5 Pain Behind Knee Causes with Relief Tips

Pain Behind KneeThe causes of pain behind knee are quite extensive and the relief for those causes vary from problem to problem.

Nevertheless, there are 5 very frequent pain behind knee causes with relief tips that possibly might help you alleviate some discomfort.

What Causes Pain Behind Knee?

Most common pain behind knee causes include Baker’s Cyst, Meniscus Tear, Hamstring Injury, Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, and less frequently Tumors.

Below we outlined basic info on each of these causes, along with easy relief tips that will help you manage or get rid of pain behind knees.

1. Bakerโ€™s Cyst

Baker’s Cyst, also known as a Popliteal Cyst, is a swelling in the popliteal space (space in back of the knee) which causes stiffness and pain behind knee. The pain usually gets worse when fully flexing or extending the knee as well as moving about.

Our Baker’s Cyst article contains a lot more information about this pain behind knee cause.

Causes – Inflammation of the knee joint due to various types of arthritis and a knee injury due to a cartilage tear.

Relief Tip – Baker’s cyst will often resolve on its own without needing treatment. However, some self-care techniques may be effective, such as: Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID), Ice and Resting (especially RICE relief method), Crutches and Compression Bandages.

2. Meniscus Tear

The meniscus is a rubbery, C-shaped disc that cushions your knee. Pain behind knee from a Meniscus Tear is quite common and is usually caused by twisting or turning quickly, often with the foot planted while the knee is bent.

Causes – Lifting heavy objects, sudden changes in direction, direct impact in a contact sport and excessive strain on the knees.

Relief Tip – A moderate tear may only require RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation). Knee braces can be helpful as well, for which you should check our knee brace guide. A severe tear may require physical therapy or surgery to repair or remove the meniscus.

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3. Hamstring Injury

A Hamstring Injury is a common and sometimes excruciating form of pain behind knee injury. It happens when one or more of the three muscles that run along the back of the thigh gets pulled, strained or injured.

Causes – Quick acceleration activities when running or initiating running activity.

Relief Tip – Most minor to moderate hamstring injuries heal with some rest, ice, compress, Advil and leg elevation.

4. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee), frequently occurring in teenagers or young adults, is a pain behind knee injury that occurs when an unaligned kneecap (patella) irritates the femur grove or thighbone.

Causes – Overuse, injury, excess weight, a kneecap that isn’t properly aligned or changes under the kneecap.

Relief Tip – Avoid activities that might make symptoms worse. Ibuprofen, ice, bandages and rest will also alleviate the pain. Read more about Chondromalacia Patella or Patella Femoral Syndrome for even more information about runner’s knee problems.

Patella Femoral Solutions (ebook)Read Now

5. Tumors

Pain behind knee from non-cancerous knee bone tumors include non-ossifying fibromaunicameral bone cysts, osteochondromas, giant cell tumors, enchondromas and fibrous dysplasia. Cancerous knee bone tumors are osteosarcomas and those caused by multiple myeloma or Ewing’s sarcoma.

Causes – The causes of bone tumors are unknown. Possible causes are genetic, radiation and trauma.

Relief Tip – Seek professional attention from your healthcare provider because benign and malignant tumors usually have to be surgically removed to relieve pain.

Other Possible Pain Behind Knee Causes

  • Muscle cramps are common due to various reasons. Leg cramps can cause pain in back of knee.
  • Jumper’s knee (patellar tendonitis) frequently happens to athletes. It typically causes pain below your kneecaps but it can feel like it’s behind your knees.
  • ACL tear (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries can happen in sports, typically when you suddenly stop or change direction. Rest and therapy helps, while surgery may be required in more severe cases.
  • Chondromalacia patella can happen due to injuries but also due to gradual wearing as you age. Similarly, arthritis can also cause pain in back of your knee.

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Best Pain Behind Knee Relief

Most effective way for pain behind knee relief is the RICE method – Rest, Ice, Compress & Elevate. You can find out how to properly do RICE here. If the pain or injury isn’t very severe you can skip the “Rest” part and try some easy exercises.

