Severe Knee Pain: Common Causes and Treatment Options

If you suffer with bad knee pain, you are not alone. Severe knee pain is a common problem experienced by most people at some point in their lives.

Whether the pain has been developing over time or you’re experiencing sudden knee pain, it is not a condition you should ignore or try to endure without at least knowing the cause and your treatment options.


Injured Knees Continue Degenerating If Untreated

Often when the cause of bad knee pain is left untreated it can lead to further injury and serious complications.

Your knee may swell, become unstable, lock up, and/or develop a deformity. Unbearable knee pain will not go away until you finally seek treatment. By then, the damage could be much worse and treatment options more limited.

Whether the cause of your severe knee pain is an injury or progressive disease, don’t put off getting a medical diagnosis. Find out what is causing your pain and get the relief you need now.

Common Causes of Bad Knee Pain

The primary causes of severe knee pain are a sudden injury, overuse injury, and arthritis. Sprains and tears of knee ligaments are common injuries causing bad knee pain, especially in athletes.

Torn ACL

A tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the most common major ligament tear. Without surgical treatment, 80 percent of people with an ACL tear will develop significant secondary problems. Knee specialists recommend anyone with an ACL tear who wants to continue playing sports or other high demand activities undergo ACL reconstruction surgery.

Torn Meniscus

Sometimes an athlete suffering an ACL tear will also tear their meniscus. Meniscus tears, or tears in the knee cartilage, are also a common cause of bad knee pain and can occur with or without an ACL tear.

Pressure from a sudden twist or turn when playing football, basketball, or other sports can result in a torn meniscus. The meniscus wears with age, so someone over the age of 30 could more easily injure their meniscus, even by simply stepping the wrong way on an uneven surface.

Arthritis of the Knee

Arthritis is another very common cause of bad knee pain. Two main types of arthritis can affect the knee: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


Osteoarthritis, a chronic degenerative condition, is the most common form of arthritis of the knee. Occurring more often in people over the age of 45, OA is a progressive disease that wears down the cartilage in the knee joint.

As the cartilage wears down, the space between the bones is reduced. This causes swelling and chronic pain. Left untreated, OA can lead to bone rubbing on bone resulting in severe pain and disability. Bowleg deformity can develop.

Although there is no cure, OA of the knee can be treated.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is not as common as OA, but it is among the common reasons for bad knee pain.

RA is an autoimmune disease that causes swelling, inflammation, and pain in both knees. The fluid and inflammation in the knees caused by RA can damage the cartilages, destroy the joints, and lead to disability and deformity.

Although people of any age can develop RA, it occurs more often in older people, beginning at middle age.

Treating Severe Knee Pain

Whether you injure your knee or slowly develop a chronic condition that leads to severe knee pain, you need to know what is causing the pain, the extent of damage done and what treatment options are available.

Instead of suffering with the pain and allowing further damage to occur, make an appointment to see your primary care physician or a knee specialist right away.

Non-Surgical Treatment

Knee pain does not always require surgery. If the knee is not seriously damaged, the recommended treatment may be as simple as taking anti-inflammatory medication and applying heat or cold compresses. A cortisone shot or series of Orthovisc (hyaluronan) injections may also be effective.

Partial and Total Knee Replacement Surgery

More severe knee pain may require surgical treatment, either arthroscopic or some type of replacement.

But even if you need a total knee replacement, advances in technology have made it possible for many people to recover with a full range of motion only a couple of months after the Intellijoint total knee replacement. Patients undergoing an Oxford partial knee replacement are treated as an outpatient and do not spend one night in the hospital. Partial replacement patients typically recover very quickly.

For more information, read our dedicated page about recovery timelines for partial and total knee replacements.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Knee surgery has significantly advanced in recent years, eliminating reasons for anyone to suffer with chronic, severe knee pain. Take care of your knees now and bring an end to your pain.

If you are suffering with bad knee pain and would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Likover, a leading knee specialist in Houston, contact us now. Dr. Likover provides complete knee care for his patients. Whatever type of treatment your knee needs, he can provide it.