Knee pain is a common complaint that can stem from various sources within and around the knee joint. Each type of pain often corresponds to specific conditions or injuries. In this blog, we will explore the diverse pain generators in and around the knee joint, and how they correlate with conditions such as knee osteoarthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, injuries, chondromalacia patella, iliotibial band syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis.

  1. Knee Osteoarthritis : Knee osteoarthritis is characterized by the gradual breakdown of cartilage in the knee joint. The pain is typically felt deep within the joint and worsens with movement. Patients often experience stiffness, especially in the morning or after prolonged periods of inactivity. The pain may radiate to the thighs or buttocks(1).
  2. Bursitis : Bursitis involves the inflammation of the bursae, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the knee joint. Pain is often felt as a localized ache around the knee, especially when kneeling or pressing on the affected area. Swelling and tenderness may accompany the pain(2).
  3. Tendonitis : Tendonitis, or inflammation of tendons, can cause pain near the knee joint. Patellar tendonitis (also known as jumper’s knee) results in pain just below the kneecap. Pain from quadriceps or hamstring tendonitis may be felt above or below the knee, respectively, depending on the involved tendon(3).
  4. Injury : Injuries like ligament tears (e.g., anterior cruciate ligament or ACL) or meniscus tears can result in sharp, sudden pain that may be localized to a specific area of the knee. ACL tears are often accompanied by a popping sound and immediate swelling, while meniscus tears can lead to a locking or catching sensation(4).
  5. Chondromalacia Patella : Chondromalacia patella, also known as “runner’s knee,” involves softening of the cartilage beneath the kneecap. Pain is usually felt around or behind the kneecap, particularly when climbing stairs, kneeling, or sitting for extended periods(5).
  6. Iliotibial Band Syndrome : Iliotibial band syndrome results from inflammation of the iliotibial band, a thick band of tissue running along the outer thigh. The pain is often felt on the outside of the knee and can radiate up the thigh. It is typically aggravated by running or repetitive knee movements(6).
  7. Rheumatoid Arthritis : Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that affects multiple joints, including the knee. The pain is usually bilateral and characterized by swelling, stiffness, and warmth around the knee joint. The pain may be accompanied by fatigue and general malaise(7).

Understanding Pain Generators for Accurate Diagnosis

Understanding the location and characteristics of knee pain is crucial for accurate diagnosis and treatment. Medical professionals use this information to identify the underlying condition and recommend appropriate interventions. A thorough physical examination, imaging studies, and sometimes laboratory tests help pinpoint the exact pain generator.


Knee pain is a complex issue with diverse pain generators and corresponding conditions. Recognizing where the pain is felt and understanding the associated symptoms are vital for obtaining an accurate diagnosis and implementing effective treatment strategies. If you’re experiencing knee pain, do visit us at ALLEVIATE PAIN CLINIC, Bengaluru  where  our Multidisciplinary Chronic Pain Management team led by an Interventional Pain Management specialist will ensure that you receive the proper evaluation and a tailored treatment plan.


  1. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Osteoarthritis.
  2. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Knee (Prepatellar) Bursitis.–conditions/knee-prepatellar-bursitis/
  3. American College of Rheumatology. Patellar (Knee Cap) Tendinitis.
  4. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries.–conditions/anterior-cruciate-ligament-acl-injuries/
  5. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Chondromalacia Patellae (Runner’s Knee).–conditions/chondromalacia-patellae-runners-knee/
  6. Mayo Clinic. Iliotibial band syndrome.
  7. Arthritis Foundation. Rheumatoid Arthritis.

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