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Inner Knee Pain: Why Does the Inside of My Knee Hurt?

Inner knee injuries are common and result in pain and a limited range of motion. They can cause major disruption in your everyday life and make it tough to perform even routine activities. Visit Redefine Healthcare to learn why the inside of your knee is hurting and how it can be treated effectively. Dr. Eric Freeman is an experienced and board-certified pain and rehabilitation specialist and uses advanced diagnostic tests to learn more about your knee pain causes. He understands the discomfort you are experiencing and recommends treatment options that address the source of pain and help you recover from the injury or trauma, preventing further medial knee issues.

The knee is a very important joint. It helps you walk, run, jump, skip and even sit and stand easily. It supports the entire body weight, which is a big responsibility. Inner or medial knee pain means pain on the side of the knee nearest to the middle of the body or next to the other knee. The inner knee is a complex structure that takes on a lot of stress in everyday life. This makes the inner knee vulnerable to injury.

Understanding the anatomy of the knee, and how it works makes it easy to identify where the pain is coming from. The knee joint is made up of bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.

Anatomy of the knee

Tendons connect the knee bones to the leg muscles that move the knee joints. There are two major tendons in the knee:

  • Quadriceps tendon – it connects the quadriceps muscles to the kneecap
  • Patellar tendon – it connects the kneecap to the shin bone

Four major ligaments in the knee are:

  • Anterior cruciate ligament
  • Posterior cruciate ligament
  • Medial and lateral collateral ligaments
  • Patellar ligament

Pain in the inner knee is usually caused by injury or overuse of the medial collateral ligament (MCL), which is located on the inside of the knee.

Other important knee parts are:

  • Meniscus– C-shaped pieces of cartilage that act as a cushion between the shinbone and thigh bone
  • Bursa – The bursae provide a cushion between the bones and tendons and reduce friction.
  • Plica – A plica is a fold in the thin tissue that lines the knee joint.

All these parts work together to ease mobility and ensure normal movement of the knee joint.

Common Causes of Inner Knee Pain

There are several reasons for inner knee pain. They include:

  • Injury to the outer side of the knee, such as a blow that pushes the knee inwards
  • Activities that involve sudden twisting or pivoting of the knees, such as skiing or playing rugby
  • Activities where you end up overusing the knee, such as cycling, gymnastics, or swimming breaststroke
  • Old age as the knee joint wears down

Other causes of pain on the inner side of the knee include:

Medial Collateral Ligament (Mcl) Tear or Sprain

The MCL is a band of tissue that runs along the inner edge of the knee. It plays a significant role in connecting the shin and thigh bones along the inner part of the joint to keep the knee stable and functioning properly. An MCL injury occurs when the knee is pushed past its limits on the inner part, resulting in a partial or fully torn MCL.

When the MCL is injured, the knee can over-extend itself or bend too far in a direction it should not.

Common symptoms that appear during an MCL injury include:

  • Pain on the inner part of the knee joint
  • Swelling of the knee
  • A pop when the damage occurs
  • Difficulty walking
  • A feeling of looseness and instability in the knee
  • Knee stiffness

If you hear a popping sound and feel pain on the inside edge of the knee, you have probably torn your MCL. Your knee may also lurch to the side. Using a knee brace for ligament tears is the best way to ease this pain.

Meniscus Tear

A meniscus tear is an injury to a part of your knee called the meniscus. Each of the knees has two menisci. They are two c-shaped pads of thick, rubbery shock-absorbing cartilage in your knee joint. They act as a cushion between your shinbone and thigh bone. One of the menisci is located on the inner side, or medial side of your knee.

Any activity that makes you forcefully twist or rotate your knee, especially when putting your full weight on it, can lead to a meniscus tear. It is a common injury that usually results during sports. In older people, the menisci wear down with age, and tears can result from minor injuries such as twisting awkwardly when getting up, also known as degenerative tears.

Common symptoms associated with a menisci tear include:

  • Pain in the knee that varies in severity, it may be mild or severe or come and go
  • Swelling that occurs several hours after the meniscus is injured
  • Clicking, locking, or catching of the knee, especially when you bend it
  • Unstable sensation in the knee or a feeling that it is going to give way
  • Inability to bend, and extend your knee fully
  • Tenderness along the line of the knee joint

Sharp pain when twisting or rotating the knee, accompanied by stiffness and swelling on the inside of the joint, is a sign that you have torn your meniscus.

Bursitis

Knee bursitis is the inflammation of the small fluid-filled sac, known as the bursa, near the knee joint. These bursae provide a cushion between bones and tendons and reduce friction during movement. There is a bursa close to the inner knee that may be affected if you are experiencing pain on that side. Bursitis most commonly occurs on the inner side of the knee, below the joint, or over the knee cap.

