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Sports Medicine

Pain behind the knee and down

08/25/2008

Question:

For the last year or so, I`ve been experiencing pain that starts in the back of my left knee and goes down my calf and sometimes up into the back of my thigh (if i don`t stretch it out fast enough). It happens when i`m sitting cross-legged or in a cushioned chair sideways with my legs over the arm. Lately it`s starting bothering me at work when I`m just sitting in my desk chair working. Stretching it out straight helps some. I`m a 44-year old female, somewhat overweight, former smoker, pretty sedentary. Any idea what this could be?

Answer:

You probably have an irritation of the peroneal nerve that runs along the outside of the lower leg at the knee.  Sitting cross-legged or sitting so the nerve is compressed can cause these symptoms to occur.  Also, weakness of the muscles supplied by the nerve can result in "foot drop" or the inability to lift your foot up, which is usually a temporary condition.  That being said, an accurate diagnosis can be made by having your physician examine your leg and determine if there are other possible causes of your symptoms.

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Response by:

Charles Webster, MD
Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati