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How To Describe Knee Pain To Your Doctor

Questions Your Doctor May Ask

The ultimate guide to knee pain | Types, causes, home remedies, when to see a doctor

Your doctor will want to know as much as possible about whatâs going on with your knee. Be ready to answer questions such as:

  • When did the pain start?
  • Where does it hurt: the front, center, side, or back of the knee?
  • Did it start suddenly or slowly?
  • How would you describe the pain: dull, sharp, or achy?
  • Is the pain always there, or just now and then?
  • Is there any swelling or redness? Does it feel warm?
  • Do any activities make the pain better or worse?
  • Did your pain start because of a specific injury? If so, your doctor will want specific details of what happened, including what you were doing and whether you had to stop right away.
  • Your answers will give your doctor clues about the cause of your pain. For instance, a popping or snapping sound may mean that you tore a ligament. If your pain is worse when you rest and your knee is stiff when you wake up, you could have a type of arthritis.

    Your doctor will also ask about:

    • Problems with any other joints
    • Any knee injuries or surgeries youâve had
    • Other health issues that might be causing the pain

    A hip problem, for example, can cause you to walk awkwardly, which throws off alignment of your knees, causing pain. Also, pain from your hip can make your knee hurt.

    Let your doctor know what youâve already tried to treat your knee pain, such as medicines, braces, and physical therapy.

    Prevent Any Problem With Your Spinal Health At The Spine And Rehab Group

    One of the best things that patients can do to ensure that they get accurate and fast treatment for their back pain is to have a clear conversation with their doctor that describes their pain accurately. While its possible to acquire an analysis based on tests alone, patients should also describe the back pain so physicians can treat their pain effectively.

    If youre experiencing back pain of any kind, it could be the beginning of a more serious health condition that needs to be treated immediately. With years of experience with diagnosing and treating spinal conditions, the Spine And Rehab Group can quickly diagnose and treat your back pain. Visit one of our New York clinics today, or schedule a consultation with us online.

    Activity And Occupational Restrictions

    • How has the pain changed your life?
    • Have you adapted to the pain by limiting your activities? If so, what activities do you now avoid?
    • Do you no longer participate in recreational activities that you once did? Which activities have you eliminated?
    • What activities have you modified ? You might have given up on running but now swim for fitness. What do you now do to prevent pain from occurring.
    • What type of work are you involved with?
    • Describe your work by its physical demands. Do you have to repeatedly lift, bend and twist?
    • Do you have to sit without position change for long periods of time?
    • Are you off of work due to the pain or did you have to change your job position secondary to pain?
    • How long have you been off work or have changed your position?

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    What Are The Complications Of Knee Pain

    Frequently, knee pain will disappear without ever finding a specific cause. Depending on the underlying cause of the pain, the condition can progress and lead to more serious injuries or complications. Usually, these complications are long term and result in worsening pain or an increasing difficulty to walk.

    How To Accurately Describe Your Pain To A Knee Doctor

    How to Accurately Describe Your Knee Pain to a Doctor

    Youve likely experienced some knee pain in your lifetime. Some forms of knee pain can arise from normal day-to-day activities. It can also develop due to chronic stress, severe injuries, and even certain diseases.

    For your doctor to provide you with a correct diagnosis, you need to describe the sensation accurately. Your doctor will ask you detailed questions about your pain, and it helps to provide as much information as possible. Heres how you can precisely communicate your symptoms to a knee doctor.

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    Be Aware Of Potential Bias And Bring It Up Proactively

    If youre a woman, trans person, or person of color or if you have a disability, mental illness, or body type thats considered unhealthy in our society you might already be aware of the fact that doctors are all too human.

    And humans often have prejudiced attitudes that they may not even be aware of.

    People with larger bodies often find that doctors dismiss their symptoms, including pain, by telling them to just lose weight. Some groups of people are stereotyped as over-dramatic or over-sensitive, and their reports of pain are sometimes dismissed by doctors as hysterical.

    Black women in particular have struggled to have their pain recognized and treated by doctors, which almost certainly has to do with our nations long, shameful legacy of medical abuse and violence toward Black people especially women.

    In 2017, an image of a page from a popular nursing textbook went viral online. You may have seen it. The page was apparently intended to teach nursing students about Cultural Differences in Response to Pain and included such gems as, Jews may be vocal and demanding of assistance, and Blacks often report higher pain intensity than other cultures.

    Although the textbook was revised after public outcry, it was a stark reminder to those of us with chronic health issues that this is the sort of thing our providers are being taught about us.