Knee bursitis may result from sports such as football and basketball with repetitive turning movements, a sudden increase in physical activity, muscle imbalance, or some underlying knee issue. Runners also experience this condition after increasing their speed or distance. Swelling of the bursa puts pressure on other parts of the knee, causing pain in the front or towards the middle, depending on the affected bursa.

Common symptoms associated with knee bursitis include:

  • Inner pain knee when straightening or bending your knee, particularly, while using the stairs
  • Weakness near or around the knee
  • Swelling in the inner knee
  • Tenderness in the inner knee
  • Limited range of motion due to pain

If the inner knee feels warm, tender, and swollen when you put pressure on it, you probably have bursitis or an inflamed bursa. The symptoms may vary depending on what is causing the inflammation and which bursa is infected. You may feel pain even when the knee is at rest.

Knee Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and usually affects people in their middle ages or advanced ages, or it could be heredity too. It causes structural changes to the joints over time, due to which, the cartilage at the end of the bones wears down. As the cartilage or the natural cushion between the joints wears away, the bones of the joints run more closely against one another, which leads to pain upon movement.

Sometimes infection, injury or extra weight may also lead to osteoarthritis. Being overweight places unnecessary pressure on the knee joints, leading to cartilage deterioration and discomfort.

Common symptoms of knee osteoarthritis include:

  • Increased knee pain with activity
  • Swelling at the knee
  • Warmth at the knee joint
  • Stiffness in the knee joint
  • Reduce mobility and range of motion
  • Crackling or creaking sounds at the knee

Creaking, and crackly sounds when the knee moves are signs of osteoarthritis. This condition makes it difficult to walk and decreases mobility. It becomes difficult to get in and out of chairs, and cars and use the stairs.

Plica Syndrome

The plica is folds of thin tissue that line the knee joints. They form part of the joint membrane that allows friction and enables you to bend and move your leg easily. Most people have about four of them in each knee. The medial or inner plica is one of the four folds in the knee. It can get irritated by overuse of the knee or some injury to the joint.

It is common in people who are very active or have recently increased activity or started the rigorous exercise. It can also result from trauma, in case your knee gets hit by something hard.

Common plica syndrome symptoms include:

  • Inner knee pain
  • Pain at the knee joint
  • Pain that increases when using stairs, bending the knee, or squatting
  • Locking in the knee when going from sitting to standing
  • Instability in the knee
  • Swelling on the joint

Locking of the knee or clicking sounds are signs of medial knee plica syndrome. Your knee may hurt more at night or when you are active, and it becomes difficult to squat, bend or get up after sitting for a long time.

What Can You Do to Reduce Knee Pain?

Some injuries are unavoidable such as MCL injuries, but there are many things you can do to reduce the chances of injuries or prevent wear and tear of bones and cartilage that lead to pain. The best way to reduce and avoid inner knee pain is to exercise and strengthen the muscles around the knee.

Exercise such as squats or leg presses in the gym is very effective for preventing knee pain. If you are experiencing pain on the inner side of the knee, it is essential to avoid activities that affect the joint as much as possible. Using an ice compress, pain relieving medication, and keeping your leg elevated when resting also helps ease the pain.

When to See a Doctor for Inner Knee Pain?

Knee injuries are common, and many of them can be resolved at home. However, if you have suffered a knee injury or your pain is not lessening, it is best to see a doctor. Do not ignore your symptoms for more than three days, as they could be something serious that needs professional care.

The doctor will examine the joint to identify the issue. Treatment depends on the causes and severity of the pain. The doctor may also refer you to a physical therapist to help you get back to doing what you love without discomfort and prevent further medial knee issues.

Visit Redefine Healthcare if your knee joint is hurting, you feel unstable when trying to stand or walk, or hear unusual creaking or crackling sounds coming from the joint. The specialists can quickly diagnose and treat any type of knee disorder, whether it is due to old age or resulting from some injury or overuse. Dr. Eric Freeman has been treating patients with inner knee pain, and comes up with treatment options to manage your pain safely and effectively. He also helps you understand how to take care of your joint to prevent further injuries for long-term relief.

Page Updated on Dec 12, 2022 by Dr. Freeman (Pain Management Specialist) of Redefine Healthcare

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Dr. Eric D. Freeman

Dr. Eric D. Freeman is a top-rated, best-in-class pain management doctor. He is a nationally recognized pain relief specialist and is among the top pain care doctors in New Jersey and the country. He is an award-winning expert and contributor to prominent media outlets.

Dr. Eric D. Freeman has been recognized for his thoughtful, thorough, modern approach to treating chronic pain. He has been named a “top pain management doctor in New Jersey” and one of “America’s Top Physicians” for advanced sports injury treatments.

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