Sore Knees: Causes and Treatments


If you are experiencing sore knees, you’ll want to learn what is causing them to be sore and how you can treat them. Sore knees can affect people of all ages, from adolescence to old age, for a variety of reasons.i Although you may have sore knees, it’s usually a symptom of something else, such as overuse, injury, or a chronic medical issue like arthritis.

The knee is considered vulnerable due to the stress it bears from daily activities, from lifting and kneeling to higher-impact activities like jogging or running and even aerobic workout classes.ii The knee is formed by three bones—the tibia, the femur, and the patella (knee cap)—each bone has a layer of cartilage designed for shock absorption and protection. Muscles surrounding the knee include the quads and the hamstrings. Tendons surrounding the knee connect the muscle to the bones, and ligaments around the knee connect bone to bone.iii

Depending on what is causing your knee pain, the soreness can stem from issues with any one or more parts of the knee.

What causes sore knees?

From illness to injury, sore knees can stem from an array of different issues. Some of these issues include but are not limited to:iv


  • Knee sprain or strain of the muscles or ligaments. Usually this occurs after a blow to the knee or sudden twisting. You might experience swelling or pain or have a hard time walking.
  • Cartilage tear. This occurs after trauma to the knee, and can often occur with sprains. In this case, the below suggested treatments may not suffice and you may need surgery to fix the tear.
  • Knee bursitis. Injury to the knee can result in inflammation of the bursae, which are sacs of fluid around the knee joint, providing cushioning and allowing the tendons and ligaments to move fluidly over the joint.v
  • Tendonitis. This inflammation of the tendons is usually an overuse injury from repeated motions during running, jumping, or cycling. “Jumper’s knee” is tendonitis of the patellar tendon which can occur during sports like basketball, where the landing after a jump can strain the tendon.

Medical issues

  • Arthritis. Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can have an impact on the knees, causing soreness and other
  • Gout. This is a type of arthritis (swelling of the joints) that happens when uric acid crystals build up in a joint. It usually affects a big toe, but it can also occur in the knee joint.vii

When should I see my doctor about my sore knees?

Worsening soreness, increased swelling, and inability to put weight on your knee are a few examples of when should see a doctor.viii They will conduct an exam to help determine the cause of your sore knees, and they will run some diagnostic tests. These tests may include:ix

  • X-ray
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan)
  • Arthroscopy

How can I treat my sore knees?

While you may not feel you need to visit the doctor just yet, there are some methods you can use to alleviate your sore knees. Your doctor may also suggest some of these treatment options:x

  • RICE method
    • Rest
    • Ice
    • Compression
    • Elevation
  • Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin
  • Topical pain relief like Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel for sore knees caused by osteoarthritis
  • Knee braces to help take pressure off an arthritic area

If these at-home treatment options don’t suffice, your doctor may suggest surgery—but this is usually a last resort.xi

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