    How To Describe Medical Symptoms To Your Doctor

    This article was medically reviewed by Ronn Callada, RN, MS. Ronn Callada, ANP, RN is a Nurse Practitioner at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Ronn is also part of the adjunct faculty at New York University in nursing. He received his MS in Nursing from Stony Brook University School of Nursing in 2013. This article has been viewed 279,495 times.

    It can be daunting to visit a doctor for symptoms of what might be an undiagnosed medical problem. Patients often struggle to adequately explain their symptoms during the brief medical interview, which is an important component of helping the physician effectively diagnose your symptoms and develop a treatment plan. Your doctor is trained to help guide you through the medical interview and help you describe your symptoms. You can maximize any medical appointment by describing your symptoms in a simple and concise manner that you and your doctor can understand.

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    Use Words That Describe The Pain

    The quality of your pain may mean something about what’s causing it. For example, if you experience burning, stabbing or electrical sensations down one leg or arm, it may indicate a compressed or irritated spinal nerve root .

    If you can expand the pain vocabulary you use in your journal, you may find communicating with your healthcare provider is easier and more fruitful for you.

    The McGill Pain Questionnaire from McGill University in Canada provides a series of descriptive words that some healthcare providers will use to try to get an insight into your pain, whether during the initial diagnostic process or at the follow-up and monitoring experiences. The words are categorized according to 3 questions that may help you describe the pain. They are:

    • What does your pain feel like? Expanding your existing vocabulary with more descriptive words may come in handy here.
    • How does your pain change with time? Example words include constant, intermittent, at night only, etc.
    • How strong is your pain? With this category of questions, we’re back to the intensity piece discuss above.

    Examples of descriptive words that describe pain, taken from the McGill Pain Questionnaire, include flickering, nauseating, rhythmic, squeezing, blinding, boring. These are just a few, but hopefully, you get the idea. The more expansive you can be with your language while keeping it accurate, the better your communication with your healthcare provider will likely be.

    What Kind Of Doctor Should I See For Knee Pain

    What is Causing Your Knee Pain? Tendonitis? How to Know?(Patellar Tendonitis? Quadricep Tendonitis?)

    Knee pain can arise from many injuries and conditions. The type of specialist you consult see may depend on several factors most especially, whether or not you have had an acute injury, such as by twisting your knee during sports activity or experiencing an impact during a fall or other accident.

    HSS offers a multidisciplinary approach to knee care. Our orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine doctors provide acute injury treatments that may be surgical or nonsurgical. For pain that arises when there has been no obvious injury, you may benefit from treatment by a physiatrist, rheumatologist or physical therapist.

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    Knee Pain Symptoms & Treatment

    Knee pain is a common condition affecting a wide range of people. Pain in knees can result from an injury, an infection or a medical condition such as arthritis.

    Treatment for knee pain depends on its cause and how severe the pain is. Our orthopedic specialists can offer personalized treatment plans including surgical and non-surgical options after a physical examination and assessment.

    Communicating With Your Doctor

    The more specific you can be about describing your knee pain and when it happens, the better. Start by describing the circumstances surrounding the pain:

    • Is your pain worse in the morning or after a period of inactivity?
    • Is your pain worse at noon after youve been moving around for a while, or at night after youve been very active all day?
    • Is your pain worse after a particular activity, such as walking, climbing stairs, kneeling to wash the kitchen floor, squatting in the garden, or biking with your kids?

    Tell your doctor if your pain is sharp or throbbing and whether it is constant or intermittentit comes and goes. Describe what you do to relieve the pain, and what success you’ve had.

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    What Is Knee Pain

    Pain is a common knee problem that can originate in any of the bony structures compromising the knee joint , the kneecap , or the ligaments, tendons, and cartilage of the knee. Knee pain can be aggravated by physical activity, as well as obesity, affected by the surrounding muscles and their movements, and be triggered by other problems . Knee pain can affect people of all ages, and home remedies can be helpful unless it becomes severe.

    Will Surgery Treat And Cure Knee Pain

    What is Arthritis


    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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    Can Knee Pain Come Back After Treatment

    Frequently, knee pain will occur for a short period of time and then resolve. Sometimes it can return a few weeks or months later. For chronic knee pain, it is important to get it evaluated to avoid further damage to cartilage, bones, or ligaments. Prognosis depends on the underlying causes of the pain.

    With modern surgical techniques, it’s possible to relieve many of the knee pain syndromes and return to an active lifestyle.