Make sure you read our 101 knee pain relief tips for over a hundred different ways to manage or get rid of knee pain. If you are experiencing pain in back of your knee there are easily dozens of effective exercises and tips that will help.

Additionally you should start doing these 7 knee pain exercises immediately. They are easy and anyone can do them to reduce pain.

Article last updated on January 9th, 2019, first published on January 30, 2013.

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43 thoughts on “5 Pain Behind Knee Causes with Relief Tips

  1. I am a badminton player ,i have pain in the front of the knee for the past two months,can’t able to play faster and quicker steps as before , what is the remedy to get cure faster, I have a national ranking tournament next month ,please tell me,
    Thank you,

  2. Had meniscus surgery in May for a tennis related injury. I’m an active female, 65 years, normal weight. Now, the back of my knee is experiencing extreme pain when I bend it……trying to squat, getting in and out of the car., etc. I’ve played LIGHT tennis, clay courts, doubles only. Twice in the past two weeks. Stretched as always, iced following. I’m at my wits end! Any ideas?

    1. I am sorry to hear that. The popliteus muscle in the back of the knee. Do you feel inflammation? Maybe tendinitis or arthritis? Unfortunately one never fully recovers 100% from knee injuries. It could be a number of things that are directly or indirectly related to the surgery and or with age. I would check back with the doctor who performed your surgery as he or she might have a better idea of YOUR current knee situation.

  3. I have knee pain underneath my knee cap and at the back of my knee. Sitting, even for a short period, brings it on and it can become excruciating very quickly and will last for hours even after standing and taking ibuprofin or acetaminophen. The doctor said it was pettlofemoral pain syndrome but this has lasted over a year and is only getting worse. No pain while excercising or shortly after. Additionally, when laying down if my knee is not resting on top of my other one the pain very quickly comes back and will even wake me up from how severe it is but is quickly reduced when laid on top of the other knee. Laying on my other side with my affected knee on the bottom also quickly brings the pain back. Any ideas?

    1. It actually sounds like patellofemoral pain syndrome even though you say you don’t think it is. Have you expressed this to your doctor? Have you tried RICE for an extended period of time? Pain around the kneecap could be from chondromalacia, Patellar Subluxation, Prepatellar bursitis or a Kneecap Dislocation. If I were you I would go seek another opinion as there is something going on more deeply.

  4. a couple months ago I started getting these random cramp-like feelings behind my knee… It’s not cramps, but it gets really tight and hurts to extend my leg. It always got better in a matter of minutes. This went away for awhile but after I started basketball camp a couple days ago it came back, but it’s now constant. I also have pain in the front now under the right side of my knee cap. Both of these pains in the same knee have me a little worried, and I’m about to start my senior year of basketball.

    1. If you are worried then you should go see a doctor. That way he or she can help you enjoy a worry free senior year. The worst feeling (other than the pain), would be to have your senior year filled with worry.

  5. Hi, I seem to have a pain just in my right knee this is behind, it is fine when I walk and even jog it is more just sore when I sprint, I think its thebakers cyst but im not sure. Get back to me when you can.


    1. Do you feel a growth there? Have your doctor check it out before your sprinting turns to running. In the meantime have you tried RICE? It helped me many times when I was dancing.

  6. My 12 yesr old daughter has a lot of pain behind her left knee. I took her to the soort injury clinic where they examined her. She was very sensitive behind the knee. She flinched and the look of pain on her face during the examination was hard to take. When he put pressure behind the knee was when she said it hurt most. She has some discomfort around the knee but the severe pain is behind. They decided to immobolize her in a leg cast from mid thigh to ankle. He said then pain shouldnsubside in 2 weeks. Well we are 2 weeks later now and she still has pain and takes over the counter oain medication. Any ideas? I have boys who have torn MCL’s before and a son who had ACL reconstrucion. Goodness how I do not like knee injuries.

    1. I think it’s time to revisit the doctor. It’s been 2 weeks and they might have either diagnosed her incorrectly or didn’t quite find the entire problem. Knee injuries (speaking from personal experience) are never black and white. Knees hold up 75% of our body weight and that makes solving their problems tough. If I were you I would go back to the doctor asap and try your best to get to the bottom of it. Good luck.

