sports injury and it is also linked with muscle contraction leading to inflammation of tendons. To prevent jumper’s knee and avoid back of knee pain, you can try:

  • Warm-up your body before playing any games
  • Stretch your muscles
  • Carry out stability exercises at the gym or even at home
  • The quality and fitness of your shoes can also play a vital role in preventing jumper’s knee injury

Treatment for jumper’s knee injury

There are many symptoms related to a jumper’s knee injury and this includes back of knee pain, tenderness around the knee tendons, swelling, pain while straightening your legs, and tenderness below the kneecap.

To avoid all these pains, the best treatment is to take a rest until the injury is healed. You can try treatments like:

  • carrying out stretching exercises and strengthening your muscles
  • Elevating the knees
  • using anti-inflammatory medicines or sprays, and 
  • soaking ice pack on the affected parts to reduce swelling

3. Hamstring injury

A hamstring injury also called biceps femoris tendonitis, is an injury to the hamstring muscles. There are three different muscles in the hamstrings located behind the thighs that help in bending your knees.

  • semimembranosus muscles
  • semitendinosus muscles
  • biceps femoris muscles

Depending on the intensity of injuries, healing can take up to days or even months. A hamstring injury can cause back of knee pain and its symptoms may include swelling and weakness in the back of your knee.

5 Tips to prevent hamstring injury

A hamstring injury is common in athletes like soccers, basketball players, or track runners. To prevent hamstring injury and avoid back of knee pain, you can try the following steps:

  • Carry out good stretching exercises before playing any games
  • Strengthen your muscles and tendons by carrying out exercises like glute bridges and hip thrust exercises
  • Prevent muscle fatigue by providing 

How to treat hamstring injury

As per recent studies, minor to moderate hamstring injuries can heal on their own. However, certain injuries need medical treatments and heal from the back of knee pain. These treatments may include:

  • Taking rest and avoiding weight on affected kegs
  • Apply ice on your affected legs for 20-30 minutes until the pain heals
  • Compress your leg using elastic bandages to reduce swelling
  • Place a pillow under your leg to elevate your legs
  • Ask your doctor for anti-inflammatory drugs to help reduce pain in the back of the knee and swelling
  • Strengthen your muscles through stretching exercises but after seeking recommendations from your doctor or physiotherapists

4. Baker’s cyst

A synovial fluid accumulated behind the knee and forming a cyst is called a baker’s cyst or synovial cyst. The main function of synovial fluid is to lubricate the knee joint but a person suffering from a knee injury or arthritis can produce synovial fluid in excess and forms a cyst.

The symptoms of a baker’s cyst include swelling behind the knees, stiffness in bending your knees, and back of knee pain. Baker’s cyst can cause arthritis, damage to the knees, inflammation, and gout.

Can Baker’s cyst be prevented? My best 4 simple tips

To prevent baker’s cyst and avoid back of knee pain, you should prevent injuries. Here are four simple tips to prevent baker’s cyst:

  • Wear comfortable and fitted shoes
  • Use the balls of your feet to turn around instead of knees
  • Warm-up yourself before exercising and relax after exercising
  • If you are injured, stop exercising immediately to provide ample amount of time to cool down

How to treat baker’s cyst

The treatment for baker’s cyst injury should start with nonsurgical operations. In common practice, most orthopedics or sports doctors follow the RICE method ( Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate). This method helps in instant healing of any injuries for sports personnel.

Other options for the treatment of baker’s cyst injury can include:

  • prescription of anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Healthy body weight can also play a vital role in reducing pressure on your knees
  • Do not recommend high impact sports like running and jogging
  • Use support while walking
  • Can also recommend a steroid injection to reduce inflammation and back of knee pain

5. Calf strain

Calf strain, also known as gastrocnemius tendonitis is made of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles located to the back of your lower leg. It helps in bending your knees and pointing your toes straight.

The symptoms of gastrocnemius tendonitis include pain in the calf, swelling of the calf, bruising, and trouble standing on your toe. In this injury, you can also follow the RICE method as a treatment.

How to prevent calf strain

To avoid back of knee pain and prevent calf strain injuries, you can try my recommended simple tips:

  • Warm-up sessions for 5 minutes before going for exercise
  • Stretching your legs
  • Cool down for 5 minutes after exercising
  • Again, stretch your muscles for 5 minutes after cooling down sessions

Calf strain treatment methods to avoid back of knee pain

Even though mild calf strain can heal in few days, it requires certain medical attention to avoid back of knee pain. You can also use the home remedies mentioned below to treat calf strain injuries.

