Knee Pain Diagnosis Chart
A knee pain diagnosis chart can be a really useful tool to help you work out why you have pain in your knee. There are lots of different structures in and around the knee that can cause pain.
Knowing what typically
causes pain in each area of the knee makes
it easier to reach an accurate knee pain self diagnosis.
We have therefore devised these two knee pain location charts so that you can see what causes pain in the parts of the knee.
Front Knee Pain Diagnosis Chart
This first knee pain diagnosis chart focuses on pain at the front of the knee. Then second knee pain location chart, looks at pain behind the knee.
A. Pain Above the Knee Cap
Pain above the knee cap in the lower thigh is usually caused by:
- Quadriceps Tendinopathy: Damage to the quadriceps tendon causing pain above the kneecap that is worse with activity. LEARN MORE>
- Quads Tendon Rupture: A partial or complete tear of the quads tendon. A rare, but serious injury. LEARN MORE>
- Supapatellar Bursitis: inflammation of the causing pain and a soft pocket of swelling above the knee. LEARN MORE >
B. Outer Knee Pain
Lateral knee pain on the outer side of the knee may be caused by:
- Iliotibial Band Syndrome: Most common. Irritation of the thick band on the outer leg. Pain may be extend up towards the hip on the outer thigh. LEARN MORE>
- Lateral Meniscus Tear: Damage to the lateral portion on the knee cartilage. Can make it difficult to straighten the knee. LEARN MORE>
- Lateral Collateral Ligament Injury: Overstretching and tearing of the LCL usually from awkward knee twisting or a large force through the side of the knee. LEARN MORE>
- Dislocated Patella: Where the kneecap shifts out of the patella groove causing an obvious deformity. LEARN MORE>
C. Pain At The Kneecap
Front knee pain around the knee cap may be caused by:
- Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: Most common. Caused by a problem with how the kneecap moves. LEARN MORE>
- Chondromalacia Patella: Damage to the cartilage on the back of the kneecap. Typically affects healthy people under the age of 40. LEARN MORE>
- Arthritis: Wear and tear or degeneration of the knee bones and cartilage. Typically affects over the 60's. LEARN MORE>
- Housemaids Knee: Inflammation of the prepatellar bursa, often causing localised swelling at the front of the knee. Can occur at any age, most commonly in people who spend lots of time kneeling. LEARN MORE>
- Bipartite Patella: Where the kneecap bone is in two pieces, having failed to fuse during childhood. LEARN MORE>
D. Inner Knee Pain
Medial knee pain on the inner side of the knee may be caused by:
- Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Sprain: Most Common. Overstretching or tear of the MCL from knee twisting injury. Typically affects the under 50's. LEARN MORE>
- Medial Meniscus Tear: Damage to the knee cartilage either through injury (typically under 50's) or wear and tear (typically over 50's). Often associated with knee locking and swelling. LEARN MORE>
- Arthritis: Gradual onset of knee pain due to wear and tear of the knee cartilage and bones. Typically affects the over 60's and more common on inner side of the knee than the outer. LEARN MORE>
E. Medial Pain Below The Knee
Medial knee pain just below the knee is usually caused by:
- Medial Plica Syndrome: Inflammation of the synovial membrane in the knee joint. Often associated with knee clicking. LEARN MORE>
- Pes Anserine Bursitis: Inflammation of the pes anserine bursa. Pain felt approximately 2 inches below the knee, often associated with a pocket of swelling. LEARN MORE>
F. Pain Below The Knee
Pain below the knee at the front of the shin may be caused by:
- Patellar Tendonitis: Most common. Damage to the patellar tendon, thickening of the tendon, pain worse with repetitive activities e.g. jumping. LEARN MORE>
- Osgood Schlatters Disease: Affects adolescents and children typically after a growth spurt. Pain is felt at the top of the shin bone and there is often a hard bony lump. LEARN MORE>
- Infrapatellar Bursitis: Inflammation and swelling of the bursa forming a squashy lump just below the kneecap. LEARN MORE>
- Osteochondritis Dissecans: Decreased blood flow to the knee bones leads to degeneration, thinning and tearing of the knee bones and cartilage. Most common between the ages of 10-20. LEARN MORE>
- Sinding-Larsen-Johansson (SLJ) Disease: Affects adolescents and children. Pain similar to OSD but slightly higher, just below the kneecap.
Posterior Knee Pain Location Chart
This knee pain diagnosis chart focuses on the causes of pain at the back of the knee.
