Knee pain is common and can be a symptom of many different knee conditions or injuries. The inside of your knee, also called the medial knee or the medial compartment, is the area of the knee that’s closest to your opposite knee.
Medial knee pain typically occurs because of a deterioration of cartilage. It can also follow a sports injury or other type of trauma to your knee.
Your knee is easily injured because it’s one of the most complex joints in the body. The knee consists of the intersection of four bones, four ligaments, several tendons, two menisci, and cartilage.
There are a variety of causes of inner knee pain. Many of them can be linked to an injury. Some of the most common incidents that cause knee injury and pain include falls, sports injuries, or increased activity.
Adults — particularly those older than 60 — are most likely to experience knee pain. However, inner knee pain can also occur in children and adolescents.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the most common causes of inner knee pain in children are:
Here are seven of the most common possible causes of inner knee pain.
If you experience inner knee pain while putting pressure on your joint, such as when walking up and down stairs or sitting down in a chair, you may have OA. Because this pressure causes the pain, your symptoms may get more severe as the day goes on.
RA causes inflammation in your joints, so people with RA may experience severe inner knee pain in the morning, with symptoms decreasing throughout the day.
The medial collateral ligament (MCL) runs along the outside of your inner knee to stabilize the joint. If the ligament overstretches, you may have an MCL sprain.
The MCL can also tear partially or fully. An MCL injury most commonly occurs after force is applied to the outer knee, such as in contact sports.
Symptoms of an MCL injury include:
Your meniscus can tear or become damaged if your knee is rotated or put under pressure, most commonly during sports or athletic activities.
There are four major types of meniscus tears:
- bucket handle
Depending on the severity of the injury, you may also feel:
A bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that helps reduce friction between joints. There are several bursae located throughout your body.
If the bursa becomes overused or irritated, it can produce extra fluid that causes swelling and pressure on your knee. This inflammation is known as pes anserine bursitis.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, there are several causes of pes anserine bursitis:
- medial meniscus tear
- turning out your knee or lower leg while standing or walking
- tight hamstring muscles
Plica are small folds in the joint lining. Medial plicae cover your inner knee. Overuse, such as from repeatedly flexing your knee, can irritate the medial plicae.
This causes the folds to thicken and become stuck between the bones. In addition to dull inner knee pain, you may experience locking knees and possibly a cracking sound. Learn more about plica syndrome.
A knee contusion could cause inner knee pain, depending on where you were hit. Other symptoms of knee contusions include:
- bruised skin
- trouble bending the knee
Knee injuries are fairly common, and many can be resolved at home.
If you have symptoms for more than three days, you may have a more serious injury and should visit a doctor. Doctors may recommend more involved treatment methods depending on the cause of your pain.
Minor knee pain is very common and can often be treated at home.
One of the most common remedies for minor knee pain is rest, ice, compression, and elevation, or RICE. Try the following RICE methods:
- Avoid the activity that causes you pain.
- Use crutches to keep weight off your knee.
- Ice the area three or four times per day for 20 minutes at a time.
- Wrap your knee using an elastic compression bandage.
- Place pillows underneath your knee to elevate it to the same level or higher than the level of your heart.
You may also take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil) to alleviate swelling. If symptoms persist after three days despite this treatment or if your pain worsens, talk to your doctor.
Other inner knee pain treatments
If your inner knee pain worsens after several days, or if basic at-home remedies don’t alleviate symptoms, you should go see your doctor.
Some treatment methods for more serious knee injuries include:
- Steroid injection. This injection is used to treat pes anserine bursitis.
- Physical therapy. Therapy often involves stretching, exercises, and ultrasound therapy.
- Assistive device. Wearing a knee brace during athletic or everyday activities can help. Discover the best knee braces for people with OA.
- Surgery. Arthroscopic surgery of the knee is most commonly used after a meniscus tear.
While not all causes of inner knee pain are preventable, doctors and physical therapists recognize strengthening the leg muscles, specifically the quadriceps and hamstrings, as one of the most effective ways to treat and prevent knee injury.
According to a 2008 study from the University of Minnesota’s department of orthopaedic surgery, helpful exercises include:
- straight leg lifts
- leg presses
- mini squats
- stationary or recumbent biking
- walking or running on an elliptical machine
- leg extensions
In addition, you should always begin and end exercising of any kind with stretching all the muscles involved, especially the quadriceps and hamstrings. Check out these quad and hamstring exercises to strengthen bad knees.
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