My knees feel heavy

4 Early Warning Signs You Have a Torn Meniscus

If you twisted your knee while participating in a sporting event and have started having symptoms, you may have a tear in your meniscus, the ligament that connects your thighbone to your knee cap. Look for the four early warning signs below that you have a torn meniscus.

Popping Sound or Sensation

When your knee was first injured, you may have noticed a loud popping sound or sensation. These signs occur when the tight ligament rips. Like a rubber band, when the tissue tears, it snaps, causing the popping.

When the ligament is intact, your knee bends smoothly. However, after you tear your meniscus, the injured tissue sticks up, catching as you move. Because of this, you may still hear and feel a quieter pop while you walk or when you bend your knee.

Pain While Trying to Sit or Stand

With a torn meniscus, you may or may not feel pain. Especially on the first day, you may not even feel any discomfort. However, you may start noticing a change the next morning after you have not kept the knee active overnight.

When you do start noticing pain, it is usually not constant. While your leg is resting either in a straight or bent position, you may not feel any pain at all.

The pain usually starts when you try to bend or straighten your leg. You may also feel it as you walk since each step moves your knee. This pain happens because the meniscus is in motion, which irritates the injured tissue.

If possible, try not to move your leg around too much. Rest helps reduce the pain, as well as applying ice. If you must move around, avoid any sharp, jerky motions that could increase your pain or further injure the knee.

Swelling Around the Knee

Swelling around the knee is another symptom that may not begin until the night of the injury or the next morning. This swelling occurs because your body’s immune system has received the signal that the area is injured. When the body responds, it sends extra blood, lymph, and cells to begin work on repairing the tear.

Along with the swelling, you may experience redness around your knee cap. You may also notice that the skin feels warmer than the rest of your leg. Again, these symptoms are part of your body’s immune response to try to fix the problem itself.

If you experience swelling, elevate your leg and apply ice. When you move around, you can wrap the knee with an elastic bandage.

However, do not wrap too tightly. If the swelling increases, the bandage could cut off circulation to the lower leg. After wrapping the leg, you should be able to insert your index finger without too much resistance.

Inability to Extend Your Lower Leg

Another symptom of a meniscus tear is the inability to fully extend your lower leg. When the tear catches as it moves, it stops the movement of the joint. If you try to push past this block, you will notice a dramatic increase in pain. You also risk tearing the ligament even further.

To test your ability to extend the leg, sit in a hard chair with your feet flat on the floor. Then, try to raise your foot until your leg is straight and the foot is stretched in front of you. If you are not able to straighten your leg, you have most likely torn the meniscus.

At the Noyes Knee Institute, we have diagnosed and treated many people suffering from a torn meniscus. If you suspect you may have a tear in your meniscus, contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Sore Knees? You May Have This Common Running Injury

It starts with tightness on the outside of your knee and sometimes around your hip. Over the miles, that tightness turns into pain—enough pain to stop you in your tracks and keep you from training. For runners, the culprit is often an overtraining injury called Iliotibial Band Syndrome or ITBS.

“IT band issues are very common in runners—I’ve even gone a few rounds with it myself in the past,” says Dawn Dolobowsky, a physical therapist and coach based in Kirkland, Washington. “It’s frustrating because it tends to be a chronic issue, which means that is comes on slowly and takes a long time to fully recover.”

The iliotibial band is a thick piece of fibrous connective tissue that runs from the outside of the pelvis over the hip and down to the knee, where it inserts. It plays an important role in stabilizing your knee when you’re on the run; however, when it becomes too tight, it can hurt as it slides over the outside of the knee. Think of it like a rubber band that becomes less adaptable to movement as it is tightened.

ITBS-associated pain tends to materialize at the end of runs, worsening with increased mileage. “You’ll stop and notice a slight burning on the outside of the knee, and it gradually worsens as you cool down,” explains physical therapist Steve Gonser, founder of RunSmart Online. “Most runners suffering from ITBS can feel twinges of pain when they straighten and bend their knees.”

While biomechanists haven’t yet arrived at a firm conclusion on the cause of ITBS, research suggests that it may have something to do with knee and hip kinematics. Put simply, it seems that both gait and physiology contribute to the problem.

Dolobowsky explains that muscle weaknesses and imbalances are linked to these types of issues, saying, “The most common imbalance is weak glutes, specifically a weak gluteus medius—the muscle that stabilizes the hips laterally during running.”

