Sharp Knee Pain

Sharp knee pain is debilitating. It will impact your daily life and prevent you from taking part in your favorite activities. Health Report Live offers valuable information about the causes and treatment options that are available.

Sharp Knee Pain Overview

Sharp knee pain indicates that something is structurally wrong within the knee joint. Injuries and illnesses alike are known to cause acute knee pain. Sharp knee pain is usually the first sign a person has that they have injured or damaged their knee. 

Immediate treatment is needed to prevent long-term damage that results in chronic pain and discomfort. Chronic pain, discomfort, and decreased range of motion are possible if the injury or illness is left untreated.

Different Symptoms of Sharp Knee Pain

If your symptoms are associated with sharp knee pain. Inflammation and stiffness are present when you experience very acute knee pain. Your range of motion is decreased due to inflammation. 

You may also feel or hear a grinding or scraping noise as the femur and tibia begin to rub against each other. In some cases, your knee may be hot to the touch.

When to see a doctor 

Sharp knee pain can make it difficult to walk or stand even for a few seconds. While you may overlook mild knee pain, it may indicate that something more significant is going on. As soon as you begin to feel the pain that is unfamiliar and impacts your daily life, you must call your doctor to schedule an appointment. 

The sooner you have a diagnosis and receive treatment, the faster you will be able to begin the healing process. Your doctor will develop a treatment plan you will be able to use to strengthen and restore vitality to your knee.

Things to Take Note of When Experiencing Sharp Knee Pain

When you begin to experience knee pain, there are several things you need to consider. This information will make it easier for your doctor to make an accurate diagnosis. 

Take notes as you notice things so you remember everything you know about your pain and the details surrounding it. Every piece of information you provide your doctor will help in achieving an accurate diagnosis.

Where Is Your Pain?

Know where your pain starts. Does it move when you walk or stand? Be able to pinpoint your pain as accurately as possible. Tell your doctor if your pain moves or shifts from one location to another.

When Do You Feel Better Or Worse?

Know when your pain is most severe and when it wanes. Does it hurt most when you stand or when your knee is resting? Does your knee hurt when the weather changes? Does your knee hurt when you make specific movements?

How Do You Describe Your Pain? 

There are several ways to describe sharp knee pain. Stabbing, sharp, slicing and intense are common. Pain may also be deep or radiating. If you have experienced an injury, the pain may throb along with your heartbeat.

Is Anything Strange Happening? 

If you have hyper flexed or hyperextended your knee, you may hear a popping or snapping noise. If you have a degenerative bone disease, you may feel a grittiness when you move your knee. You may also hear a scraping or grinding noise.

How Do I Know If My Knee Pain Is Serious?

We all experience minor pain from time to time. You know your knee pain is serious when it impacts your daily life and how you can perform your general day-to-day activities. If you cannot walk or stand without pain, you will need to visit your doctor to determine what is going on inside your knee joint.

Knee pain that gradually worsens is a sign of a common form of arthritis known as osteoarthritis. It may also indicate that you have had a previous injury that was not allowed to heal. Your doctor can perform tests to determine if arthritis is present. He can also determine what type of arthritis you may have.

Possible Causes of Sharp Knee Pain

Sharp knee pain has many causes, some of which may be preventable. When you visit your doctor, he will ask you what activities you participate in and what you were doing when you first noticed the pain. 

Gradual pain may appear over time without an apparent cause. It is a good indicator of arthritis or another degenerative disease that progresses over time.

Injuries In Physical Activities Like Walking, Running, Twisting, or Kicking

You can receive an injury by walking, jumping, running, twisting, kicking, or pivoting. These movements are used in athletic and work-related activities. Athletes are prone to knee injuries, especially those who play contact sports like football and soccer.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue injuries can go much further than bruises. Tears, stretching, and strains can result in painful soft tissue injuries.

Knee Cartilage Tear

Your cartilage is stiff and unyielding. Under pressure, the result may be a tear or severe strain that is extremely painful.

Knee Bursitis

A small bursa sac is located at the top of the kneecap. If this bursa is irritated or damaged, the result is knee bursitis. It can be painful.

Bone Problems

Bone problems can take many forms, including degenerative bone disease and different forms of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that also affects your joints. Both types of arthritis cause pain and discomfort. They also result in the gradual degeneration of the joint and its many parts.