      1. Thank You! We did have a follow up and when she was examined it seemed like the pain was worse. She had tears during the entire exam. They put her in a hinged knee brace with a 45 degree stop. In a week I am to move it to a 60 degree stop. We go back again in two weeks. Dependig the outcome of that they will do an MRI. When the doctor put pressure behind the knee she was in pain. He had her lie on her stomach and tried bending the knee. When he did his she had a sharp pain in the front of the knee riht up the middle. She also has tenderness on the outside of the knee. I also noticed when she was lying on her stomach I notice a lump behind her knee in question.

        1. The good news is that you are on your road to nailing down this situation. I know it must have been tough to see your child in pain but it seems finally someone is getting to the bottom of it. Keep me posted.

  7. Hi, I have pain in my left leg, not able to fully stretch it because of pain. I was hospitalized for 3 days(ICU) in a hospital, during medication Doctor’s have tied some belts around my leg, which resulted into formation of blood clot behind my knee. I consulted with the Doctor’s about my pain, dey carried out certain test which resulted into normal reports. Know i have been discharged, but still feel the pain in my left leg. I tried all the ointments/gels (for 4-5 days) available in market but no use, also tried warm water. Can you please suggest me some remedy to get cure faster?

    1. Did you have knee pain in your left leg before you were hospitalized? I guess my question is when did the knee pain start? What do you feel and how bad is the pain? It seems like you think the blood clot is a direct relation to the knee pain. If that is your thought I would get a second opinion. Sometimes doctors see things differently by the methods they use and knowledge they have.

      1. Yes, the pain was before getting hospitalized, and it worsen after getting discharged. Pain – terrible, not able to fully strech my leg (not able to stand on that leg) without support. Yes, i think its blood clot – has become hard just behind my knee.

        1. Go back to the hospital and explain your situation. Or go to another hospital if you can to get it looked at. If you think it’s a blood clot then that is a situation you do not want to fool with. Read below…

          According to Medical author John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
          Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) refers to a blood clot embedded in one of the major deep veins of the lower legs, thighs, or pelvis. A clot blocks blood circulation through these veins, which carry blood from the lower body back to the heart. The blockage can cause acute pain, swelling, or warmth in the affected leg. Blood clots in the veins can cause inflammation (irritation) called thrombophlebitis. Severe complications of deep vein thrombosis occur when a clot breaks loose (or embolizes) and travels through the bloodstream, causing blockage of blood vessels (pulmonary arteries) in the lung. Called pulmonary embolism (PE), this can lead to severe difficulty in breathing and even death, depending on the degree of blockage.

  8. Ok so we went back for our two week follow up for my 12 year old daughter. The doctor decided to take her brace to a 90 degree stop to allow her more mobility. She has been instructed no physical activities (gym class, gymnastics, etc…). We were told to start physio even though there is no diagnosis. She had an x-ray today (first one in this incident). There were two things brought to our attention. Her knee cap sits higher than normal. He said she is made differently than that of a normal knee. He said people like this can have their knee pop in and out. He said that there would be immediate pain with this. She was only walkin when she started having the first pain symptoms. I asked if bouncing on the trampoline did it and he said unlikely as the pain would have happened during trampoline use. The next was there was an image at the base of her knee. He was not sure if this was a shadoe on the x-ray or a possible bone chip. He said they will repeat the x-ray in two weeks. If the shadow remains an MRI will be ordered. I asked about a bakers cyst as the previous docto brought it up and this doctor said he couldn’t feel anything. We go to a minor injury clinic here in Winnipeg (The Pan Am Clinic) so in the Minor Injury Clinic for Kids you sometimes do not get the same doctor. Oh and my daughter still has pain. She still takes pain medication periodically.

