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Sports Medicine

Pain behind left knee

09/25/2007

Question:

I am a 31 yo male experiencing pain in the back of my left knee. 7 days ago I began a workout program at my local fitness club. The program consists of lower body workouts 1 day a week and upper body+core workouts another day. This is my first real attemt at a workout program since I played tennis in high school. I have not had problems with my knees in the past. After the first day of the lower body program, my thighs & hamstrings were really sore. I would imagine due to them not being pushed that hard in a long time. 2 days later was the second day of upper body workout, which included some light jogging but didn`t focus on my leg muscles. 2-3 days after the first workout, my legs were mostly back to normal with a little bit of tightness in my hamstrings and thighs. On the 5th day (yesterday) after my initial leg workout, I started to feel pain behind my left knee. It felt as if I had a bad cramp in my upper calf at first, but the muscle was not tight at all. The pain seems to be coming from the soft tissue on the back of my knee. It hurt most when I flexed my leg up and pushed my foot forward. There was a little pain walking, mostly when my left heel hits the ground, but no pain going up or down stairs. I played hockey last night without incident or any pain, but today, the knee seems to be a bit stiffer and the pain is dull but constant. Pain while walking is a bit worse. Is there something serious I should be conerned about? or is this just a matter of being out of shape and putting muscles I haven`t strained in a long time through a tough workout? Thanks in advance for your response.

Answer:

A strained muscle would typically not cause pain in the back of the knee. Recent-onset pain such as yours should be paid attention to, and used to guide your activities, such that anything that makes the pain worse should be modified or avoided until pain subsides. Although a diagnosis would require a physical exam, the fact your pain is worsened by fully flexing your knee suggests a knee joint problem, which could include inflammatory fluid buildup within the knee joint from overuse, or possibly a torn cartilage (meniscus).

If your symptoms don't improve, it would be best for you to consult with a physician to obtain a diagnosis, which is necessary to determine the most appropriate course of treatment.

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Response by:

Brian L Bowyer, MD Brian L Bowyer, MD
Clinical Associate Professor
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University