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Five Common Causes of Knee Pain

The knee is the largest joint in the body. Without your knees, you wouldn’t be able to stand. Your knees bear your weight and throughout your life take the brunt of the wear and tear compared to other joints in the body. It’s no surprise that knee pain is very common. 

Orthopedic sports medicine and shoulder surgeon Dr. Matthew Pifer and our team offer the latest advances in orthopedic medicine to diagnose and treat knee pain safely and effectively. If you have knee pain, rest assured you’re in expert hands. Here we discuss some of the most common causes of knee pain and treatments that bring relief. 

Wear and tear

 If you have knee pain, stiffness, and swelling that is worse first thing in the morning you may have osteoarthritis. Wear and tear associated with aging is one of the most common causes of knee pain. 

The risk of osteoarthritis is higher in people over the age of 50. However, youth doesn’t protect you from osteoarthritis. This degenerative joint disease occurs in younger adults as well. Risk factors include obesity, previous injury to the knee, and repeated stress on the knee joint. 

Roughly 27 million Americans over age 25 have osteoarthritis. It occurs when the cartilage wears down over time. Injury can accelerate the development of osteoarthritis. Degenerative changes to the knee can lead to bone spurs (bony growths that form on the edge of bones).


Knee injuries are common in all levels of sports from recreational to professional. Your knee is a complex joint. Injuries to any part of the knee can turn into chronic pain. Some of the most common injuries occur to the ligaments, as well as the meniscus.

Soccer, basketball, and football are sports with an increased risk for knee injuries.

If you've experienced swelling, joint pain, and a sensation that your knee is sticking or locking, the problem could be a chronic degenerative meniscal tear. 

Knee Bursitis

The most common cause of knee bursitis occurs when the bursa at the front of the knee becomes inflamed. Pain and stiffness often follow. The knee joint has about 11 bursae (fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints). The bursae that commonly cause knee bursitis are located at the front of the knee and called prepatellar bursae. 

If your knee joint feels like it locks up and you experience stiffness, you may have knee bursitis.

Patellar tendinitis

Patellar tendonitis is the inflammation of the tendon that your kneecap to your shinbone. It’s often called jumpers knee, and if left untreated can result in tendon tears. Patellar tendonitis occurs from overuse. 

You’re more likely to get it if you participate in activities that put repeated stress on the knee, such as track and field, volleyball, and gymnastics.

Diagnosing knee pain

 Dr. Pifer performs a comprehensive evaluation to get to the root of your knee pain. This includes a complete medical history, physical exam, and most often imaging test including:

Relief from knee pain

Treatment for knee pain depends on the cause. Various surgical approaches can effectively treat the source of your knee. Surgical treatments include: 

You may need knee surgery to repair structural damage or if your knee pain fails to respond to conservative treatments. Left untreated, knee pain rarely gets better on its own. If you’re dealing with knee pain, we can help. To learn more contact our Santa Barbara office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Pifer. We offer in-person and telemedicine appointments, so you can receive guidance from the comfort of your home.

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