Inner knee pain (aka medial knee pain) can show up at the oddest times and can make a normal outing feel more like an inconvenience than a joy! Whether you’ve just finished watching a movie and go to stand up, or whether you’re out running and just when you’re in your stride you get this terrible ache in your knee. From squats to lunges to all the different ways your knees support you throughout the day, it’s important to know that in many cases your knee can feel better. It just requires the right care and approach.
Knee pain can be difficult to understand. Your knee is actually a complex joint made up of many different parts, any or all of which can be painful. Fun right? However, the most common place where knee pain is felt is on the inner side of the knee.
What we’re referring to is medial knee pain, which is the pain found in the inner side of your knee, the part closest to your other leg. Meaning, you feel pain on the left side of your right knee, or on the right side of your left knee. If you’re looking for information about pain inside your knee joint, check out our article on internal knee pain.
Symptoms of inner knee pain
It’s important to note that people experience pain on the inner part of their knee differently—it can feel constant and dull, sudden and sharp, a combination of both, or something different altogether. And like all types of pain, your experience of the severity of pain is subjective and personal. For one person, pain can feel uncomfortable, while for someone else, the same issue can be excruciating.
No matter how painful the experience of the inner knee pain is, one thing we know is that it can cause you to change the way you use the joint, putting extra pressure on the kneecap in the front of the knee, or the hamstring and calf muscles at the back of your thigh. This can exacerbate the pain and even create a ripple effect on other parts of the body. Even if what you’re experiencing “isn’t that bad,” it is still throwing your body off balance.
Possible causes of pain inside your knee
There are many possibilities listed here and treatments to follow. Most commonly it is diagnosed as arthritis as the most common cause of pain on the inner side of the knee, so there is a good chance that your pain is coming from the cartilage, degenerated meniscus, or muscles around the knee. However, arthritis is the end result of a myriad of issues that can affect the knees — both directly and indirectly — such as poor activity levels, prolonged high impact activity, injuries during sports, hypermobility, and family history.
For example, pain in your inner knee can be caused by a sudden injury like tearing a meniscus (the tough, rubbery cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between your shinbone and thighbone) or straining a ligament while playing sports. It can be the result of an old, minor ligament injury, that prevented the joint from absorbing shock properly and wore it down faster than normal. Even injuries to other joints above and below the knee can impact inner knee pain. For example, ankle tightness or back pain can change the way you walk which in turn can cause pain on the inside of your knee over time. Genetics can also play a significant role.
Lifting heavy loads and bending in the workplace, or intense athletic activity done repetitively and at a high-level of stress can impact the knee as well. Not all stress is bad — people can lose
bone mass and experience muscle atrophy if they are not active enough but if there is too much stress, your body can’t recuperate fast enough and over time joints start to degenerate at a faster pace than normal.
When healthcare providers take into consideration your unique aspects of knee pain, they can help you chose treatment options most suitable for you. The important thing here is to consider how to reduce the impact while improving the quality of life, which will be discussed more below.
Diagnosing pain on the inside of your knee
When diagnosing your pain, your doctor will try to pinpoint its source(s) and identify what triggers it. In many cases, he or she will consider taking an x-ray. If the source of the pain is arthritis, the degeneration may be visible in an x-ray. However, the x-ray doesn’t always correlate accurately with what you feel or how you function. For example, if your arthritis has developed slowly, as part of the natural aging process, the pain can be minimal or non-existent, even when the x-ray shows significant damage.
If the pain has been present for an extended period of time and typical treatment hasn’t helped, or if the doctor suspects something unusual, he or she may order an MRI or other tests. MRIs are also performed if surgery is being considered.
How alignment impacts pain
If you have pain on the inner side of your knees, it could be due to your knees being bowed (aka bow-legged). Bowed leg alignment, known as varus alignment, could be something that has always been or may have developed more recently.
First, let’s define a normal alignment so that we can compare the two. A normal knee alignment tends to be slightly valgus, where the knees are slightly angled in toward the other. With a normal alignment, your body weight is putting an appropriate amount of pressure on the inner side of the knee where the bone, cartilage, and meniscus are able to withstand it. But in a varus alignment, your knees shift outward, away from your midline, meaning your body weight puts much more pressure on the inner side of the knee, and this is what can result in inner knee pain.
A varus alignment alone isn’t always an indicator of a problem, but it can point to ongoing excess pressure on the inner side of the knee. The pressure may cause the cartilage, or even the meniscus to flatten, further perpetuating the bowing out of the knee and accelerating arthritis.
Some people, on the other hand, may have too much of a valgus or “knock-knee” alignment that can cause pressure and pain on the outer side of the knee.
A trained physical therapist can assess your alignment and determine if it is normal, or if it is contributing to your pain and needs to be modified.
There are many positive aspects for getting an effective treatment for medial knee pain. One effective treatment option for inner knee pain could be a biomechanical footworn device that is adjusted to address your specific knee alignment, muscle imbalance, and pain locations. This type of treatment is provided by a trained professional who can provide education and insight to you about the mechanisms affecting your knee and how to improve your joint health. The aim is to effectively reduce pain and improve function by training your muscles to use healthier movement patterns.
A footworn device from AposHealth helps your body transfer some of the pressure off the painful areas in your knee and relieve the stress on the affected area of the joint. The device is designed to stimulate your muscles to work better, engaging them to support your knee and help you better absorb shock. This can slow down the deteriorative process, reduce pain, and allow you to get back to doing the things that you want to do.
Unlike orthotics, AposHealth stimulates the muscles and trains them in a healthier gait pattern that is maintained even when you are not wearing the shoes. That part is incredible, right? Your muscles are better able to absorb shock, and as the stress on your joint is reduced, your pain is reduced and your body function is improved.