Medial knee pain refers to the discomfort experienced on the inside of the knee. Acute injuries often cause this pain, resulting from sudden trauma. On the other hand, chronic knee injuries develop over time, typically due to overuse.
Medically reviewed by Dr Chaminda Goonetilleke, 30th Nov. 2021
Acute Knee Pain: Instant Injuries
Acute knee pain typically manifests rapidly due to sprains, strains, or fractures. One common cause is an MCL sprain.
Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Sprain
An MCL sprain is a tear in the ligament located on the inside of the knee joint. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) can tear due to a direct impact on the outside of the knee or from twisting.
- Instant pain, located on the inside of the knee.
- Quick swelling.
- A positive result on a valgus stress test.
Often, an MCL sprain coincides with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear or a meniscus tear.
Torn Meniscus: Knee Cartilage Injury
A torn meniscus refers to the injury of the semi-circular cartilage in the knee joint. This injury is common in contact sports due to direct impact or from twisting the knee. However, it can also occur in older athletes due to gradual degeneration.
- Pain on the inside of the knee, which can either occur suddenly or develop gradually.
- Experiencing pain when fully bending the knee or squatting down.
- Potential swelling on the inside of the knee, though not always.
- Occurrences of knee locking or giving way.
- Tenderness along the joint line on the inside of your knee when pressed.
Gradual onset medial knee pain
Chronic medial knee pain typically develops over time. Unlike sudden injuries, it’s often hard to determine the exact moment the discomfort started. Overuse is a common cause, leading to wear, tear, and degeneration.
This type of knee pain can also emerge as a consequence of improperly treated acute injuries. If an injury fails to heal correctly, chronic pain can become an issue. A comprehensive treatment plan is essential to avoid this complication.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) refers to discomfort at the front of the knee, predominantly around the kneecap (patella). Here’s what you might experience:
- A persistent ache in the knee joint, especially at the front and under the patella.
- Possible tenderness along the kneecap’s inside edge.
- Likely swelling, usually exacerbated after exercise.
- Pain intensity often escalates when walking uphill or downhill or sitting for extended periods.
A synovial plica represents a fold in the synovial membrane, which forms the enclosure of the knee joint. It resides along the inside of the kneecap and presents symptoms akin to Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome.
- Persistent pain and discomfort on the inside of your knee.
- Sharp discomfort at the front inside edge of your kneecap.
- A piercing pain is often experienced during squatting.
- Occasionally, a synovial plica may be felt as a thickened band of tissue under the kneecap’s inside.
Pes anserine bursitis/tendinopathy
Pes Anserine Bursitis, a less common cause of inner knee pain, occurs at the point on the knee’s inside where the tendons of three muscles meet and insert.
Osteoarthritis: The Age-Related Ailment
Osteoarthritis, a common knee pain source, typically affects individuals over fifty. It results from the degeneration of protective cartilage covering the bones.
- Gradual development of knee pain over time.
- Initial experience of deep, aching pain in the inner knee.
- Amplified pain post-exercise.
- Likely occurrences of stiffness and potential swelling in the joint.
- Possible auditory experiences of clicking or cracking noises during knee movement.
Referred knee pain
Inner knee pain can also originate from issues elsewhere in your body, notably in the hip or lower back. When the sciatic nerve endures pinching or compression, it can lead to radiating pain that travels down the leg.
Other causes of medial knee pain
While rare, young athletes may experience inner knee pain due to other conditions such as:
- Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis (a condition affecting the hip joint)
- Perthes’ Disease (also related to hip health)