Read below about dull, achy knee pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your dull, achy knee pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Dull, Achy Knee Pain Symptoms

The knee is the largest and most stressed joint in the body. It is a complex system of bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and muscles responsible for weight-bearing and movement.

The knees are used for walking, stepping, sitting, even standing — as a result, the knee is susceptible to various conditions that can cause dull or achy pain.

Dull, achy knee pain is often a sign of a chronic condition. Associated symptoms are very similar to those of temporary/acute conditions such as:

Nevertheless, chronic knee pain is very different from acute pain and also requires evaluation from your physician.

Dull, Achy Knee Pain Causes Overview

Unlike acute conditions, dull achy knee pain is not usually the result of one singular incident. It is often the result of multiple causes that involve stress, inflammation or untreated injury to the multiple components of the knee [1,2]. The components of the knee include:

  • Bone s:** The femur (thigh bone), patella (kneecap) and tibia (shin bone). The actual knee joint works to keep these bones securely in place.

  • Cartilag e:** The meniscular and articular cartilage act as cushions around the bones of the knee that reduce friction during movement and help the bones move smoothly against each other. There is a medial meniscus on the inner side of the knee and a lateral meniscus on the outer side of the knee.

  • Ligament s:** The knee has four ligaments that connect bones to other bones and promote stability. They are the medial collateral, lateral collateral, posterior cruciate and anterior cruciate ligaments. These ligaments prevent the side-to-side movement of the femur as well as excessive backward and forward movement of the femur and tibia.

  • Tendon s:** Tendons are like ligaments but connect bone to muscle (instead of bone to bone). The patellar tendon is the largest tendon of the knee and attaches the quadriceps to the patella and then the patella to the tibia.

  • Fluid s:** The joint capsule and bursa are fluid-filled membranes that lubricate the joint and reduce friction.

Untreated Injury

If any component of the knee is not working properly, the other parts of the knee will try to compensate and the resultant stress will inevitably result in chronic issues. Furthermore, since the knee is so susceptible to injury — the bones of the knee can become fractured, ligaments and tendons can become sprained or torn, and cartilage can twist — it is important to address problems early to prevent problems in the future.

Inflammation

Arthritis is the general term for multiple conditions that cause painful inflammation and stiffness of the bones and joints. Arthritis can affect the bones and fluid-filled areas of the knee resulting in significant irritation that can cause chronic stiffness, discomfort, and dull, achy pain.

Musculoskeletal

Musculoskeletal causes of dull, achy knee pain may be related to the following:

  • Biomechanics Problems in the way in which the parts of the knee work together due to weakness in the gait while walking or form while running can result in chronic knee pain, especially if not followed-up. Such problems can result in conditions such as Iliotibial band syndrome that can cause dull, achy knee pain [3].
  • Mechanica l:** Issues in the knee such as loose bones or cartilage in the joint space and dislocations of the actual kneecap can also result in chronic knee issues and pain.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Dull, Achy Knee Pain

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced dull, achy knee pain. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Jumper's Knee (Patellar Tendonitis)

    Patellar tendonitis (Jumper's knee) is the inflammation of the patellar tendon, which attaches the knee cap to the shin bone (tibia). This condition is caused by frequently from sports and jumping.

    1 month with rest

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one knee, spontaneous knee pain, knee pain that gets worse when going up stairs, knee stiffness, knee pain that gets worse when squatting
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Meniscal Injury

    A torn meniscus is one of the most common knee injuries. Any activity that causes forceful twisting of the knee, especially when putting the pressure of one's full weight on it, can lead to a torn meniscus.

    6 to 8 weeks

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one knee, knee stiffness, knee instability, pain in the inside of the knee, swollen knee
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

    The kneecap (patella) is located directly in front of the thigh bone (femur), and should normally glide freely up and down. In this condition, called patellofemoral pain syndrome, the kneecap may rub against the thigh bone instead of gliding smoothly, causing damage and pain.

    Most people get better within weeks to months of physical therapy.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    knee pain, pain in one knee, knee pain that gets worse when going up stairs, dull, achy knee pain, knee pain that gets worse when squatting
    Symptoms that always occur with patellofemoral pain syndrome:
    knee pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Iliotibial (It) Band Syndrome ('Runner's Knee')

    Iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome is the lateral knee pain that results from overuse that occurs after repetitive motion. It is the most common cause of lateral knee pain in runners and cyclists.

    Within 6 to 8 weeks with conservative nonsurgical treatment

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    knee pain, pain in one knee, dull, achy knee pain, knee pain that gets worse when going down stairs, sharp knee pain
    Symptoms that always occur with iliotibial (it) band syndrome ('runner's knee'):
    knee pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Infrapatellar Bursitis

    Bursae are small fluid-filled sacks located around the body in strategic locations to provide a cushion and help reduce friction. There is a pair of bursae below each kneecap (patella). Infrapatellar bursitis is a condition where these bursae are inflamed. It is a common cause of knee pain in people whose work involves frequent kneeling on hard surfaces.

    Condition goes away on its own in a few weeks.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one knee, spontaneous knee pain, dull, achy knee pain, knee pain that gets worse when going up stairs, knee pain that gets worse when squatting
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

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  6. 6.Baker's Cyst (Popliteal Cyst)

    A Baker's cyst, also called as Popliteal cyst, is a fluid-filled mass that causes a bulge and a feeling of tightness behind the knee. The pain can get worse when the knee is fully flexed or extended.

