“A meniscal tear, either medial or lateral, can result in sharp [knee] pain with walking,” among other possible causes, explains Devin B. Peck, MD, of owner of Austin Interventional Pain in Austin, TX.

The meniscus is cartilage (a shock absorber).

Dr. Peck continues, “While there can be pain at rest, it is less common, and if present would typically worsen with walking.

“There may also be a sensation of ‘catching’ in the knee with extension, especially if a small piece of the meniscus has separated from the main portion (a ‘free fragment’).”

Knee extension is when you straighten out your lower leg from a bent position.

“There may be difficulty straightening the knee all the way, and it may feel unstable with walking,” says Dr. Peck.

“Degenerative joint disease – or osteoarthritis – of the knee can also present with pain only with walking,” though it won’t necessarily be what you’d describe as stabbing or sharp.

However, bone-on-bone contact from severe osteoarthritis is certainly no picnic, either.

“Weight-bearing leads to more axial stress on the knee joint, and repetitive motion leads to wear-and-tear stress on the joint. There can be swelling, decreased range-of-motion or even joint deformity.

“These deformities are often either valgus deformities, in which the joint deviates inward (knock-knee), or varus, in which the joint deviates outward (bow-legged).”

Dr. Peck’s areas of interest include chronic and acute musculoskeletal pain, sports injuries, arthritis and cancer pain, among many others. Austin Interventional Pain was established in 2019.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.