sharp stabbing pain in knee

Sharp stabbing pain in the knee comes and goes

The knee is an important joint in the body. Due to age and everyday movements, it can place a lot of stress on your knees which can bring about a sharp pain in your knees.

Sometimes, the pain in the knee comes and goes without any kind of warning or signal. 

In this article, you will get to know the cause of sharp pain in the knee that comes and goes, how to treat and even prevent it.

Causes of sharp stabbing pain in knee

Sharp stabbing pain in the knee that comes from nowhere and goes has many possible causes some of which will be discussed below.


The inflammation and swelling of the tendon is a condition that is referred to as tendinitis. The tendons are responsible for connecting your joints to your bones.

Doing actions that are repetitive in nature such as walking and running can cause your tendons to become inflamed and swollen.

You can also experience a sharp stabbing pain in your knee when you have tendinitis. You may even be unable to maneuver the affected joint until after you rest it.

Runner’s knee

This pain in the knee usually begins in areas behind or around your knee cap. The condition is most common with adults.

Symptoms of this condition include a throbbing pain behind your kneecap, especially around the area where your knee meets your femur (thigh bone). Occasionally, Runner’s knee could result in popping or grinding of the knees.

Torn ligament

The ligaments connect your bones to your knee cap. When there is a tear in your ligament, you will typically hear a popping sound, followed by swelling.

This also comes with severe knee pain that occasionally comes and goes.

Your movement will be restricted if you do not have the assistance of a brace. Torn ligaments are most common in athletes. 


Fractures to the knee can also lead to sudden sharp pain in the knee which comes and goes off. When the shinbone and kneecap are involved in a fracture, it is referred to as a tibial plateau fracture.

This kind of fracture causes swelling, sharp pain, and an inability to move your joint.

Another type of fracture is a distal fracture. This type of fracture involves the lower thigh and kneecap and causes similar symptoms to the tibial plateau fracture.

A broken kneecap can also happen to cause intense pain and swelling. Fractures are usually caused by traumatic injuries and falls.

Knee bursitis

This is also another cause of sharp knee pain. Around the knee are hollow sacs which are fluid-filled, known as knee bursae.

These help the tendons and muscles move smoothly by reducing friction and pressure on the knee structures. Inflammation of the bursa can result in sharp pain in the knee. 

Injured meniscus

The menisci, also known as articular discs are crescent-shaped pads that lie between the surfaces of the bones in your knee. The menisci can be torn by an injury, usually in sports that involve twisting and bending.

There is immediate sharp pain and swelling within a few hours when this happens. The affected knee is tender and may be locked flexed if the tear is large. This condition tends to affect only one knee at a time.


Gout is a condition caused by the buildup of uric acid in the body. The acid usually accumulates in your feet and can also affect both knees. It is most common for middle-aged men and post-menopausal women.

This condition brings about great pain and a lot of swelling. One thing about gout is that it comes in spurts that last for a few days.

If you’ve never had pain in the knee, and then you experience sudden knee pain, you should talk to your doctor, as it could suggest the occurrence of gout.

Infectious arthritis

Infectious arthritis is an acute form of arthritis that develops from the infected fluid surrounding your joint. If left untreated, it can be more serious.

Septic arthritis is viewed as a medical emergency that needs immediate or emergency surgery. You need to consult your doctor if you have sudden, severe joint pain usually in one knee.

Having a history of arthritis, gout, having sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea or a weakened immune system can increase your risk for infectious arthritis.


This is a type of arthritis that occurs when flexible and protective tissues at the ends of bones (cartilage) wear down.

As you go about your daily activities, your joints are exposed to minimal amounts of damage which may be constant, and in most cases, your body repairs the damage and you may not show any symptoms.

However, in Osteoarthritis, this damage (wearing down) of the cartilage occurs gradually but becomes worse as time progresses.

Pain, tenderness, and swelling of the knee are signs that osteoarthritis is beginning to develop. In most cases, the pain in your knee won’t present suddenly. More likely, it will cause gradually increasing levels of pain.

Though osteoarthritis can affect only one knee, it’s more likely it would impair both knees. Older people, being obese, being a woman, joint injury, and so on, can increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis.

What are the risk factors of knee problems?

  • Too much weight or obesity increases your chances of getting knee problems. This is because the excess weight puts a lot of stress on your knee joints. It also increases your risk of osteoarthritis by accelerating the breakdown of joint cartilage.
  • Lack of strength and flexibility can increase the risk of knee injuries. Strong muscles help stabilize and protect your joints, and muscle flexibility can help you achieve full range of motion.
  • Having a previous injury can also increase your chances of getting knee problems. Having a previous knee injury makes it more likely that you’ll injure your knee again since your knee is weak.
  • Certain activities or occupations can put greater stress on your knees than others. For example, basketball and football require jumps and the repeated jumps can increase your risk of getting a knee injury. Engaging in activities that require repetitive and persistent stress on the knees such as construction or farming also can increase your risk.

Treatment for sharp stabbing pain in the knee

The treatment for knee pain depends on the cause, for example, the treatment for a fracture will be different from that of tendinitis, runner’s knee, gout, and bursitis.

For fractures, you may need to stabilize the knee with a splint while the bones heal. If your fracture is severe, you may need surgery, followed by a splint and physical therapy.

For tendinitis, runner’s knee, gout, and bursitis, treatment includes the use of an ice pack to control the swelling. Also, the affected joint should be elevated.

Wearing protective knee pads and employing physical therapy are a few examples of lifestyle changes one can adapt to help manage pain and experience fewer symptoms. 

The takeaway from this article

A sharp stabbing pain in the knee that comes and goes can be a result of a traumatic injury, health conditions like tendinitis, runner’s knee, etc. When this condition occurs in its early stages, you should try doing something about it before it becomes severe.


Michael Sarfo
Content Creator at Wapomu

Michael Sarfo is a graduate of the University of Ghana, Legon. He is a content creator for and a writer for Wapomu

Dr. Solomon Kwesi Otchere (Pharmacist)

Dr. Solomon Kwesi Otchere is a Pharmacist by profession in Ghana. He is passionate about informed healthy lifestyle and diet options necessary for preventing many disease conditions. He also empowers patients and clients to make savvy choices on medications needful to promote good health.

Post navigation

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

When Last Did You Get A Medical Check-Up? Get one now

Why You lose Appetite When You Get Malaria

Constipation: What It Is And How To Effectively Manage It