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How Do I Know If Knee Pain Is Serious

Conditions That May Cause Knee Problems

How to Know If You Have a Serious Knee Injury or Problem

Problems not directly related to an injury or overuse may occur in or around the knee.

  • Osteoarthritis may cause knee pain that is worse in the morning and improves during the day. It often develops at the site of a previous injury. Other types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and lupus, also can cause knee pain, swelling, and stiffness.
  • Osgood-Schlatter disease causes pain, swelling, and tenderness in the front of the knee below the kneecap. It is especially common in boys ages 11 to 15.
  • A popliteal cyst causes swelling in the back of the knee.
  • Infection in the skin , joint , bone , or bursa can cause pain and decreased knee movement.
  • A problem elsewhere in the body, such as a pinched nerve or a problem in the hip, can sometimes cause knee pain.
  • Osteochondritis dissecans causes pain and decreased movement when a piece of bone or cartilage or both inside the knee joint loses blood supply and dies.

You Have Greater Than Normal Range Of Motion

If you have knee pain and it seems like the range of motion in your knee is higher than usual, something might be out of place or injured.

This is called joint instability.

It could feel like your knee may buckle or fold any time you walk, twist it, or put any weight on it.

Joint instability can worsen your knee after its been injured.

Other injuries cause joint instability.

Hypermobility can also occur when your knee cap is dislocated.

As weve mentioned before, a dislocated knee cap can pop back into place, and it isnt always a serious injury.

If a knee cap dislocation is accompanied by swelling, it could be a sign that a piece of cartilage or bone got knocked out of place.

If your knee ever feels loose causing pain, most likely your knee pain is serious and you may need to see a doctor.

Other Possible Causes Of Severe Knee Pain

In addition to the conditions listed above, severe knee pain can be related to an infectioneither an infection in the knee joint or a systemic infection, such as the flu, that causes an auto-immune reaction that leads to knee pain. Knee pain related to infection is discussed on the next page.

Other possible causes of severe knee pain in the absence of trauma include soft tissue injuries that can develop over time, such as severe tendinopathy and IT band syndrome. In these cases, knee pain often develops gradually, and knee pain is less likely to be accompanied by localized redness, swelling, and warmth.

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Surgery For Knee Injuries

Your doctor or physiotherapist may refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon for some knee injuries. You may need surgery to repair the damage to your knee especially if other treatments havent worked.

Your surgeon is more likely to suggest you have an operation if you have one of the following injuries.

  • Youve torn your anterior cruciate ligament , especially if you do a lot of sport or have also torn a meniscus. In ACL reconstruction, your surgeon will take a piece of tendon to replace the damaged ligament.
  • Your knee is still painful or locks after an injury to your meniscus. Your surgeon may repair or partially remove your damaged meniscus.
  • Youve injured your medial collateral ligament and it hasnt healed after three months of other treatments. Your surgeon may repair or reconstruct your MCL.

You may be able to have a type of keyhole surgery called knee arthroscopy to get to the damaged area of your knee.

What Are Some Common Knee Problems

How Do I Know if I Have Knee Arthritis?

Many knee problems are a result of the aging process and continual wear and stress on the knee joint . Other knee problems are a result of an injury or a sudden movement that strains the knee. Common knee problems include the following:

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Is My Knee Injury Serious 5 Signs To Look For

Your knee twists, you hear a pop, and now you have knee swelling and pain when trying to walk or with bending your knee. Perhaps you were struck by another player and have bruising, but no swelling. Are these severe knee injuries? When should you consider seeing a Sports Medicine Doctor following a knee injury? Lets go over 5 things that trained professionals look for to determine if your knee injury is serious.

As an active athlete or competitor, you know that severe knee injuries are common. Both contact and non-contact knee injuries can be severe. This post will cover five signs to look for to help determine if you might have a severe knee injury. In general, the most common and worrisome finding is immediate, significant swelling.

Even though most of the injuries I see in the office turn out to be mild, it is essential for you to know what the warning signs are to look for a potentially severe knee injury.

You Have Difficulty Walking

Its fairly obvious that many knee injuries can make it hard and very painful to walk.

If your pain is from a severe knee injury, it can be next to impossible to walk.

You will often need to be helped around the house or use crutches.

If your pain is to the point where you cant get around the house anymore, it is definitely serious, and it should be evaluated as soon as possible.

X-rays will be useful to rule out fractures if you cant put any weight on the knee.

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Signs You Should See A Doctor About Your Knee Pain

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You may deal with little aches and pains fairly often, especially if you live an active life or work on your feet. You probably postpone seeing a doctor about this discomfort, deciding that if you wait for a little while the sensation will subside.