IT Band Syndrome Treatment and Prevention

A literature review of the various treatment options published last year in the Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that resting 2 to 6 weeks, stretching, and cutting back on running provided relief from ITBS for 44 percent of participants in these studies. This course of treatment allowed the runners to return to activity within eight weeks of the injury. Utilizing these same measures, 91.7 percent of the participants were feeling better by six months, and were then able to resume training.

Gonser emphasizes the importance of seeking out a trained physical therapist when you run into an IT band ailment. “This isn’t an injury you can run through,” he explains. “A skilled physical therapist can help you identify any biomechanical errors while also adjusting your training plan.”

More: How to Aggressively Treat IT Band Syndrome

For the most acute cases, rest is usually the best medicine. As the injury improves, you can try to bike or use the elliptical until you’re able to return to running. While it may derail your training, the longer you put off the healing process, the worse the injury is likely to get.

“Soft tissue work, like foam rolling and Graston, can help provide some relief, and may even eliminate symptoms,” says Dolobowsky. These measures are often effective when you are first experiencing pain, allowing you to tackle the issue before it worsens. Not only can soft tissue massage and related treatments help work out any adhesions that have developed along the IT band, but it can also assist in stretching the tissue and making it more pliable.

More: 15 At-Home Injury Prevention Remedies Under $50

Even still, ITBS is likely to continue rearing its ugly head until you address the root cause of the injury. If you are a runner who has experienced these issues in the past, it is worth having a physical therapist assess your gait and lower extremity strength to identify potential weak spots that may be causing the problem in the first place.

“A physical therapist can diagnose the muscle imbalances that are putting extra strain on the IT band, and develop a treatment program to resolve your specific issues,” says Dolobowsky.

In addition to regularly using a foam roller to stretch the IT band, runners should also start a strength routine that includes exercises such as single-leg balance moves, side leg lifts and clamshells. The purpose of such exercises is to strengthen the major running muscles and the smaller stabilizing muscles that help support the running motion.

While ITBS can be persistent once it takes hold, strength and flexibility work done 2 to 3 times a week can make all the difference. If you are beginning to feel a bit of tightness near the outside of your knee or a tinge of pain around your hip, it’s well worth the few minutes it takes to do these exercises. Your body will thank you down the road.

More: 2 Exercises to Help Runners Beat IT Band Pain
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Symptoms of Knee Pain

Your knee is a complex piece of equipment, and as a result, many common conditions and injuries can cause knee pain.

“There are a number of different ligaments around and inside the knee, as well as tendons and bursas — little fluid-filled sacs that can get inflamed,” says Joel Press, MD, medical director of the Spine and Sports Center at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. “There are lots of different structures there, and a lot of these types of pains will overlap. The physician must get a good history to see how this came about, do a physical exam to try to pinpoint these structures, and try to correlate that with any type of imaging studies that are done.”

Symptoms of Knee Pain: What to Tell Your Doctor

If you have knee pain that you’re planning to discuss with your doctor, be sure to talk about other factors and symptoms that might be associated with the pain, including:

  • Where exactly is the pain? Is it in one spot, or is it spread out around a larger area of your knee? What makes it feel better? What makes it hurt worse?
  • What were you doing before your knee started hurting? Had you put down a tile floor the day before? Did it start hurting while you were skiing? If so, had your ski turned outward or inward?
  • What other symptoms do you notice? Does your knee make a popping noise or have a clicking sensation? Does it feel weak or unstable?

Symptoms of Knee Pain: How Different Types of Knee Pain May Feel

Here’s a look at some of the specific symptoms of the common causes of knee pain.

  • Osteoarthritis. This condition occurs when the cartilage that allows your knee to move freely becomes worn. Shortly after the condition develops, you may notice that your knees ache after you’ve been physically active. Over time, your knees may hurt more often and feel stiff after you get out of bed in the morning or after you’ve been sitting down for a while. Your knees also may be swollen and make a “crunchy” sound while you walk.
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome (chondromalacia patella). Also known as “runner’s knee,” this is a common cause of knee pain. The pain feels like it’s coming from behind or under your kneecap, and may feel like it involves your entire kneecap. You may feel pain and stiffness in particular after you’ve been sitting a long time. The pain may also be worse after you’ve gone up or down stairs or you’ve been running.
  • Meniscal tears. Your menisci are disks of tissue between the thighbone and shinbone in your knee that provide cushioning. These can develop tears from injuries. The pain may be slight or severe, and it may feel worse when you straighten your knee. Your knee may make a clicking sensation or feel like it gets “stuck.”
  • Ligament injuries. You have four ligaments — which are strong bands of tissue that hold bones together — on the inside and outside edge of your knees and within the joint. If you over-stretch or tear a ligament, which can occur during accidents or sporting events, you may hear a “pop.” Depending on the ligament that’s damaged, the injury may or may not cause pain. Another symptom is that your leg may feel wobbly when you try to put weight on it.

