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The inner or medial knee refers to the part that is closest to the other knee. Injuries and arthritis are two possible causes of pain. Treatment options will depend on the cause but include warm or cold packs, exercise, and medication.
In this article we talk about types of inner knee pain, their treatment, and exercises that can help.
While the knee may seem like a simple hinge joint, its movement involves many tendons, ligaments, and other tissues. This means many things can go wrong in the knee.
Possible causes of inner knee pain include:
Inner knee pain can be the result of an injury caused by a sport or exercise, such as running, that puts a strain on the knee joint.
This pain can also be caused by trauma, where a person has fallen on their knee or been in an accident.
This condition occurs due to inflammation in a tissue in the knee called a bursa. Bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that prevent muscles, tendons, and bones from rubbing together.
Inflammation of the pes anserine bursa may lead to inner knee pain. This can be caused by an acute injury or overuse of the knee joint.
The pain of bursitis may be felt on the inner knee, around 2 to 3 inches below the knee joint.
Sprain or tear
Inner knee pain may be caused by a sprain or tear in the medial collateral ligament or MCL.
This is usually caused by an injury where there has been excessive twisting and tearing of the MCL.
It may occur when there is a blow or force to the outer aspect of the knee, as this may produce a strain along the inner aspect of the knee.
This injury usually results in almost immediate swelling or pain.
The meniscus is the protective cartilage that lines the knee joint.
A tear of the medial meniscus can result in inner knee pain. The meniscus can also wear down over time and cause pain when a person moves their knee.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that causes a person’s protective cartilage to wear down. The knees are especially vulnerable to this.
With this condition, the knees may be painful particularly first thing in the morning.
Medial plica syndrome
This condition causes inflammation of the plica that may be present inside the knee.
This overuse injury occurs most commonly after a person has increased their activity level.
A doctor may feel a nodule on the inner side of the knee that is very tender to the touch.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the body.
A person may experience severe inner knee pain related to their rheumatoid arthritis. The pain is usually worse in the morning and gets better through the day.
For many causes of knee pain, including injuries and inflammatory disorders, home treatment may resolve the problem.
For these kinds of disorders, the following treatments may be useful:
- Rest the knee. If the injury is caused by sports, such as running, avoid this activity until the knee has healed.
- Use an ice pack. Applying ice to the injured area of the knee three to four times a day, for 20 minutes at a time, can reduce inflammation and pain. Ice packs are available to buy in pharmacies and online.
- Anti-inflammatories. A person can take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin or ibuprofen. A doctor may prescribe stronger pain medications if these do not work.
If these home treatments are not effective, a person should consult a doctor to determine the best course of treatment.
A doctor may recommend treatments that include:
- drainage of any fluid buildup that is causing pressure or pain
- wearing a brace to support the knee
- physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the knee, tailored to the individual
- injections of corticosteroid medications for conditions, including osteoarthritis or bursitis
- surgery to remove or repair damaged portions of knee tissue, such as the bursa or meniscus
A doctor will usually recommend conservative treatments before invasive ones, such as surgery.
Exercises to strengthen and stretch the knee may help to reduce pain and inflammation.
The most appropriate exercises for inner knee pain will depend on its cause and should be tailored to the individual.
Possible exercises include:
Stretching the quadriceps can help to reduce pressure on the knee joint.
- Stand with a nearby sturdy chair for balance and support.
- Starting with the feet shoulder-width apart, take a step backward with the right foot. Keep the posture straight and tuck the buttocks in to create a straight line with your body.
- Bend your knees slightly and feel a stretch in the front of the legs.
- Hold this stretch for 10 seconds, then repeat to stretch the other leg.
This exercise releases tension in the back of the leg with a seated stretch.
- Start with a foot flat on the floor, then extend one leg forward, flexing the foot backward.
- Lean slightly forward to feel a stretch in the back of the leg.
Half squats are a way to strengthen the front of the legs without putting excess strain on the knees.
- Start with the feet shoulder-width apart and the arms extended about shoulder height.
- Bend at the knees slightly, just enough to engage the quadriceps muscles.
- Hold this position for roughly 5 seconds, then straighten the knees to a standing position.
Pain in the inner knee may feel like a sharp stabbing or a dull aching.
A person may hear cracking or popping when the knee joint moves, depending upon the underlying cause of the pain.
Additional symptoms that can occur with inner knee pain include:
- increased warmth
Symptoms that get better during the day may indicate an inflammatory knee condition. If they get worse throughout the day, this could indicate a degenerative disorder, such as arthritis.
To diagnose an inner knee condition, a doctor will take a person’s health history and ask questions about their symptoms.
They will need to know how the discomfort started and whether the person has a history of inflammatory disorders or a recent injury.
Other important questions to discuss with the doctor include:
- At what time are the symptoms the worst?
- Does anything make the symptoms get worse or better?
- What treatments are currently being used for the knee pain?
- What does the pain feel like?
A doctor will also perform a physical assessment of the knee. They may recommend an ultrasound, X-ray, or MRI scan to look at the inner structure of the knee.
These scans will allow a doctor to check for problems with the meniscus, ligaments, and knee joint itself.
If a doctor suspects an autoimmune disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis, they may perform blood tests. Certain antibodies are usually present and can be detected in those with rheumatoid arthritis.
Inner knee pain may be short-term or chronic. In mild cases, a person can treat the pain at home using rest and exercises.
If the cause of knee pain is not known, if it causes distress, or if it gets In the way of daily life, an individual should consult a doctor to find out the best treatment.