The inside of your knee can hurt for many reasons, but it often occurs due to cartilage deterioration. It can also follow a sports injury or trauma to your knee.
Knee pain is common and can be a symptom of many 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.
Your knee consists of the intersection of four bones, four ligaments, several tendons, two menisci, and cartilage. It is easily injured because it’s one of the most complex joints in the body.
Knee pain often occurs due to an injury. Some common incidents that cause knee injury and pain include:
- sports injuries
- increased activity
Here are seven common 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 worse as the day goes on.
This typically happens in people with a varus knee. Over time, this condition causes wear and tear on the cartilage, leading to osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. It can cause inner knee pain, but people with RA typically have pain throughout the entire joint rather than just the inner knee.
RA causes inflammation in your joints, so people with RA may experience severe 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:
The meniscus is cartilage that provides a cushion between bones in a joint. There are two menisci in each knee. They serve as cushions between your thigh and shin bones.
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 muscles and ligaments. 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, causes of pes anserine bursitis can include:
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, causing plica syndrome.
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.
A knee contusion could cause inner knee pain, depending on where you were hit. Other symptoms of knee contusions include:
Injuries can also cause other conditions that affect the knee. These can include:
Knee injuries are fairly common, and many can be resolved at home.
If you have symptoms for more than three days, you may have an injury that needs medical attention. Doctors may recommend more involved treatment methods depending on the cause of your pain.
Minor knee pain is common and can often be treated at home.
Most experts recommend that you:
- 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 to reduce swelling.
- Place pillows underneath your knee to elevate it to the same level or higher than the level of your heart when sleeping.
- Practice gentle stretching and knee exercises, such as heel slides, to improve mobility and reduce swelling.
You may also take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil) to relieve swelling if recommended by a doctor. If symptoms persist after three days despite this treatment or if your pain worsens, consider talking with a doctor.
Other inner knee pain treatments
If your inner knee pain is severe, worsens after several days, or if basic at-home remedies don’t help your symptoms, consider seeing a doctor or going to an orthopedic immediate care center.
Some treatment methods for more serious knee injuries include:
- Steroid injection: This injection is used to treat pes anserine bursitis and osteoarthritis.
- Physical therapy: Therapy may involve stretching, exercises, and ultrasound therapy.
- Assistive device: Wearing a knee brace during athletic or everyday activities can help.
- Surgery: Doctors may recommend arthroscopic surgery of the knee to treat a meniscus tear, a partial or total knee replacement for severe osteoarthritis of the knee, or core decompression for avascular necrosis.
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.
Helpful exercises may include:
- straight leg lifts
- 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 by gently stretching all the muscles involved, especially the quadriceps and hamstrings. Check out these quad and hamstring exercises to strengthen bad knees.
The following includes common questions about pain affecting the inner knee.
What causes pain in the inner side of knee?
You may experience medial knee pain due to injury or another health condition, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Injury can damage the surrounding tissue and joints. You can tear or strain the medial collateral ligament or meniscus.
How do you treat inner knee pain?
Doctors may recommend different treatments for inner knee pain depending on the cause. Common treatments include physical therapy, medication to reduce swelling, ice therapy, and exercise.
Is inner knee pain serious?
Inner knee pain may be serious if it is severe or lasts longer than a few days. In some cases, an injury may resolve on its own with at-home care. Other times, you may need medical care to manage or relieve your symptoms.
What tendon hurts on the inner side of knee?
A strained or torn pes anserinus tendon may cause pain in the inner knee. This can happen due to injury.
Pain may also occur if there is damage to the medial collateral ligament that runs along the outside of your inner knee and stabilizes your joint.
You may develop inner knee pain due to a health condition like osteoarthritis or a sudden injury. Sometimes, when and where the symptoms occur may help pinpoint the cause.
If you have pain on the inner side of your knee, it may resolve with at-home care, including ice and gentle stretching. In some cases, you may need treatment like physical therapy, injections, or surgery, depending on the cause and severity.