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Pain in the back of the knee

Updated on July 28, 2016

Pain in the back of the knee is regarded as posterior knee pain which is a common condition the patients go through. There can be many causes of your knee pain ranging from injury to musculotendinous stretches to less common causes, for example, osteochondral. To accurately treat posterior knee pain one must have precise knowledge of knee anatomy and differential diagnosis. This article provides a full review of the anatomy of the knee, along with the causes of posterior knee pain.


Human knee consists of the tibia, femur and patella. Its mode of a mode is extension and flexion. However, abduction, adduction, internal and external rotations may also occur.

The distal femur and proximal tibia are the two largest points in the knee where contraction occurs. Between these two bones, the lateral and medial menisci are present. These are a kind of fibrocartilaginous discs that are involved in the stability of the knee they act as a shock absorber, increasing congruency and also aiding in the distribution of synovial fluid. The medial meniscus is smaller in size and is attached to the joint capsule whereas the lateral meniscus is larger and it is not connected to the capsules which make it less mobile and prone to tearing.

Causes of posterior knee pain:

1. Bakers cyst:

Bakers cyst is one of the most common causes of posterior knee pain. This condition is characterized by a bulb of fluids in the back of the knee due to excessive stress and pressure on knee pit located at the knee joint. The main sign of baker’s cyst can be seen as a bubble of fluid present at the back of knee joint where there are pain and tightness.

2. Deep vein thrombosis:

Also known as DVT, in which there is a blood clot in the vein in the calf muscle. This usually occurs when the knee is being immobilized for a long time. And this blood clot results in pain in the back of the knee.

3. Osteoarthritis:

Osteoarthritis is characterized by degenerative wear and tear of the cartilage over the period inside the knee. Usually, osteoarthritis takes place after the age of 40.

4. Chondromalacia:

Chondromalacia is a condition when the cartilage present underneath the kneecaps start to wear away and deteriorate from over exhausting movements of the knee. This condition is common in athletes due to excessive activity.

5. Claudication (Leg cramps):

Claudication occurs when your legs become tired due to lack of blood flowing through your legs. This can lead to posterior knee pain.

6. Gastrocnemius tendonitis:

Gastrocnemius tendonitis is characterized by the swelling of the calf muscle point that originated at the back side of the knee. It occurs due to excessive use of knee

7. ACL Injury (anterior cruciate ligament):

ACL is the ligament present inside the knee that crosses between shin bone and thigh bone. ACL tear normally occurs due to landing, twisting and rotation of your knees when playing sports. It is the most common ligament that is torn inside the knee. If not treated it can cause swelling and pain on the back side of your knee.


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