Sometimes, this theory holds true, but what about the cases where it doesnt? In this blog, we list 10 warning signs that justify a trip to your doctor or an orthopedic surgeon to talk about knee pain.

1. Deformity of the Joint

Look at your knees next to each other. If your affected knee appears misshapen compared to your healthy knee, you may have a fracture, dislocated knee cap, or patella injury.

2. Difficulty Walking

When your knee pain progresses enough to give you a limp or make you avoid walking, see a doctor. Pain of this intensity can indicate a bone injury or a degenerative condition.

3. Inability to Hold Weight

When you stand up, do you feel the need to shift your weight away from your bad knee? If your affected knee cannot hold your weight, seek help. This symptom can indicate a range of knee conditions, all of which require medical care to address.

4. Knee Instability

If you notice that your knee wobbles or feels like it will collapse, seek medical help. Generally, joint instability indicates a ligament problem, which may become worse if you continue using your knee as usual.

5. Less Sensation in the Knee

6. Long-Term Pain or Discomfort

7. Pain That Affects Your Daily Activities

Limited Mobility Or Range Of Motion

How to Know if Knee Pain is Serious

For men and women who develop arthritis in their knees, activities that were once simple, easy, or routine may become difficult or even impossible to do without limitations and discomfort. Walking, running, or getting in and out of a car can, oftentimes, prove disproportionately challenging for patients with arthritis of the knee. The damage and loss of cartilage associated with arthritis are usually to blame for this phenomenon.

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What Are Risk Factors And Causes Of Flares From Bursitis

Risk factors for bursitis include gout, repetitive motion, and overuse of a joint, certain occupations, injury, rheumatoid arthritis, spine problems, and metabolic conditions such as diabetes. Gout flares can inflame a bursa, most commonly the elbow bursa, called gouty olecranon bursitis. Certain activities, such as gardening, involve repetitive motions that can cause bursitis. Likewise, occupations such as carpet laying and tile setting are risk factors for bursitis due to repetitive motion injury. Orthopedic injuries, such as an ankle sprain, can throw off body mechanics and cause bursitis of the knee or hip. Similarly, poor posture and spine problems may affect body mechanics and predispose to bursitis.

Mpfl Reconstruction For A Patella Dislocation

The MPFL is the ligament in the knee which holds the patella or kneecap in its proper position. It is the ligament that prevents the kneecap from sliding out laterally and dislocating. If you have had recurrent patellar instability, eg. you have dislocated your patella more than one time, then your MPFL is not working or has stretched out too much to function well. In order to restore stability to your kneecap we need to consider an MPFL reconstruction. During an MPFL reconstruction, we will recreate the ligament which will stop the patella from dislocating.

In the picture below you will notice that the MPFL is attached to the kneecap and it is attached to the thigh bone or femur.

During surgery for an MPFL reconstruction, we will create a small hole in the femur. That hole will be in a very specific place. We determine where that place is by using a special x ray machine during the surgery. Once we determine where the hole is we will place your new ligament into that hole and secure it there with a screw. Now that the new ligament is attached to the femur we need to attach it to the patella. The new MPFL should have at least two attachment points on the patella. We will usually stitch or suture that new ligament against the patella. Overtime that new ligament will heal to the femur and the patella.

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What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of A Knee Injury

The signs and symptoms of a knee injury depend on the cause. Most knee injuries cause pain. A knee injury may also lead to the knee feeling weak, “giving way,” or “locking.” Someone with a knee injury might not be able to fully bend or straighten the knee. The injured knee may be swollen or bruised.

Does Your Knee Feel Unstable

How do I know I need a knee replacement?

If you can walk with little or no pain but your knee joint feels unsteady, as if it might collapse from your weight, you may have experienced a temporary patellar dislocation. Hearing a popping noise when you were injured is a common sign of a dislocation. Many times, a dislocated knee cap will spontaneously go back into place. The joint may feel strained and wobbly with a small amount of swelling.

An experienced knee surgeon such as Dr. Frank R Noyes of Noyes Knee Institute would say that patellar dislocations that do not spontaneously reposition can cause a great deal of pain. Your knee will swell and look deformed because the knee cap is out of its usual place. This can be a serious issue. This type of injury typically requires a trip to the emergency room to reset the patella. Surgery to repair tears in the tendon might also be necessary for a full recovery.

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What Medical Conditions Cause Knee Pain

Medical conditions

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that can affect any joint in the body. It can cause severe pain and disability, as well as swelling.