There are many different types of knee pain and knee conditions. If you are experiencing knee pain, see your doctor and describe your symptoms in as much detail as you can to get the right diagnosis and treatment to alleviate your knee pain.

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Does your knee feel like it needs to pop and you can’t get the sensation to go away? What’s causing this feeling, and what can you do about it? In this guide, we explain why your knee feels like it needs to pop, if you should see a doctor about it, the five most common causes behind your knee feeling like it needs to pop, and how to get relief from this problem.

Is It Bad If My Knee Feels Like It Needs to Pop? Should I See a Doctor?

If your knee feels like it wants to pop is that a sign of a serious medical problem? Should you see a doctor about it? Fortunately, when your knee feels like it wants to pop, the cause is usually not serious. Rest and home remedies are usually enough to make the issue go away. However, there are some cases when a knee that feels like it needs to pop can indicate a more serious problem.

See a doctor if you have any of these symptoms and your knee feels like it needs to pop:

    • The issue has been going on for a long time and hasn’t improved
    • The issue has recently gotten worse
    • You can’t complete normal movements (walking, sitting) because of your knee
    • You can’t straighten your leg completely
    • You recently injured your knee
    • You’ve had knee surgery
    • There’s significant pain or swelling

As mentioned above, it’s rare for a knee that feels like it needs to pop to be a serious medical condition. In the next section we discuss the most likely causes behind the issue.

The Top 5 Reasons Your Knee Feels Like It Wants to Pop

Below are the top five reasons your knee feels like it wants to pop, in order of most common to less common. For each one we describe what the condition is, what causes it, what common symptoms are, and how it can be treated.

Runner’s Knee (Chondromalacia Patella)

Runner’s knee is the most common cause of your knee feeling like it needs to pop. Although it is a common issue among runners, this condition can happen to anyone, especially those who exercise a lot or do work that requires frequent knee-bending.

Runner’s knee occurs when the soft cartilage under the kneecap breaks down. This cartilage helps keep the knee joint moving smoothly and also helps strengthen the knee so it can carry your body weight when you walk. Runner’s knee often causes your knee joint to become weaker and less stable. It may also prevent your knee from moving as easily as it did before, so your knee may feel like it wants to pop, or you may actually feel your knee popping into place when you move it. Over time, this issue can cause arthritis in the knee if it isn’t treated.

Common symptoms of runner’s knee include:

  • Aching pain in the kneecap, especially during exercise
  • Pain when walking downhill or downstairs
  • Pain when bending your knee
  • Swelling


Rest, ice, and elevation are often enough to alleviate symptoms, but if the problem is serious or doesn’t go away, your doctor may recommend physical therapy or (rarely) surgery.


A bursa is a sac of fluid that cushions bones and tendons. Your body has multiple bursae, including one under each kneecap. Bursitis of the knee (also known as Housemaid’s Knee) occurs when the bursa becomes inflamed. This may be due to overuse of the knee, especially in the kneeling position.

Common symptoms of bursitis include:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • A popping sensation or noise when kneeling or standing up

Rest, ice, and pain medication are usually enough to reduce the symptoms of bursitis, but if you feel you need more treatment, your doctor may recommend physical therapy, steroid injections, and/or aspiration (draining fluid from the knee).

Baker’s Cyst

Another potential cause of your knee feeling like it needs to pop is a cyst. A cyst occurs when part of the fluid in a joint is pushed into a sac of tissue. The sac bulges out, creating a cyst. Cysts in the knee are typically Baker’s Cysts, and they usually form behind the knee. These cysts may be caused by injury, arthritis, or an unknown cause.

Common symptoms of cysts include:

  • A visible bump around the knee (though not always)
  • Swelling behind the knee
  • Slight pain behind the knee, especially when bending or straightening your leg
  • Tightness or stiffness

A Baker’s cyst itself is usually not a cause for concern, and they often go away on their own. However, if the cyst is causing you pain or discomfort, you can have it drained or surgically removed.


