Behind knee pain is discomfort or soreness behind the knee joint. It may occur with or without movement and can be severe enough to limit movement. People may describe behind knee pain as discomfort, inflammation, increased warmth or burning, soreness, stiffness, or pain.

Behind knee pain is a common sign of a Baker’s cyst, which is a buildup of synovial fluid behind the knee. Synovial fluid lubricates the joints and reduces friction between the joint cartilages. The symptoms associated with a Baker’s cyst tend to come and go, and the condition will not cause any long-term damage to the knee.

However, behind knee pain may be a symptom of deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in the leg), which is a serious and life-threatening condition. The blood clot can break loose and cause a pulmonary embolism in the lung, a heart attack, or even stroke. Deep vein thrombosis has similar symptoms to a Baker’s cyst.

If you experience pain behind the knee and calf with painful swelling and bruises, seek immediate emergency medical care. If your symptoms persist or cause you concern, contact a medical professional.

Symptoms
What other symptoms might occur with behind knee pain?
Behind knee pain often occurs along with other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. These symptoms include swelling or edema, inflammation and redness, soreness, or pain. If you are experiencing other symptoms along with your behind knee pain, be sure to tell your health care provider. This additional information can help your doctor make a diagnosis.

Symptoms that may occur along with behind knee pain
Behind the knee pain may occur with other symptoms including:

Inability to put weight on the knee

Pain when stretching your leg

Reduced knee mobility (range of motion of the knee)

Stiffness

Swelling

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition
In some cases, behind knee pain may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Symptoms that may indicate a serious or life-threatening condition include:

Bruising on the back of the knee or calf

Difficulty breathing

Redness behind the knee of one leg

Warmth behind the knee of one leg

Painful swelling on the back of the knee or calf

Remember, deep vein thrombosis most often occurs in the calf, but it can occur in the other areas mentioned as well.

Causes
What causes behind knee pain?
Behind knee pain can be due to a fairly mild condition, such as a torn hamstring that responds well to rest and self-care measures. However, behind knee pain can result from a Baker’s cyst or deep vein thrombosis. With both conditions you may have pain, swelling, and bruising behind the knee and calf. In contrast to a Baker’s cyst, deep vein thrombosis is a life-threatening condition that needs to be treated as soon as possible.

Chronic degenerative conditions that cause behind knee pain include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is also an autoimmune disorder.

Common causes of Baker’s cyst and behind knee pain
Behind knee pain may arise from an injury or an inflammatory condition, such as:

Osteoarthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis

Overuse injury

Repetitive motion

Torn ligament or cartilage

Torn hamstring muscle

Deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in the leg which can break loose from the leg causing a pulmonary embolism in the lung, a heart attack, or even stroke)

Peripheral vascular disease (PAD, also called peripheral vascular disease, or PVD, which is a narrowing of arteries due to a buildup of fat and cholesterol on the artery walls, which limits blood flow to the extremities)

Serious or life-threatening causes of behind knee pain
Deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in the leg which can break loose from the leg causing a pulmonary embolism in the lung, a heart attack, or even stroke)

Peripheral vascular disease (PAD, also called peripheral vascular disease, or PVD, which is a narrowing of arteries due to a buildup of fat and cholesterol on the artery walls, which can limit blood flow to the extremities)

What are the potential complications of behind knee pain?
Because behind knee pain may be a sign of a serious disease, failure to seek treatment can result in complications. It is important to visit your health care provider when you experience any kind of persistent pain, redness, warmth, or other unusual symptoms. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important that you follow the treatment plan outlined by your health care provider to reduce your risk of potential complications related to behind knee pain, including:

Loss of mobility

Disability

Poor quality of life from constant pain

Pulmonary embolism associated with deep vein thrombosis

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