Gout is a form of arthritis that is most commonly found in the big toe, though it can also affect the knee. Gout tends to flare up and is extremely painful during the acute episodes. When there is no flare-up, the knee can be pain free.

With , the knee joint can become infected this leads to pain, swelling, and fever. This condition requires antibiotics and drainage treatments as soon as possible.

Chronic use/overuse conditions

Patellar tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendons connecting the kneecap to the shinbone . Patellar tendinitis is a chronic condition often found in individuals repeating the same motion during exercise .

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is caused by degeneration or stress under the kneecap where it meets the thighbone . Patellofemoral pain syndrome occurs in runners and cyclists.

Osteoarthritis: a wearing down of cartilage of the joint due to use and age

Prepatellar bursitis: Inflammation to the bursa in front of the kneecap may cause anterior knee pain.

Other causes

Will Surgery Treat And Cure Knee Pain


Knee operations range from arthroscopic knee surgery to total knee replacement. Arthroscopic knee surgery is a very common surgical procedure that allows the physician look inside your knee through a few small holes and a fiberoptic camera. The surgeon can repair many of the injuries and remove small pieces of loose bones or cartilage. This is a common outpatient procedure.

Partial knee replacement: The surgeon replaces the damaged portions of the knee with plastic and metal parts. Because only part of the knee joint is replaced, this procedure has a shorter recovery then a total knee replacement.

Total knee replacement: In this procedure, the knee is replaced with an artificial joint.

Other therapies

Acupuncture has shown some relieve of knee pain, especially in patients with osteoarthritis. Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements have shown mixed results in research studies.

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Should I Go To The Doctor For A Sprained Knee

If you think you may have sprained your knee, the best do-it-yourself treatment is the RICE method: rest, ice, compression , and elevation. If a couple weeks pass without any improvement, it’s time to see a doctor. Whatever it is, it’s an injury that the body can’t handle by itself, explains Gotlin.

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How to Know If You Have a Serious Knee Injury or Problem (60 Sec Video)

Most people assume if they have knee pain, it is due to a problem with the knee joint. This is not always the case. While the discomfort can be due to a knee condition, it can also be the result of a disc protrusion or a pinched nerve in your lower back. Working with your doctor and a physical therapist can help determine if that is the case.

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How Do I Know If My Knee Pain Is Serious Topic Guide

When To Call The Doctor For Knee Pain

When you are deciding whether to call the doctor about your knee pain, a good rule of thumb exists for most long-term knee injuries. If your symptoms have not gone away after trying a week of PRICE therapy and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain meds, you should set up an appointment with your doctor, physical therapist, or a sports medicine orthopaedic specialist to further evaluate the pain. This rule can also be applied to new knee injuries that are not disabling. Remember, however, that this rule should only serve as a guide. If you are concerned about the pain, you should call the doctor.

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Who Is At Risk For Developing Knee Pain Without Injury And How Can They Prevent It From Happening Again In The Future

There are certain people that are more prone to developing knee pain without injury because of their occupation. For example, people that work in manufacturing or delivery are at risk for developing knee tendonitis.

Working on your feet all day long puts pressure on the knees and muscles surrounding them to perform harder than they normally would, which can lead to straining them out.

People who do not take the time each day to stretch before engaging in physical activity

Overuse injuries can occur when one exercises with fatigued muscles or engages in repetitive movements over a long period of time. Doing something like running too often or too much without stretching beforehand is one way an overuse injury can develop into acute knee pain without injury.

Stretching after exercising should help prevent injuries.

Aggressive sports like football, basketball, and soccer lead to many knee injuries because of the continuous running and quick changes in direction required by the game.

Sports that involve a lot of falling or repeated stopping and starting can also be hard on the knees. Even walking down the stairs the wrong way can cause an injury if you put too much weight on your knees.

Bringing It All Together

Why Canât I Straighten My Knee? â Howard J. Luks, MD

When it comes to knee rehabilitation, taking things slow is always encouraged. Running back into the gym after a meniscus tear or an ACL injury is not a good idea, especially if your doctor advises you to rest.

But, taking things slow and stopping altogether for 6 months are two very different things. You should still be training in the gym, moving your joints, and definitely stretching as soon as possible post-injury. Doing so will help to speed up the recovery process, keep you from gaining weight, and will help strengthen the muscles around your knee to prevent injury in the future.

I often wonder if I could avoided my second injury if I had followed this advice ten years ago. Let my injury experience be a warning and motivator for you to take care of your knees right now.

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