Inner Knee Pain: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention
The inner knee is a joint where the femur meets the tibia. It's one of many joints in your body, and can sometimes be subject to wear-and-tear or injury. Inner knee pain is very common with most people experiencing it at some point in their life. Luckily, there are ways to treat inner knee pain through medication, physical therapy, and self-care practices. We'll provide an overview of six different causes of inner knee pain and find out how to treat and prevent it in the future.
The inner knee is the inner side of your knee joint closest to your other leg and it can also be called your medial knee or medial compartment. The knee is made up of several parts including the knee bone, the patella, or kneecap; the femur, which connects to the tibia and fibula in order to form a hinge joint; and lastly, there are two menisci that act as cushions for the bones in your knee. There is also cartilage, ligaments, and tendons that complete your knee. The most common ligament on the inner knee is the medial collateral ligament or MCL.
It's common for people who participate in high-impact sports like running or basketball to experience knee injuries, inner knee pain, and other sports injuries, too. However, it can also be caused by sitting too long on hard surfaces without proper cushioning or not stretching before physical activity. The inner part of the knee houses your quadriceps muscle and can experience a variety of different injuries that may cause you to feel inner knee pain. These common knee injuries include:
- Tightening or inflammation in the tendons around the kneecap. This causes swelling and stiffness in this area.
- Inflammation from overuse or injury to your inner thigh muscles also called the vastus medialis.
- A strained ligament on either side of the kneecap can happen when doing heavy squats without proper form, which forces your knees to come together too much causing collateral ligament injuries.
- Trauma or injury to the inner knee, which can happen from falling directly on your inner knee or by something hitting it.
- Overuse injuries are very common with runners and other athletes who do not stretch before exercise.
You should halt all physical activity and seek treatment for knee pain if you are experiencing severe pain, sharp pain, or chronic pain in your knee, whether it is the outer knee or inner knee.
Each person is unique in what may cause inner knee pain for them, but here are six of the most common types of inner knee pain.
- Arthritis – Arthritis can develop in anyone, but it's especially common with people who are over the age of 50. There are a couple of common forms of arthritis that are usually the culprits of inner knee pain. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that develops gradually causing joint pain and usually affects weight-bearing joints like knees, hips, hands, or feet. Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause inner knee pain. This autoimmune disease causes inflammation and pain throughout your body, but especially in the joints.
- MCL injury – The medial collateral ligament, or MCL for short is one of the four major ligaments in your knee. This inner knee ligament injury happens when it gets stretched too far which can create inner knee pain and may cause a MCL sprain, a partial tear, or even a full tear.
- Knee contusion – This can happen from accidents or trauma to the knee and cause your knee to be bruised.
- Injured meniscus – This is a very common injury that can happen from sports or overuse activities. It occurs when there is too much pressure on either side of the inner knee, which results in a meniscus sprain or meniscus tear of one of the two pieces of cartilage in the inner knee.
- Medial plica syndrome – The inner knee can also become painful from inflammation of the plica, which is the tissue that acts as a boundary between your inner thigh muscle and your kneecap.
- Bursitis – This inner knee pain can happen when there is inflammation of the bursa, which are small fluid-filled sacs that cushion your joints.
While there are many ways to treat inner knee pain at home with medication and self-care practices, if your inner knee pain persists or is severe, you should see your doctor. Treatments for inner knee pain will depend on the cause of your pain and can include:
- Rest – Staying off the affected leg as much as possible for a period of time until it heals to reduce swelling and pressure in this area.
- Ice packs – Ice packs are applied directly to the inner knee for short periods of time to reduce swelling and ease inner knee pain.
- Physical therapy – Seeing a licensed physical therapist and practicing their exercises can help stretch your inner thigh muscles, which reduces pressure on the inner knee. Splints may also be used to support this area while you heal.
- Surgery – If there is a tear or extensive damage done to the ligament, surgery may be recommended to repair inner knee pain.
While you cannot always avoid inner knee pain, there are many steps you can take at home and in your daily life that may help prevent this from happening. These include:
- Wearing proper running shoes – Make sure the inner sole of your running shoes is not worn down as this can cause inner knee pain. Running with good support and cushioning with your shoes will also help prevent inner knee pain.
- Stretching before any activity – Doing a few simple stretches for the inner thigh muscles, or hip adductors, can be beneficial to those who suffer from inner knee pain and can increase your range of motion.
- Warming up before any activity – This can be done with ankle rotations, leg swings, or knee raises to stretch the inner thigh muscles again. These are especially important for athletes who are doing sports that involve running or jumping.
- Strengthening your inner thighs and hip adductors – It is very beneficial to strengthen these areas of your inner knee with exercises like inner thigh lifts, wall sits, leg raises, and kickbacks. These are especially helpful for athletes who need to have strong inner thighs in order to avoid inner knee pain.
- Avoiding contact sports or activities that can impact the knees – This is a no-brainer, but these activities can contribute to inner knee pain.
- Taking breaks from any activity – If you are going through a high-intensity workout or exercise routine, it may be beneficial for you to take short rests between sets. This will help avoid inner knee pain and overuse injuries of the inner knees.
Should your knee pain persist or get worse, please go see a medical professional for a diagnosis.
Your inner knee consists of various different parts, including the meniscus, bones, cartilage, and several ligaments and tendons. All of the parts can be subject to injury which will cause inner knee pain. Some of the most common causes of inner knee pain include arthritis, damage to the meniscus or MCL, and contusions from trauma to the knee, although there are others. There are several different methods of treating knee pain such as physical therapy and surgery. You can prevent inner knee pain by wearing comfortable, sturdy shoes and stretching before physical activity. If you are suffering from persistent inner knee pain we suggest that you seek medical advice for a recommended treatment plan for you.
References and Sources:
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
UC San Diego Health