Why does a dull knee pain keep coming back even after periods of rest?

Therapeutic Associates
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Hello! About two months ago, I was engaging in a sport that involves a lot of running when I started to feel a gradually-increasing pain behind my right knee. It was a very dull pain, not sharp at all, but it got worse as the day went on; it made it difficult to push off of the leg. I didn’t have any athletics over the following month and quickly forgot about it when the pain receded after a few days. Then, when engaging in the same activity a month later, the same dull pain showed up again after about 30 minutes. There was no specific moment I started to notice it, but it again built up over time. After 3 more weeks off, I can still feel it start to hurt again when I push off of it more than usual. I don’t feel much of anything when walking regularly or bending the leg, except when I extend it fully. Even then, the pain is very dull. Any insight about what type of injury/how to recover fully/whether or not I should see a physician would be much appreciated! Thank you!

Disclaimer: Please note, this reply is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, physical therapist, or other qualified health provider with a medical condition.

Things to Know

  • Your hamstring and calf muscles could be irritated by your prolonged running.
  • Ensure you are doing a dynamic warm-up before running.
  • See a PT for assessment and a treatment plan.

Thanks for your question. We’ll do what we can to help, but please note that we are unable to make a specific comment on your condition without a physical exam.

Your symptoms sound like they may be related to one of the muscles that attaches near the back of the knee. The hamstrings — which are responsible for bending your knee when walking and running — start in the hip and attach just below the knee. One of the calf muscles — which is responsible for pointing your toe and pushing off when you walk and run — starts just above the knee and attaches to the heel bone. Both of these muscles could be irritated by the activities you mentioned, specifically prolonged running or pushing off, and completely straightening the leg.

Gentle stretching of the calves and hamstrings may be beneficial, as would be a long warmup prior to activity. 

Sometimes these injuries heal completely by themselves, but in this case, it seems like a few weeks of rest didn’t completely take care of it. Your best bet would be to see a physical therapist who can help you determine the cause of your pain and prescribe the best exercises and stretches to complete your recovery so it doesn’t linger any longer.

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