What are the Different Causes of Knee and Calf Pain?

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  • Written By: Matthew Brodsky
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2016
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Knee and calf pain can be debilitating and frustrating, particularly if the person affected doesn't know what is causing the pain. Several different conditions and diseases, ranging from arthritis to sports injuries, from a sprain or strain to blood clots, from cramps to soft tissue tears, can lead to pain in the lower leg.

One of the more common causes of pain in the knee and lower leg is arthritis. This condition generally occurs in older individuals after a lifetime of wear and tear in the knee. The cartilage in the joint breaks down over time, leaving no padding between the bones in the joint, so bone rubs against bone. The pain can be bad enough to stop an individual from running any longer or even walking long distances.

Injuries from sports-related or recreation-related activities can also cause knee and calf pain. Someone who jogs, for instance, can suffer from runner's knee. This can lead to sharp pain when irritation occurs to the iliotibial band that connects the tibia to the pelvic bone. A common calf injury related to overactivity is a calf muscle strain. Symptoms include not only pain but bruises and swelling. One of the more serious causes of calf pain is an Achilles tendon tear.


Another serious cause of pain in the lower leg is a blood clot. After forming in the veins of the leg, a blood clot can block circulation, causing pain and swelling. This condition often does not happen right after someone suffers a leg injury but days or even weeks after the leg damage or after surgery to repair such damage.

One of the more serious causes of knee pain related to sports and other activities is the tearing of one of the four ligaments of the knee: the anterior cruciate ligament, the posterior cruciate ligament, or the medial or lateral collateral ligaments. Besides pain, sufferers may lose mobility or function in the knee and experience swelling. Other injuries to the knee's soft tissue include patellar tendinitis, a dislocated kneecap, and torn cartilage.

Whatever the cause of the knee and calf pain, the problem could be serious enough to warrant a visit to a healthcare professional. Professional medical care could be required if, for example, a person cannot walk on the affected leg or the swelling or injury is serious enough to deform the leg. Pain that continues for more than a few days or that strikes even when the affected person is resting could indicate a serious problem that needs medical attention.


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Post 3

One of the leading calf and knee pain causes seems to be arthritis. I've been reading up on it since my mother has been diagnosed recently.

She's in a fair bit of pain, but apparently it's not enough for them to actually do anything about it. Unfortunately, there isn't much they can do except to give her pain killers.

I hope they cure it someday, but for now it's a really terrible thing to have to bear.

Post 2

@croydon - If you've got leg pain, particularly chronic knee pain and you don't know what's causing it, I would recommend you go to a physiotherapist if you can.

One of my friends works as a physio and she can basically diagnose almost any kind of muscle or joint pain and tell you what it is and how to fix it (if it's something that can be fixed).

It's surprising what kinds of things can actually be causing knee pain. It might be because you're wearing the wrong shoes or because one muscle got a bit too tight, or something that is easily fixed.

Exercise is often the answer, but if you're not asking the right question you might be doing the wrong kind or in the wrong conditions and make your pain worse. It's better to ask an expert in the first place.

Post 1

I used to get really bad knee pain, which was basically linked to the fact that I never got any exercise.

The worst thing is with knee pain, most exercises are going to be out of the question because you need your knees for almost every normal kind of cardio and a lot of strength exercises as well.

In the end swimming was the best way to get fit and improve my legs without putting pressure on them. And eventually the knee pain went away.

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