    Recovery with nonsurgical treatment varies

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    calf pain, swollen knee, knee pain that gets worse when squatting, knee instability, dull, achy knee pain
    Symptoms that always occur with baker's cyst (popliteal cyst):
    lump on the back of the knee, constant knee lump
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Knee Arthritis

    Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of the joints. Pain, swelling, and stiffness are the primary symptoms of arthritis. Any joint in the body may be affected by the disease, but it is particularly common in the knee.

    Knee arthritis is a chronic problem once it develops.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in both knees, knee stiffness, knee instability, swollen knee, morning joint stiffness
    Symptoms that always occur with knee arthritis:
    pain in both knees
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Knee Bursitis (Pes Anserine Bursitis)

    Pes anserine bursitis is an inflammatory condition of the knee.

    Days to weeks (up to 8 weeks)

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one knee, knee pain that gets worse when going up stairs, spontaneous knee pain, knee pain that gets worse when going down stairs, knee pain that gets worse when standing up
    Symptoms that always occur with knee bursitis (pes anserine bursitis):
    pain in one knee
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  9. 9.Repeated Kneecap Dislocation (Patellar Subluxation)

    Recurrent patellar subluxation is the continued instability of the kneecap, which causes anterior knee pain and usually occurs laterally. It occurs unpredictably with varying durations.

    Recovery timeline is dependent on treatment type.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one knee, dull, achy knee pain, pain in the front of the knee, pain in the inside of the knee, swollen knee
    Symptoms that always occur with repeated kneecap dislocation (patellar subluxation):
    kneecap dislocation
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  10. 10.Osgood - Schlatter Disease

    This condition is a common cause of knee pain amount children and adolescents who play sports, and usually affects children 16 and younger. Osgood-Schlatter Disease usually develops due to overuse of the large quadriceps (quad) muscle which makes up the front of the thigh. The muscle pulls on the kneecap and the kneecap (patellar) ligament, which attaches to the upper part of the shin bone (tibia). With overuse, redness and soreness may develop in the knee.

    Pain typically only lasts a few weeks or months.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    knee pain, knee pain that gets worse when squatting, pain in one knee, knee pain that gets worse when kneeling, knee pain that gets worse during a run
    Symptoms that always occur with osgood-schlatter disease:
    knee pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

Dull, Achy Knee Pain Treatments and Relief

Chronic pain requires professional medical attention. There are a variety of measures that can be taken with advice from a medical professional described below, including treatments that can be done at home.

Medical treatments

Treatment depends on your specific diagnosis and the extent of your symptoms and may include one or all of the following:

  • Physical therapy or rehabilitation Your physician may prescribe stretching exercises or a physical therapy/rehabilitation program to help you restore range of motion, strength, and stability to your knee. A physical therapist can assess problems with your walking gait, running pattern, and other musculoskeletal issues and develop a rehabilitation plan that is best for you.
  • Non-inflammatory medications Your physician may prescribe this type of medication to combat arthritic processes that are causing chronic knee pain [4].
  • Surgery If at-home remedies and medication options from your physician do not provide relief, you and your physician may look into surgical options.

At-home treatments

In addition to your physician's treatment suggestions above, there are many measures you can take in your daily life to prevent the development of chronic pain:

  • Maintain a healthy weight The knees bear all of the body's weight, so extra pounds can cause unnecessary stress and strain, increasing the risk of injury.
  • Be strong and flexible The quadriceps and hamstring muscles provide support to the knee joint, so keeping them strong, conditioned, and flexible will benefit the functioning of the knee as a whole [5].
  • Practice technique If you participate in competitive sports and practice often, ensure that your techniques and movements are not putting unnecessary stress on your knees. Work with a coach to ensure that when your run, jump or move side-to-side, your knee is in the best position to prevent injury.
  • Listen to your body If you find yourself experiencing mild or transient knee pain after certain activities, listen to your body and take a break! Rest, ice and elevate your knee once you first notice symptoms and make an appointment with your physician promptly.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Dull, Achy Knee Pain

  • Q.Is the knee pain affecting one or both knees?
  • Q.Do you often feel your knees buckling?
  • Q.Where is your knee pain?
  • Q.What is your body mass?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our dull, achy knee pain symptom checker to find out more.

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Dull, Achy Knee Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced dull, achy knee pain have also experienced:

    • 11% Knee Pain
    • 5% Moderate Knee Pain
    • 5% Knee That Clicks During Movement
  • People who have experienced dull, achy knee pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 40% Over a Month
    • 20% Less Than a Day
    • 19% Less Than a Week
  • People who have experienced dull, achy knee pain were most often matched with:

    • 40% Meniscal Injury
    • 30% Jumper's Knee (Patellar Tendonitis)
    • 30% Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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References

  1. Calmbach WL, Hutchens M. Evaluation of Patients Presenting with Knee Pain: Part I. History, Physical Examination, Radiographs, and Laboratory Tests. American Family Physicians. 2003;68(5):907-912. AAFP Link
  2. Blahd WH, Romito K, eds. Knee Problems and Injuries. University of Michigan: Michigan Medicine. Updated November 20, 2017. UofM Health Link
  3. Khaund R, Flynn SH. Iliotibial Band Syndrome: A Common Source of Knee Pain. American Family Physician. 2005;71(8):1545-1550. AAFP Link
  4. Medications for Treatment of Knee Pain and Arthritis. Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis Foundation Link
  5. Hurley M, Dickson K, Hallett R, et al. The Health Benefits of Exercise for People with Chronic Hip and Knee Pain From Osteoarthritis. Published April 17, 2018. Cochrane Link