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There are many causes of knee pain, and some movements, actions or positions can cause sharp pain in the knee. This sharp stabbing pain may be present during an action or when in a specific position, and can be absent when the movement is ceased or the position is changed. Here we discuss the 5 most common causes of sharp, stabbing knee pain that comes and goes, we have provided links to the related articles if you want more detail about each pathology.
Pain from the patellofemoral joint can be caused by inflammation of the joint surfaces, wear and tear, or specific damage to the cartilage. Runners Knee, Chondromalacia Patella, and Patella Alta are three common causes of patellofemoral joint pain. With these conditions, the symptoms can include sharp, stabbing pain at the front of the knee. Often this pain comes and goes depending on what the individual is doing. In most cases this pain is absent at rest but likely to be present with stairs, squatting or kneeling.
Hoffa’s Fat Pad Impingement is a condition of inflammation of the fat pad at the front of the knee that sits under the patella tendon. This condition is very painful and a sharp stabbing pain can be felt when the fat pad is pinched or “impinged” between the femur and tibia. This is most likely to occur when the knee is fully straightened, and sometimes when the knee is bend to its limit.
A bone fracture can feel like a sharp, stabbing pain when the bone is weight-bearing or pressure is applied to it. At rest, the pain is more likely to feel dull or described as an ache. The most common fractures are the fibula which is the smaller of the two bones of the shin. A high fibula fracture can feel like shap stabbing pain on the outside of the knee. A fracture to the tibial plateaux or the femoral condyles will feel like a sharp stabbing pain in the knee. A less common fracture is a Patella Fracture, this would follow trauma or a direct impact to the knee cap.
These are two conditions that affect the attachment of a tendon to the soft bones of children that are still growing. Osgood-Schlatter Disease affects the tibial tuberosity, which is the bony point just below the knee cap at the front of the shin, where the patella tendon attaches. Sinding Larsen Johansson is a similar condition affecting the top pole of the patella, where the quadriceps tendon attaches. Tension from the use of the muscle and tendon pulls on the bone, and as the child is still growing and the bone is not fully hardened it can become inflamed, swollen and painful. It is common for the child to feel a sharp stabbing pain if the do a high-force movement or high-impact activity such as running or jumping, as well as direct pressure such as from kneeling.
A tear to the meniscus of the knee is a very common injury. It usually is the result of a twisting motion or repeated deep flexion of the knee under load. The most common part injured is the medial meniscus but can occur to the lateral meniscus also. At the time of injury, a sharp stabbing pain is usually felt and subsequently, this pain will also be felt in specific positions and with particular movements, usually twisting or a deep bend of the knee.
This is not medical advice. We recommend a consultation with a medical professional such as James McCormack. He offers Online Physiotherapy Appointments for £45.
Knee Pain Location Chart
Muscles of the Knee