    1. Ok so the good news is that you are in the process of handling this situation. The next step is to adjust her activities so she stays off the knee but doesn’t get bored. Mom it’s time to get creative. There is a post called 101 knee pain relief tips that you can read here. See what works for you guys and minimize knee activities. Unfortunately, the knee holds 75% of our body weight so it can be a challenge to accomplish total relief. Lastly physio is an excellent idea. They can fine tune her movements and adjust her towards living with less pain. There is no doubt that this is a process and at times can seem very challenging. Hang in there and continue to show your daughter love and get fun and creative with her. You can try swimming, mini golf or go for a great balloon ride. Keep me posted.

  9. Went to the chiropractor he adjusted me first adjustment that I have had in years. Went to get adjusted because my spine and neck have been hurting. I am 37 and the x ray showed some bone spurs in my mid back area where my pain has been. now after the adjustment I have a large lump behind my knee it feels like a cyst the size of a silver dollar . It is not hard but it hurts and is causing me to limp when standing up . Pain when walking. I walked four miles today and it hurt it felt like it was reliving a little toward the end of the walk but it is not getting any better .
    Does anyone know what this could be?

    1. Hi Linda,

      The popliteus muscle is back there. You can read about it more here. It sounds like you might be right. However, do not walk 4 miles anymore until you take care of the situation. Go see an orthopedic doctor and have it looked at. If you don’t have insurance go see a pharmacist and tell him your situation. Pharmacists are great resources who don’t charge for their knowledge. Let us know how it goes.

  10. Hi,
    I injured my knee five weeks ago playing football. It was a weird type of play in which i caught a pass and fell to the ground. In the process of falling my knee twisted and took and impact from the fall, it was like a baseball slide position, and I felt a little pain when it happened but continued playing. When i went home everything started to hurt and the next day i could not bend my knee at all. I was diagnosed at first with a sprain knee and told injuries to the mcl meniscus and possible hamstring but that nothing was probably torn because there was very minimal swelling. Two weeks later i was still in pain and got an MRI. That came back and said all my ligaments were in good standing. It is now five weeks later and the mcl area pain is practically gone but there is a pain behind my knee and also if i twist my knee a pain arises. I am able to walk normal and jog without pain or minimal pain. When i go to run full speed i get pain behind the knee and am forced to stop. I can also not squat in a baseball catchers stance without a sharp pain behind my knee. I am frustrated and not sure what is wrong since the mri said i was fine.

    1. I feel your frustration. I know this isn’t something that you want to hear but you need to give your knee a bit of a break before getting back to your previous activities. Squatting, running and jogging puts a lot of pressure on a part of the body that holds up 75% of your body weight. I suggest going back to the doctor and telling them to check out behind your knee. There is a muscle called the popliteus muscle there. Have them do some looking into that. If you feel an unusual ball back there as well you could have a baker’s cyst. Nothing is untreatable but you need to give your knees a break. Read 101 knee pain relief tips here to see if you can find some more activities that keep you off your knee. Let us know how it turns out.

  11. I was doing some light quad exercises on my right knee/leg when suddenly i feel a pulling pain/feeling on the back of my left knee. Its on the big ligament(?) at the rightmost area when you feel your LEFT* knee. Any insight on this?

  12. I did a 2 day 25 mile walk. I run on average 3.5 miles a day 3-4 days a week. I have never had pain before, but during day one of the walk, I felt pain on the inside of the back of my knee. While looking at the photos, it looks like the pain for tendinitis should be on the outside of the back of my knee. It hurts to stretch my lower leg, and it is very tight. I can actually put my finger on the “spot” where it hurts. I don’t feel a cyst like growth back there. Any thoughts?

    1. A tendon is a flexible tissue attaching a muscle to a bone. There are several muscles in and around your knee. You might not have popliteus tendonitis. I would try doing RICE therapy for a few days then lightly get back into walking. If that doesn’t help you can try speaking with a physical therapist who specializes in sports. They are very knowledgable and can help relieve the pain and suggest ways to prevent it during your long walks. (click here to read about RICE)

  13. I’m 46 years old. I have pain behind both knees. It hurts to run and jump. I’ve been in a basketball league for 5 weeks and the onset behind my left knee was gradual and now I have the exact same thing going on behind my right knee. It doesn’t seem to be the knee itself but some muscle or ligament behind the knee. As I type this note, I have no pain. I only have pain when I’m moving. I thought it was a muscle strain until I experienced the same thing in the behind the right knee.

