What Can Cause Knee Pain Without Injury?

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1 in 4 adults suffers from chronic knee pain. Are you one of them? Or have you experienced sudden knee pain without injury and you’re not sure what’s causing it?

Unexplained knee pain can be frightening. What can cause knee pain without injury anyway?

We’re here to talk about it. Read on to learn some of the most common causes of knee issues.

Common Reasons for Sudden Knee Pain Without Injury

So what could be causing your knee pain if you haven’t experienced an obvious injury? Well, there are plenty of potential causes! Here are a few of the most common ones.


Bursitis is what happens when your bursa becomes inflamed. The bursa is a fluid-filled sac that reduces friction in your joints. The bursa in your knees is between your shin bone and your hamstring.

It can happen as a result of tight hamstring muscles, not stretching before exercise, having excess weight, or a sudden turn of the knee. Kneecap bursitis can also happen as a result of being on your knees for too long.

It’s a temporary condition. Most of the time, you can treat it at home as long as you rest the affected area.


Tendinitis is inflammation of your tendons. Your tendons are what attach your muscles to your bones. Symptoms of tendinitis include tenderness and mild swelling. The pain should be dull and throbbing rather than sharp.

It often occurs as the result of poor form during exercise or repetitive motions, but certain medications can also make you more likely to develop tendinitis.

Severe tendinitis can cause a tendon to wear down or even break. This will require surgery.

Baker’s Cyst

A Baker cyst is one of the most easily identifiable causes of knee pain. It’s a fluid-filled “growth” behind the knee. Not all Baker cysts are painful, and you may not notice yours at first.

Arthritis or tears in your cartilage can cause a Baker cyst. Relieving the cause of the cyst should relieve any associated discomfort.


Osteoarthritis is actually the most common form of arthritis. It can happen anywhere, but it’s most common in the hips, knees, and hands. If you’re experiencing knee problems, your doctor will likely consider osteoarthritis because it’s so commonplace.

Osteoarthritis happens as a result of wear and tear. The cartilage in your knee joint wears down and that causes friction. Most people experience swelling, inflammation, pain, and stiffness.

This condition gets worse over time, but with proper management, you can slow its progress, and even relieve your pain altogether.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is another common form of arthritis. It’s an autoimmune disease that almost always affects the joints. Many people experience rheumatoid arthritis in their hands, but it’s also one of the more common knee pain causes.

While it’s often most noticeable in the hands, rheumatoid arthritis can affect the entire body if it’s left untreated. Typically, if one “side” has it, the other side will develop it. In other words, if you have rheumatoid arthritis in your left knee, you’re likely to develop it in your right knee.

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis don’t show up right away. The immune cells can start activating years before they cause any pain or inflammation in your joints.

Alongside knee pain (and other types of joint pain), people with rheumatoid arthritis may experience fevers and fatigue. They may also experience a loss of appetite. This is because the condition affects the entire immune system rather than just the joints.

Advanced Methods for the Best Results

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Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Do you know what your iliotibial band is? It’s a tendon in your leg that goes from your pelvic bone to your knee. If it’s too tight, it can rub against your bones and get inflamed.

When inflammation happens on both sides, it’s iliotibial band syndrome.

It’s not uncommon for athletes and military members to have this problem. It can also happen to anyone with weak lower body muscles, bowed legs, and arthritis (among other conditions).

Alongside knee issues, it can also cause pain in the hips. You may notice warmth and redness around your knees or hear a grating sound.

Rest is sometimes enough to treat this condition, but some people need physical therapy, steroid injections, or even surgery.


While “arthritis” isn’t in the name, gout is actually another type of arthritis. It impacts one joint at a time. Usually that joint is in the big toe, but it can also be one of your knees.

Gout causes intense pain. Rather than dull and throbbing, it’s sharp. It can get in the way of your day-to-day life during a flare. Gout is the result of having too much uric acid in your body.


Some infections can cause knee pain! Bacteria can infect the tissue around the knee joint. An infection can also trigger an autoimmune reaction that causes pain in the knees even if the knees aren’t the source of the infection.

People can also develop septic arthritis. It can result from bacteria, a virus, or even a fungus.

When to See a Doctor

So how do you know when it’s time to see a doctor?

As we mentioned, knee pain can go away on its own. If there was no obvious injury, your pain may be short-term and you may just need to give yourself time to rest.

This isn’t always the case, however. Sometimes, seeing a doctor is best. You should see a doctor if you experience:

  • Warmth and redness which could indicate infection or fluid
  • Significant pain that’s disrupting your life
  • Severe swelling
  • Fever (which could indicate an infection or an autoimmune problem)
  • Pain that won’t go away despite rest

If you’ve tried at-home remedies already (such as ice, elevation, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications), it’s time to see a doctor at the Joint Replacement Center of Scottsdale.

Are You Experiencing Knee Pain?

If you’re experiencing sudden knee pain without injury, you’re likely feeling concerned. There are many potential causes and only a doctor can tell what’s going on for sure. To avoid further damage, it’s best to let a medical professional take a look.

Dr. Martin at the Joint Replacement Center of Scottsdale is here to help. Extend the life of your knee and contact us to set up an appointment today.