    What Are Knee Pain Symptoms And Signs

    Below is a list of some of the more common causes of knee pain. This is not an all-inclusive list but rather highlights a few common causes of knee pain in each of the above categories.

    Acute knee injuries

    Fractures: A direct blow to the bony structure can cause one of the bones in the knee to break. This is usually a very obvious and painful knee injury. Most knee fractures are not only painful but will also interfere with the proper functioning of the knee or make it very painful to bear weight . All fractures need immediate medical attention. Many fractures require significant force, and a thorough examination is performed to detect other injuries.

    Ligament injuries: The most common injury is the ACL injury. An ACL injury is often a sports-related injury due to a sudden stop and change in directions. The remaining ligaments are injured less frequently.

    Meniscus injuries: The menisci are made of cartilage and act as shock absorbers between bones in the knee. Twisting the knee can injure the meniscus.

    Dislocation: The knee joint can be dislocated, which is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Knee dislocation can compromise blood flow to the leg and have other related problems. This injury often occurs during a motor-vehicle accident when the knee hits the dashboard.

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    Where Is Your Pain

    The hunt for the cause of knee pain is like the search for a home:Location matters.

    For example, pain below your kneecap might be a sign of patellar tendinitis, or inflammation in the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shinbone, says rheumatologist Scott Burg, DO. Pain above the kneecap often means quadriceps tendinitis.

    Pain on the inside or outside of your knee could be a sign of a torn ligament , Dr. Burg says. But it also could indicate a torn or degenerative meniscus, which is the cartilage that lines and cushions your knee joint.

    Those are just a couple of causes, not including various types of arthritis. Location is important, but we also ask other questions, Dr. Burg explains.

    Clarify What The Numbers On The Pain Scale Mean For You

    What Is Causing Your Knee Pain? Bursitis? How To Tell?

    Youre probably familiar with the scale medical professionals use to assess pain. You simply rate your pain from 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain at all and 10 being the worst possible pain.

    As plenty of doctors and nurses themselves have pointed out, this scale has potential for misunderstandings and bias to creep in. As a person with a uterus, Ive always felt that medical professionals disregard my claims about pain because Ive never experienced childbirth so what would I know about Real Pain?

    Of course, everyone experiences childbirth and other painful things differently, and you cant really compare. But thats a comment Ive heard both from medical professionals and laypeople for my entire adulthood so far.

    If your doctor uses the pain scale, give them some context on what you mean when you use it to describe what youre feeling.

    Tell them what the worst pain youve ever felt is, and how youre comparing this to that. Explain to them that youre not necessarily looking for a 0 tell them your threshold for being able to cope with pain on your own, without medication, or with Tylenol or ibuprofen only.

    For instance, when I say 5, I usually mean that its there and its distracting, but its not totally unmanageable. When I say 6, I definitely need some sort of medication. But for me to be able to function more-or-less normally, it would have to be 4 or less.

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    Facts You Should Know About Knee Pain

    • Knee pain is a common problem with many causes, from acute injuries to complications of medical conditions.
    • Knee pain can be localized to a specific area of the knee or be diffuse throughout the knee.
    • Knee pain is often accompanied by physical restriction.
    • A thorough physical examination will usually establish the diagnosis of knee pain.
    • The treatment of knee pain depends on the underlying cause.
    • The prognosis of knee pain, even severe knee pain, is usually good although it might require surgery or other interventions.

    How To Use Comparison For Describing Pain Levels

    In recent years, I started comparing my pain when describing what Im feeling to doctors. This isnt something I necessarily do when Im not at an appointment related to pain for example, when Im at the hematologist for my chronic anemia, they ask pain levels, but they care a lot more about my fatigue levels. But if Im going to the rheumatologist or a joint specialist like my foot/ankle doctor, its a lot more important.

    When I say compare, I mean comparing your present pain levels to previous pain experiences youve had. This can be specific or more general. A general example is, My current pain is a 6, and an 8 is an ovarian cyst rupturing. That is an experience I have had multiple times, and its in my medical chart, so my doctors can check and confirm that Ive had that. I try to keep it a simple comparison so that its not distracting from the point of the appointment. I try to use more general examples for general appointments like with my primary care doctor or for the unfortunate ER appointment. In ER appointments, its extremely important to explain my pain quickly and concisely, as 95% of the time that Im there, its for something causing pain.

    Now that we have discussed words you can use for describing pain levels and the tool of comparison for describing your pain, lets talk about the most common way to explain what you feel: the annoying out-of-10 pain scale.

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