  • Wrap your affected legs with cloth bandages to reduce swelling
  • While you lie down, lift your legs to the heart level to decrease swelling
  • Compress your affected legs with ice using soft clothes for at least 10 minutes for every one hour
  • Use a heating pad 
  • Use anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swellings

6. Meniscus tear

The meniscus is a cartilage, wedge-shaped and helpful in cushioning and stabilizing your knee joint.

When athletes twist their knees, the meniscus gets torn sometimes. It gives a popping sound when it was torn and it won’t hurt you much. But while walking for few days, it becomes stiff and the back of the knee starts paining.

Other symptoms for these injuries are:

  • swelling of the affected part
  • weakness on the knee
  • stiffness of the knee

Prevention tips for a meniscus tear

Meniscus tear is a preventable injury and you can follow these tips to avoid pain in the back of the knee.

  • Strengthen your leg muscles by performing regular exercises
  • Use protective gear like knee braces while playing games
  • Undergo flexibility training
  • Wear properly fitting shoes

Can meniscus tears be treated?

A meniscus tear can also be treated using a RICE method as mentioned before. However, you can follow some other methods to treat these injuries like:

  • using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Motrin, Advil, and aleve to help reduce back of knee pain and swelling
  • carryout stretching and strengthening exercises to reduce stress
  • avoid high impact exercises like jogging or running

7. Chondromalacia

Chondromalacia is a condition where the cartilage inside the joint breaks down. Cartilage helps in cushioning the bones and protects them from scraping each other.

The causes for chondromalacia may include knee injury, wearing down due to age factors, or arthritis. In most cases, it takes place in the knee cap area and knee bones start to scrape against one another, causing back of knee pain.

How to prevent chondromalacia

If the cartilage is damaged, it cannot fix on its own. You need to undergo surgeries to treat chondromalacia patellae. So, to prevent these surgeries and to avoid back of knee pain, you should carefully follow the simple tips mentioned below.

  • Wear kneepads if you are using knees while playing
  • Strengthen your quadriceps, hamstring, and adductors to create balance in your muscles
  • Use insole inside your shoes to make an arch and decrease pressure on your knees

How to treat chondromalacia

Chondromalacia patellae can be treated using a rest and ice system from the RICE method. taking rest, stabilizing, and icing the joint or affected area can serve as the first line for treatments. However, you can also opt for medical treatments as listed below.

  • Use anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen to decrease inflammation, tenderness, swelling, and back of the knee pain 
  • Undergo physical therapy to strengthen your quadriceps and hamstrings 
  • Undergo arthroscopic surgeries to fix the misalignment of your knees and joints

8. Arthritis

Arthritis is a medical condition where the cartilage located in the knee degenerates over time. Osteoarthritis is a common arthritis disease caused due to aging. However, there are other arthritis diseases or medical conditions which affect the knees as follow:

Can you prevent arthritis?

Among the above-mentioned arthritis types, we cannot control some of these diseases but we can at least prevent or reduce the risk of getting arthritis by following the simple tips below:

  • Maintain healthy body weight to reduce pressure on your joints and knees
  • Control your blood sugar levels to reduce stiffness of tissues
  • Regularly exercising for 30 minutes a day can strengthen your muscles
  • Stretching and strengthening of your muscles regularly
  • Avoid injury as much as possible to avoid getting arthritis
  • Quit smoking to help your tissues to protect your joints and knees
  • Eat foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help in reducing inflammation and many other health benefits

Treatment for arthritis diseases

Early diagnosis is a key for the treatment of arthritis conditions. Depending on the degree of injury, your doctors may include treatments like:

  • use of anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen
  • Use of drugs that can suppress your immune system
  • Application of creams and ointments to reduce back of knee pain and joints aches
  • Undergo physical therapy to strengthen your muscles
  • Undergo medical surgery to repair or replace the damaged joints

9. Deep vein thrombosis

It is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT) when the blood clots in the deep veins inside your leg. It can also happen in your arms, lungs, pelvis, and brain. If you have deep vein thrombosis, you will feel pain in the knee when you stand up.

Symptoms related to deep vein thrombosis include:

  • swelling of your leg
  • tenderness on your leg
  • redness of the skin, and
  • warmness in the affected area

Simple tips to keep deep vein thrombosis risk low

As a saying goes,

“Prevention is better than cure”

Desiderius Erasmus

It is also better to go for prevention methods first. The following are the tips to avoid back of knee pain and reduce the risk of getting deep vein thrombosis.