Joint Wear & Tear

Joint wear and tear commonly occurs as we age. The more active you are, the more likely you will begin to experience joint deterioration. As you get older, the wear and tear you experience may get to the point where it affects your quality of life.

Loose Bodies

Loose bodies in the knee refer to the pieces of cartilage broken off when the joint is injured. These small pieces can hinder how the joint works and can cause more damage to the internal structure of the knee. You will need to have an X-ray or an MRI to determine if loose bodies are present.

Knee Fractures

Knee fractures are severe injuries that can impact how you walk and live your life. Broken bones take much longer to heal than soft tissue injuries. Without proper medical attention, it may not heal correctly. The injury can result in a joint deformity that results in long-term pain and discomfort.

Nerve Problems 

Severe injuries to the knee that cause extensive structural damage that impacts the nerves. If corrective surgeries like knee reconstruction or knee replacement are performed, nerve damage can result. Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis that involve extensive inflammation can also have a damaging effect on the nerves in the knee joint.

Diseases and Conditions 

Diseases can affect how the knee joint functions. Degenerative bone disease, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and osteoporosis can all harm the integrity of the knee and its ability to function.

Other Causes of Sharp Knee Pain

Sharp knee pain is just one of many symptoms that characterize many of the following injuries and illnesses. The severity of the damage will determine how the cause is treated and how long it will take for the tissues to heal. The information you provide, along with advanced diagnostic tools, will allow your doctor to make an accurate diagnosis.


A fracture of any bone within the knee can take up to eight weeks or longer to heal. It is a break within the bone that compromises its integrity. Once a fracture occurs, sharp knee pain and a sensation of heat will flood through the joint.


Tendinitis is the irritation of a tendon. This type of damage is often the result of repetitive motion activities like lifting, pivoting, and twisting on the knee joint. It is a soft tissue injury that will heal quickly if the joint is allowed to rest and recover naturally. 

Anti-inflammatory medications will often help with pain management when dealing with tendinitis.

Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee is also referred to as patellofemoral pain syndrome. The pain associated with this condition is located at the front of the knee. It can is characterized by varying degrees of pain and discomfort. You may also experience popping and grinding noises.

Torn Ligament

A torn ligament is commonly associated with various athletic activities and movements. Ligaments heal slower than other forms of soft tissue and will need rest to recover. It may take anywhere from six to eight weeks for the injury to heal.


A common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis often begins after a joint is injured. Once osteoarthritis is present, the condition will worsen over time. As the inflammation increases, sharp knee pain may become more common. 

Any knee arthritis can result in varying degrees of pain and gradually worsens over time.


Bursitis results in irritation or damage to the small bursa sac at the top of the kneecap or patella. Bursitis can be extremely painful and will continue to worsen as long as the irritation is present.

Injured Meniscus

An injured meniscus is often the result of pressure placed on the knee to the point where the meniscus tears or is ruptured. If the damage to the meniscus is severe enough, surgery is to repair it.


Gout is a build-up of uric acid in the joints. It is found in the joints of the toes and can appear in other joints throughout the body. It can be painful if not treated promptly. The pain may be so unbearable you will not be able to walk or put weight on your leg.

Meniscus Tears

A torn meniscus will heal itself over time if the joint is allowed to rest. Tears often occur when a person performs strenuous activities that are often involved in sports or various occupations. Meniscus tears may take up to two months to heal if you continue to apply pressure to the joint.

Ligament Sprain or Tear 

Ligament sprains or tears are extremely painful and may require surgery if they are severe enough. A ligament will stretch and eventually tear if too much pressure is applied. Ligament sprains and tears are characterized by intense pain and inflammation that may hinder the joint’s movements.

Infectious Arthritis

Infectious arthritis involves an infection that has traveled to a joint. Also known as septic arthritis, the condition can be painful and produce excessive heat. Bacterial infections can travel throughout the body and end up in a joint. 

Once it establishes itself in the joint, the area will become hot, swollen, and tender to the touch. It will also be painful to move the joint or put weight on it. Although not a common type of arthritis, it is painful and will require prompt medical attention. 

Various Risk Factors of Having Sharp Knee Pain

If you are experiencing sharp knee pain, you have several risk factors to consider. Conditions like iliotibial band syndrome may continue to return if not treated correctly. The same is true for dislocations. If you do not receive treatment, you risk the injury not healing correctly. 