Many people believe that arthritis is a problem only older people have, but it can occur at any age, especially if you exercise a lot, have a family history of arthritis, or have had an injury. Osteoarthritis of the knee occurs when the cartilage that cushions joints begins to wear away and the surfaces of the two bones begin to rub together. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and a knee that feels like it needs to pop as the joints move together roughly.

Common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Pain that increases when you are active
  • Stiffness in the joint
  • Difficulty fully extending the knee
  • Warmth and swelling in the joint
  • A creaking or crackling sound when you move your knee

There are numerous options for treating arthritis, some of which include physical therapy, wearing a knee brace, taking pain medication, and getting injections of steroids or hyaluronic acid into the knee.

ACL Injury

The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is one of the four main ligaments in your knee that connects your femur bone to your tibia bone. Your ACL helps keep your knee stable. The ACL is one of the most commonly injured ligaments, and injuries can range from minor tears to the ligament tearing completely away from the bone.

ACL injuries usually happen suddenly, often when exercising or playing a sport. You will likely begin to experience pain and other symptoms right away. If you have a serious ACL injury, you probably have much more serious symptoms than a popping knee, such as severe pain and the inability to walk. However, a minor ACL injury can make your knee feel like it needs to pop because the joint isn’t properly stable.

Common symptoms of ACL injuries include:

  • Feeling or hearing a pop at the time of injury
  • Pain on the back and outside of knee
  • Swelling
  • Limited knee movement
  • Knee feeling weak or unstable

Physical therapy can be done for minor ACL injuries, but surgery is usually required for serious injuries to the ACL.

How to Soothe Your Knee

As mentioned above, you can usually stop your knee from feeling like it needs to pop and reduce the chance of it feeling that way again by using home remedies, although a doctor’s visit and/or physical therapy may also be needed. When you have a knee that feels like it needs to pop, the best way to make it feel better isn’t by popping it (which often isn’t possible), but by reducing strain and pressure on the knee. Below are four of the best ways to get relief.


The best treatment for your knee is rest. Almost all causes of a knee that feels like it needs to pop are at least some way related to overuse of the knee. Taking a break from whatever physical activities you do that put strain on your knee may be enough to stop it feeling like it needs to pop.

If you can’t completely cut out physical activity, try wearing a knee brace to alleviate stress and take frequent breaks. If your exercise regularly, you can also try switching to a lower-impact form of exercise, such as swimming or running on an elliptical.


Ice is another way to help your knee recover, and it’s especially effective if you have pain, redness, or swelling in your knee. Ice your knee for 15 minutes at a time, at least twice a day, until the symptoms go away or are reduced.


Elevating your knee can also reduce pain and swelling and stop your knee from feeling like it needs to pop. While laying on your back, prop your foot up so your affected knee is higher than your hips. Do this for at least 1-2 hours a day if possible (it’s good to do while reading or watching TV so you have something to do) to help alleviate your symptoms.


You can also try certain exercises designed to “pop” your knee or get it to stop feeling like it needs to pop, although these aren’t guaranteed to solve the problem. One option is a quadriceps stretch, where you put one arm out in front of you for balance and use the other arm to grab the ankle of the same-side leg and lift your leg towards your buttocks. Quad muscles help in lifting the knee, so stretching them can help pop the knee or alleviate pressure on it.

Another exercise is leg lifts. For these, lie flat on your back with your unaffected leg bent up and your leg with the affected knee flat on the ground. Slowly lift your leg on the ground straight up until your thighs are parallel, hold the position for a moment, then slowly lower it to the ground. Repeat this about 20 times, stopping sooner if you feel pain or discomfort.

Conclusion: It Feels Like My Knee Needs to Pop

If your knee feels like it wants to pop, you may be worried that it’s the sign of a serious medical condition. Fortunately, the cause is usually overuse of the knee, and it often goes away with rest, although you should see a doctor if your symptoms are severe.

If your knee feels like it needs to pop, there are several common causes:

  • Runner’s knee
  • Bursitis
  • Baker’s cyst
  • Arthritis of the knee
  • ACL injury

For most of these, home remedies are enough to treat the issue, although you may need physical therapy or surgery for more severe injuries. To help soothe your knee, the most important thing is to rest it to relieve strain and pressure. You can also ice it, elevate it, and try exercises when your knee feels like it needs to pop.

