Where Does it Hurt Series

Ankle/Foot | Back | Elbow | Head/Neck | Hips/Thighs | Knee | Shin/Calf | Shoulder | Wrist/Hand

* Please Note: Below is a listing of some but not all conditions that physical therapists treat. This page is intended for informational purposes only. The information below should in no way be considered complete and in no way should be used for diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your physician, physical therapist or other healthcare provider for more information on the condition that concerns you.


Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear (ACL Tear)

An anterior cruciate ligament injury is extreme stretching or tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee. A tear may be partial or complete. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that attach one bone to another. The ACL connects the thighbone to the shin bone, crossing the knee.

For an unknown reason, women are more susceptible to ACL injuries. ACL tears may be caused by contact or non-contact injuries. A blow to the side of the knee, like during a football tackle, may result in an ACL tear. However, coming to a quick stop, combined with a direction change while running, pivoting, landing from a jump, or overextending the knee joint, can cause injury to the ACL. Sports like basketball, football, soccer, and skiing have regular occurrences of ACL tears.


  • Feeling or hearing a pop in the knee at the time of injury
  • Pain on the outside and back of the knee
  • The knee swelling within the first few hours of the injury
  • Limited knee movement
  • Knee wobbling, buckling, or giving out

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

This condition, also known as chondromalacia patella (CMP), is the softening and degeneration of the tissue (cartilage) underneath the kneecap (patella). The cartilage in the knee acts as a shock absorber, and when it is damaged or worn down, this painful condition arises.

In adolescents and young adults, this condition indicates overuse or injury. Sometimes an unusual alignment of the kneecap is responsible. For older adults, the pain may be related to arthritis of the knee joint. Also, weak thigh muscles or flat feet may contribute to the pain.


  • Pain in the front of the knee
  • Knee tenderness
  • Pain that worsens after sitting for prolonged time
  • Pain that worsens while using stairs or getting out of a chair
  • A grating or grinding sensation when moving the knee

Meniscus Tear

In the knee are two C-shaped menisci: pieces of cartilage that cushion and stabilize the knee while protecting the bones from grinding on each other. Damage to a meniscus can interfere with the function of the knee.

A torn meniscus can result from any activity that causes you to forcefully twist or rotate your knee, like aggressive pivoting or sudden stops and turns. Sometimes kneeling, squatting, or lifting heavy objects can contribute to a torn meniscus. In older adults, degenerative changes of the knee may cause it. It may also accompany other injuries, like an ACL tear.


  • A popping at the time of injury
  • Joint pain
  • Locking of the joint
  • Recurrent knee-catching
  • Knee pain that feels like it is in the space between the bones
  • Pain that gets worse when gentle pressure is applied on the joint

Total Knee Replacement Surgery (TKR)

TKR can help relieve pain and restore function in the knee joint. The surgeon cuts away damaged bone and cartilage from your thighbone, shinbone, and kneecap and replaces it with an artificial joint (prosthesis). More than 95 percent of people who receive a TKR experience significant pain relief, improved mobility, and a better overall quality of life (from MayoClinic.com).

Symptoms that may lead one to consider a knee replacement:

  • Knee pain that doesn’t respond to therapy (medication, injections, and physical therapy for 6 months or more)
  • Pain that limits or prevents activities
  • Inability to sleep through the night because of knee pain
  • Arthritis of the knee
  • Decreased knee function caused by arthritis
  • Some tumors involving the knee