Injuries can result in long-term, chronic pain, and discomfort. It may also allow arthritis or degenerative bone disease to take over the joint. When an injured joint is not allowed to heal correctly, it may weaken the joints to the point where it is more susceptible to additional injuries. 

Prompt medical care can mitigate these risks and ensure proper healing takes place.


Knee injuries are known to have complications if they are not handled correctly. When loose bodies are found within the joint, they can travel around and get caught between the other structures. 

Loose bodies cause the grinding and scraping noises in the knee. The popping noises may be from the damaged meniscus or bursa. Knee injuries can also affect how the quadriceps and hamstrings function as well.

When injuries are not treated promptly, scar tissue can begin to form. They may increase the amount of inflammation and dramatically reduce your range of motion and flexibility. Damage to the collateral ligament (lateral or medial), will not heal if you continue to apply pressure to the joint. 

Overuse of the joint can slow down the healing process significantly.

How to Diagnose a Sharp Knee Pain?

Diagnosing severe knee pain involves looking closely at your thigh bone and the shinbone. These bones make up the knee and play a role in any injury that affects the joint. If you are experiencing sharp knee pain and want medical advice, you need to talk to your doctor as soon as possible. 

If surgery is required, your doctor will refer you to an orthopedic surgeon. Your doctor will also use a variety of tests to see what is going on inside the joint itself. The testing methods will provide an accurate diagnosis and an effective treatment plan.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests can include ultrasounds, X-rays, and MRIs. These imaging tests provide doctors with valuable insight into what is happening inside the joint. Your doctor will choose which imaging tests will provide the most accurate information.

Joint Aspiration (Arthrocentesis)

Water or fluid can build up inside the joint when an injury occurs. Joint aspiration, or arthrocentesis, is a technique that doctors use to eliminate the fluid that has collected in the knee joint. A needle is inserted into the joint and a syringe is used to draw the excess fluid off of the joint.

Different Kinds of Knee Supports

If you have experienced any knee injury or condition that causes the joints to weaken, wearing a knee support or brace can be very helpful. Knee support offers support and stability, depending on your individual needs. 

If any injury is severe or if you have had reconstruction or replacement surgery, you may need an actual brace that prevents movement of the joint.

Knee Sleeves

Compression knee sleeves often come with wraps that provide additional stability and protection. Knee sleeves are a lightweight material that supports the joint and allows for more freedom of movement and range of motion. 

If you experience sharp pain at the side of the knee, a sleeve may be able to provide you with the support you need.

Unloader Knee Braces

An unloader knee brace is a hinged brace with metal brackets that will allow you to set the amount of tension to prevent excessive movement of the joint. Unloader knee braces offer the most stability and are the best option to protect your knee during the healing process.

Potential Treatments for Sharp Knee Pain

Potential treatment options for sharp knee pain include physical therapy and deep tissue massage. Medications and surgical procedures that may be able to restore the integrity of the joint are also options.


Over-the-counter pain medications and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are helpful. It is preferable to use these medications instead of stronger medications that have hazardous side effects. The type of pain you experience will determine what medications are offered.

Surgical and Other Procedures

Surgical procedures are used to repair ACL tears (anterior cruciate ligaments). A sports injury that is severe may require the joint to be reconstructed. An athlete can be back on the field in a much shorter time due to advancements in sports medicine. Choosing the right orthopedic surgeon is very important. 

If you have a sports injury, you want a surgeon who specializes in sports injuries.

Home Remedies That You Can Follow

The use of R.I.C.E., or rest, ice, compression, and elevation, is one of the best home remedies. Sitting in a hot tub or swimming will also be beneficial. While the hot water of the hot tub will ease your pain, swimming provides effective exercise without stressing or straining the injured area.

Tips for Healthy Knees

There are many things you can do to keep your knees healthy. Exercise regularly. Stretch your legs to warm them up before and after you exercise. If you experience knee pain regularly, wear a knee brace or compression sleeve for additional support.

Avoiding potential knee problems in the future involves always using proper form during exercise and using proper body mechanics while performing certain activities. You can avoid many of the most common knee injuries by being proactive.

Photo of author

Stevie Compango, CNSC, CPT

Stevie is Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for the past 10 years. He specializes in mobility and chronic pain management. His methods have helped thousands of clients improve the quality of their life through movement.

Recommended Articles