Medial Knee Pain

Written By: Chloe Wilson, BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed by: KPE Medical Review Board

Find out about the common causes of medial knee pain and how to treat them

Medial knee pain is pain that occurs on the inner side of the knee and can be due to a number of problems.

There are a number of structures on the medial side of the knee and problems in any one or more of these can cause pain.

Symptoms may come on gradually over time or may develop suddenly after a knee injury. There may be a general inner knee pain, movement may be restricted or there may be a sharp pain.

It is very common to get pain on the medial side of the knee, because muscle weakness and/or tightness, which is very common, can subtly change the way the knee moves.

This causes more force to go through the inner side of the joint, rather than distributing weight evenly through the whole joint, which results in damage to the inner side of the knee and therefore pain is felt medially.

Here you will find an introductory overview of the four most common causes of medial knee pain. See which one sounds most like your problem and then use the relevant  links to find out loads more about each condition including symptoms and treatment options for each. 

Causes of Medial Knee Pain

1) MCL Tear

An MCL tear is the most common cause of medial knee pain in people under the age of 50. 

Medial knee pain is often the result of an MCL tear

What is it: Damage to some or all of the fibres of the medial collateral ligament on the inner side of the knee

Onset: Sudden onset due to a force through the outside of the leg e.g. tackle, or sudden twisting of the knee e.g. skiing

Symptoms: Inner knee pain, swelling, bruising, instability, stiffness

Aggravating Activities: Bending the leg, walking, stairs, sports

Features: There are three grades of MCL tear, depending on how severely you have damaged the ligament

Treatment Options: PRICE, knee brace, exercises

Find out more about MCL Tears

2) Medial Cartilage/Meniscus Tear

What is it: A tear in the cartilage lining on the inner side of the knee joint, known as the meniscus

A cartilage tear is a common cause of medial knee pain.

Onset: Can occur suddenly with a force through the knee, sudden twisting of the knee or gradually through wear and tear

Symptoms: Medial knee pain, swellinglocking, instability, difficulty straightening the leg

Aggravating Activities: Walking, running, squatting, stairs especially going up

Features: There are four types of meniscus tear depending on how the cartilage has torn

TreatmentPRICE, exercises, surgery

Find out more about Meniscus Tears

3) Pes Anserine Bursitis

What is it: Inflammation of the pes anserine bursa, a small fluid-filled sac the reduces friction 

Pes Anserine Bursitis is one of the less common causes of medial knee pain

Onset: Usually gradual onset rather than sudden. Most common in overweight middle aged women or runners and swimmers

Symptoms: Medial knee pain approximately 2-3 inches below the knee joint, swelling, stiffness, weakness and affects sleep

Aggravating Factors: Climbing stairs, resisted knee flexion and exercise

Treatment: Rest, ice, stretches, strengthening exercises, corticosteroid injections or occasionally surgery

Find out more about Pes Anserine Bursitis

4) Arthritis

What is it: Wear and tear most commonly to the cartilage lining the medial side of the joint

Osteoarthritis most commonly affects the inner side of the knee joint causing medial knee pain.

Onset: Symptoms gradually come on over time. Most common over the age of 50.

Symptoms: Morning stiffness, inside knee pain, swelling, clicking/grinding, reduced leg movements

Aggravating Activities: Worse after prolonged rest or activity, cold weather

Features: There are three classification stages of osteoarthritis, mild, moderate and severe based on how badly the joint is affected.

Treatment: Depends on the severity but arthritis treatments include exercises, medication, heat/ice, acupuncture, injections and knee braces

Find out more about Arthritis

Want to Know More?

Be aware that just because there is inner knee pain, doesn’t necessarily mean the problem is on the inner side of the joint. Pain can refer from different places such as the knee cap or even the back.

If your pain doesn’t sound quite like any of these problems, visit the Common Causes of Knee Pain section to find out about the most common knee problems.

Alternatively, if would like some guidance with working out what is causing your problem, visit the knee pain diagnosis section for help.

Remember, you should always see a doctor with any new onset of pain. To find out more about these common causes of medial knee pain, choose from the links above.

  1. Knee Pain Guide
  2.  ›
  3. Diagnosis
  4.  ›
  5. Medial Knee Pain

Page Last Updated: 30/10/18
Next Review Due: 30/10/20

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