A. Pain Behind The Knee
Pain behind the knee may be caused by:
- Bakers Cyst: Most common cause of pain and swelling behind the knee. Inflammation of the popliteal bursa. LEARN MORE>
- Arthritis: Degeneration of the knee cartilage and bones causing pain and stiffness, especially in the morning. LEARN MORE>
- ACL Tear: Injury to the anterior cruciate ligament from twisting or force through the knee. Usually associated with knee instability. LEARN MORE>
- PCL Tear: Injury to the posterior cruciate ligament - less common than ACL Injury. Typically injured in RTA, fall or sports. LEARN MORE>
- Hyperextension Injury: Where the knee bends too far backwards causing pain, swelling and restricted movement. LEARN MORE>
B. Posterolateral Knee Pain
Outer knee pain at the back of the knee is most typically due to:
- Biceps Femoris Tendinopathy: Inflammation, degeneration or a tear in biceps femoris, one of the hamstrings muscles. Common problem for runners, frequently misdiagnosed as ITBS. LEARN MORE>
C. Posteromedial Knee Pain
Inner knee pain at the back of the knee is usually caused by:
- Hamstring Tendinopathy: Inflammation or degeneration of the two
hamstring muscles on the inner side of the knee
(semimembranosus or semitendinosus) from repetitive overuse. Usually affects runners, cyclists, footballers or climbers. LEARN MORE>
D. Lateral Pain Below The Knee
Pain on the outer side of the calf just below the knee is usually due to:
- Lateral Head of Gastrocnemius Injury: Tear of the lateral head of the superficial calf muscle. Rarely injured in isolation, usually associated with ligaments and/or cartilage damage. LEARN MORE>
E. Medial Pain Below The Knee
Pain on the inner side of the calf just below the knee is usually due to:
- Medial Head of Gastrocnemius Injury: Tear of the medial head of the superficial calf muscle. Usually injured when the pushing off the foot whilst the knee is straight and the ankle is flexed. LEARN MORE>
F. Pain Below The Knee
Calf pain below the back of the knee may be caused by:
- Calf Muscle Cramps: Sudden spasming of the calf muscles. May be extremely painful but usually settles within a few minutes. LEARN MORE>
- Calf Tear: Overstretching or tearing of one of the calf muscles, usually during sports. Typically instant pain with immediate swelling and bruising. LEARN MORE>
- DVT: A blood clot in one of the deep leg veins. Associated with intense pain, swelling, redness, heat and tenderness. A DVT is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical intervention.
G. Posterior Pain Above The Knee
Pain in the back of the thigh just above the knee is usually caused by:
- Hamstring Strain/Tear: Partila or complete tear of one of the hamstring muscles/tendons anywhere in the back of the thigh. LEARN MORE>
Hopefully, having looked at the knee pain diagnosis chart information here, you are on your way to working out what is wrong with your knee, now it's a case of fixing it!
Understanding Knee Pain Diagnosis
Understanding what is causing your knee pain is the first, crucial step to overcoming knee pain. The knee pain diagnosis chart options here are very useful visual tools to help you work out what is wrong.
You can find out loads more about these conditions, the causes, symptoms and treatment options, by using the links above. Alternatively, if you want some more guidance, visit the knee pain diagnosis section.
Some useful articles that go alongside our knee pain diagnosis charts are:
There are lots of other causes of knee pain that don't appear on either of these knee pain diagnosis charts e.g. gout knee and bone spurs. They tend to cause more general, widespread knee pain, rather than pain in a specific locations so haven't been included here on these knee pain diagnosis chart. You can find out more about them in the common knee conditions section.
What Else Can Help?
These knee pain diagnosis charts are a great place to start when it comes to working out what is wrong with your knee, but what do you then do about it? You'll find loads of great information about each of these knee problems, and more, using the links above.
Alternative, following multiple requests from our readers, we have recently published our second book, "Beat Knee Pain: Take Back Control".
It tells you everything you need to know to help you work out what is wrong with your knee and gives you loads of great advice on how to get back to doing what you love. You'll find all the information from this site and loads more. We know many people prefer having the information is book form so they can navigate through easily, so do check it out.
Beat Knee Pain: Take Back Control has an average rating of 4.7/5 and is ranked the #2 Best Seller in Orthopedics on Amazon*.
*Ranked #2 Best Seller in Orthopedics (Kindle Store) on Amazon.com in October 2021
Knee pain location charts are just the start. Now that you've got a good idea what is going on, it's time to start fixing it so you can get back to the things you love.
Page Last Updated: 05/10/23
Next Review Due: 05/10/25
1. American Family Physician Journal. Evaluation of patients presenting with knee pain: Part II. Differential diagnosis. September 2003
2. British Medical Journal Best Practice. Assessment of Knee Injury. June 2018
3. Medscape. Evaluating Knee Pain: The Latest in Diagnosis and Management. June 2017