    1. Something similar happened to me in my shoulder. I found out I had a low grade tendinitis. However, no amount of rest really helped. My PT said I needed a few exercises to also strengthen it up. Talk to your doctor or if you don’t have one consult your local pharmacist. I always find pharmacists are full of great information and it’s free. I hope this helps.

      1. Just following up on my injury in case it happens to anyone else. It took 13 weeks to heal and it is still achey after workouts. The original injury was a sprained mcl and meniscus tear. The MRI didn’t read the meniscus tear but it was in a spot on the meniscus where it healed on its own because I guess most of the meniscus doesn’t have sufficient blood flow. When they sent me back to practice too early before I was completely healed I over compensated and sprained my hamstring behind my knee. I went to PT on week 12 and 13 and it worked. I was never one to stretch before or after any physical activity and that was ultimately the most effective way to heal the hamstring by stretching before strengthening and after.

  14. I have like a bruising pain back side of my leg behind the knee. it isnt a major pain but hurts mildly and hurts more when pressure is applied. it sends alittle pain up my leg on the inside part. just wondering what thia could be its not terrible pain but is worry some to me. i also have a couple dark spider viens behind the knee. Thank You!

    1. Mine ended up being Baker’s Cysts in both knees caused by arthritis. They need to be drained and I probably need cortisone shots. I’ve been taking supplements: MSM, Glucosamine and Chondroitin to try and help restore what my knees no longer have. Have also been icing and using compression sleeves. Ice after workouts and heating pads before workouts also.

  15. Two months ago I was hanging pictures at a local art gallery. I had to climb a ladder several times to get the job done. I felt no pain other than the usual soreness from normal wear. However, by the time I went to bed I could barely walk. I had a large bruise on the back of my leg just above the knee. I still have a lot of pain and also noticed a blood spider the size of a quarter on my back knee now. I saw the doctor and they ruled out cysts and clots. She is sending me to a circulatory specialist. My leg really hurts. What could it be?

  16. I have had pain along the inside of my knee off an on for 3 months but know it is consistent halfway down my hamstring along the inside of my knee. I have done a lot of booth camps/running over the last 6 months and have now switched to biking.
    Feels like it is inflamed all the time, hurts when I fully extend and when I stand for any length of time.

  17. I have run a couple of marathons. After the last one last January, I took a few months off. I began running again and believe that being overanxious to take on long runs too soon may have caused me a huge set back. Last year I had changed my running form, using zero rise shoes and always landing on my fore and/or mid foot which works your calf muscles a LOT more. This form of running seems to have prevented all the issues I had experience in my first year of running, and I believe in it, however, when I began running again this year, as expected, my calfs became quite tight and sore. On an eight mile run, I began to feel some pain in the back of my right leg, just behind the knee, but slightly below the knee line. I ran a few more six and seven mile runs afterward, and even though it hurt a little, it didn’t seem extreme and I thought it would work itself out. The real pain was the minutes, hours, days after the run, especially when decending my stairs at home or getting out and walking after riding in or driving a vehicle. I totally quit running in order for it to heal completely, but it’s been about six weeks now and I eagerly want to get out and run again. I am afraid of a longer set back by pushing it too soon, though. Any suggestions?

  18. I was at football practice, warming up. I ran a cut and was going full speed, missed the ball, then went to a complete stop causing a serve pain under and around my kneecap. Bending my leg has no pain but as soon as I extent it, Its a tight pain feeling

  19. I get a pulling pain at the back of my right knee when sitting and sleeping. The pain spreads to the upper back of the thigh and down the leg to the foot. Its 1week now. I don’t do stranious exercise. I just walk around, do normal chores . Please help. Thanks

  20. I am experiencing swelling around the knee. It appears to be spongey like fluid is in there. I have knee pain in the back of my knee and due to the fluid I cannot bend my knee much. What could be causing this? RICE doesn’t seem to be doing much…

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