  • Using BMI index if you are overweight, work on reducing your weight
  • Stay active and exercise regularly to keep your muscles strong and strengthened but avoid high impact activities
  • Don’t stay still for a longer time
  • Drink plenty of water every day and wear comfortable clothes

Treatment for deep vein thrombosis

In the medical field, it is deemed important to treat deep vein thrombosis in an early stage. If prolonged, it can lead to pulmonary embolism and it is life-threatening. Based on the current practice, the following treatment methods are used for DVT:

  • Use of blood thinners (anticoagulant) tablets like warfarin or rivaroxaban to stop new blood clots for at least three months
  • If a DVT patient is pregnant, doctors use anticoagulant injections to treat DVT

10. Anterior cruciate ligament injury

A band of tissues that runs in the front of your knee joints is known as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). ACL connects the thighbone to the shinbone and helps in stabilizing and providing mobility to the knees.

The injury in these tissues can be caused due to a sudden stop while running or changing the direction suddenly while jogging. As a result, the ligament gets torn and you feel pain in the knees.

Five simple tips to prevent ACL injury

After an anterior cruciate ligament injury, your knees will hurt, swells up, and have back of knee pain. However, you can follow these four simple tips to prevent anterior cruciate ligament injury.

  • You can undergo training to strengthen your muscles
  • Warm-up before going to exercises and do stretch sessions
  • Use proper shoes while exercising 
  • Consult sports doctors or specialists during emergencies

Treatment methods for ACL injury

To treat an anterior cruciate ligament injury, you can follow the RICE method as mentioned below:

  • Resting is necessary for healing
  • Ice your knees to reduce back of knee pain
  • Compress the knee area using an elastic bandage to minimize the pain in the back of the knees
  • Elevate using a pillow under your legs while you lie down

Other treatment methods may also include:

  • Rehabilitative therapy
  • Surgery

11. Posterior cruciate ligament injury

A band of tissues that connects your thighbone with the shinbone and helps in supporting your knees is known as the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL).

It is less likely to get injured as compared to the anterior cruciate ligament but you can sometimes get injured on PCL due to car accidents, twisting the knees, or falling from the steps. Usually, PCL injury can be caused due to a hard blow on the front of your knees.

A posterior cruciate ligament injury can cause swelling of the knee, back of knee pain, stiffness while walking, and weakness of the knee.

How to prevent PCL injury

To prevent a posterior cruciate ligament injury, you can try:

  • Rehabilitation exercises for quadriceps and hamstrings
  • Perform strengthening exercises to your muscles
  • Stretch your leg muscles and maintain a routine
  • While playing sports or doing exercises, use proper form

Treatment for PCL injury

To treat a posterior cruciate ligament injury, you can follow the RICE method:

  • Resting for healing faster
  • Ice your knees or affected area to reduce back of knee pain
  • Compress the knee area using an elastic bandage to minimize the pain in the back of the knees
  • Elevate using a pillow under your legs while you lie down

You should also go for surgeries if you have severe cases like cartilage damage, instability symptoms, or injury for more than one ligament.

How to relieve the pain in the back of your knee?

To relieve the pain in the back of your knee, you can try the following tips:
– The RICE method (Resting, Icing, Compression, and Elevation)
– Use of anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or aspirin
– Make use of knee braces while exercising or playing games
– Exercise regularly to strengthen your muscles but avoid high impact activities
– Undergo physical therapy
– Maintain healthy body weight to reduce the load on your knees

What causes tight tendons behind the knee?

There is a soft tissue connecting the muscles of the back thigh to the knee, pelvis, and lower legs. If this soft tissue is inflamed, it causes tight tendons called hamstring tendonitis.


Pain in the back of the knee is a concern and you should closely monitor your activities to avoid back of knee pain. Most of the simple tips mentioned in this article are doable and I hope these tips will help you in leading a healthy lifestyle.

However, the above-stated simple tips can help you in reducing the pain but it won’t be a permanent solution. Therefore, we recommend you get medical advice from your doctors or health professionals.

By Sonam Tobgay

I'm the creator of Healthy Lifestyle blog. I've been fascinated with health related articles and information since 2005 and have spent most of my waking hours consuming health contents from the top professionals in this field. My goal is to share the best tips and news about health, benefits of fruits and vegetables, and other health related issues so you can follow and lead a healthy life.

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