8 Possible Knee Instability Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced knee instability. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Meniscal injury

The menisci are the two pieces of cartilage serving as shock absorbers in the knee, between the lower end of the thighbone and the top of the shinbone. A torn meniscus is commonly referred to as “torn cartilage” in the knee.

Damage to a meniscus often happens along with another injury to the knee, especially when there is any forceful, twisting movement or a direct hit such as a tackle.

Older people may tear a meniscus through normal activity if the cartilage has become thin and worn due to aging.

Symptoms include pain, stiffness, and swelling. The knee will simply not work correctly and may catch, lock up, or give way.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, simple motion tests, and imaging such as x-ray or MRI.

Depending on the exact form of the injury, the tear may be allowed to heal on its own with supportive care such as rest, ice, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain medication. In other cases, arthroscopic surgery followed by rehabilitation may be needed.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: pain in one knee, knee stiffness, knee instability, pain in the inside of the knee, swollen knee

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Acl injury

The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is a super-important tendon that connects the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin), keeping the tibia from flying forward every time a step is taken. Tearing happens in a lot of accidents and sports, unfortunately.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: knee pain, pain in one knee, knee instability, swollen knee, knee pain from an injury

Symptoms that always occur with acl injury: knee pain

Symptoms that never occur with acl injury: mild knee pain

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Knee (mcl) sprain

The medical collateral ligament (MCL) links the thigh bone and the shin bone on the inner side of the knee joint. An MCL sprain is any damage done to this ligament (usually through twisting/force during sports).

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: pain in one knee, knee pain from an injury, knee injury, pain in the inside of the knee, sports injury

Symptoms that always occur with knee (mcl) sprain: pain in one knee, knee pain from an injury

Symptoms that never occur with knee (mcl) sprain: mild knee pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Patellofemoral pain syndrome

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is also called runner’s knee, jumper’s knee, anterior knee pain, chondromalacia patella, and patellofemoral joint syndrome.

Overuse through training for sports is a common cause, especially if there is a misalignment in the knee joint or a previous knee injury. This wears away the cartilage beneath the kneecap and causes pain on exercising.

It is most common in females and in young adults who are active in sports, but can affect anyone.

Symptoms include dull pain at the front of the knee and around the kneecap (patella) while running, squatting, or climbing stairs, or after prolonged sitting with knees bent.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and through x-rays, CT scan, and/or MRI.

Treatment most often involves rest; over-the-counter pain relievers; low-impact exercise such as swimming or bicycling; physical therapy to strengthen and stabilize the knee; and orthotics (shoe inserts) to help correct a misaligned stride.

Surgery is needed only for severe cases, and is done through arthroscopy to remove any fragments of damaged cartilage.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: knee pain, pain in one knee, knee pain that gets worse when going up stairs, dull, achy knee pain, knee pain that gets worse when squatting

Symptoms that always occur with patellofemoral pain syndrome: knee pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Knee Instability Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your knee instability

Repeated kneecap dislocation (patellar subluxation)

Recurrent patellar subluxation is the continued instability of the kneecap, which causes anterior knee pain and usually occurs laterally. It occurs unpredictably with varying durations.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: pain in one knee, dull, achy knee pain, pain in the front of the knee, pain in the inside of the knee, swollen knee

Symptoms that always occur with repeated kneecap dislocation (patellar subluxation): kneecap dislocation

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Knee arthritis

Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of the joints. Pain, swelling, and stiffness are the primary symptoms of arthritis. Any joint in the body may be affected by the disease, but it is particularly common in the knee.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: pain in both knees, knee stiffness, knee instability, swollen knee, morning joint stiffness

Symptoms that always occur with knee arthritis: pain in both knees

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Knee sprain (lcl)

The LCL is the ligament on the outside of the knee, keeping it from bending away from the body. It is most commonly injured while playing sports (ouch!) when a force is placed on the knee from the inner half of the knee.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: pain in one knee, knee pain from an injury, knee injury, pain in the outside of the knee, sports injury

Symptoms that always occur with knee sprain (lcl): pain in one knee, knee pain from an injury

Symptoms that never occur with knee sprain (lcl): mild knee pain

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Dislocated kneecap

A dislocated kneecap is when the bone that covers the knee joint, the kneecap or patella, is moved out of place. The kneecap is normally held in place by tendons that connect it to muscles around the knee joint. Dislocation can be caused by planting the foot and twisting a flexed kn…

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