How Do I Know If My Knee Pain Is Serious
Knee pain is a common problem that can affect people of all ages. The knee is a complex joint that is made up of bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons, and any of these structures can be the source of pain. However, not all knee pain is created equal. Some types of knee pain are more serious than others and may require medical attention.
One way to determine the seriousness of knee pain is to consider the intensity of the pain. Pain and swelling that is mild or only occasional is usually nothing to worry about. However, pain that is severe pain, sharp pain, significant pain, or constant pain can be a sign of a more serious problem.
Consider the duration of the pain. Is it chronic knee pain? Persistent knee pain can be an indication of an underlying knee injury that needs further attention.
Another factor to consider is the location of the pain. Knee joint pain that is isolated to one area of the knee is usually less serious than knee joint pain that radiates through the joint or down the leg. Inability to bear weight can also be a sign of more serious knee joint issues.
Finally, it is important to pay attention to any other symptoms that may accompany the knee pain. Swelling, redness, and warmth around the joint may be signs of infection or inflammation. If you experience any of these symptoms along with your knee pain, you should see a doctor.
Your Primary Care Doctor Has Recommended You See A Spine Specialist
If youre like most people, when you first develop a medical concern, you make an appointment with your primary care doctor. And this is a good first step. Your primary care physician can perform a physical exam, order imaging studies, and diagnose and treat sciatica. But if your case is more complex, you may be referred to a spine surgeon. Keep in mind, seeing a surgeon doesnt mean you will definitely require surgery. Its just the next step in the process of finding the best treatment plan for you.
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Is There A Best Pain Reliever For Osteoarthritis
- By Robert R. Edwards, Ph.D., Contributing Editor
ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Osteoarthritis affects tens of millions of Americans and is a leading cause of disability and reduced quality of life across the globe. Other than joint replacement surgery, there is no known cure for OA, and most treatments focus on relief of symptoms such as pain. Often, the first step is non-medication-based approaches such as physical therapy, exercise, and weight loss. Most patients, however, will eventually use pain relievers such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . Other kinds of medication, such as opioids, have also been tested as treatments for OA, and there is ongoing debate about what treatments are best.
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Back Of The Knee Pain Caused By Bakers Cyst
A Bakers cyst will cause a lump at the back of your knee along with pain and discomfort.
The cyst that forms at the back of your knee is usually caused by arthritis or tearing a cartilage. This results in a buildup of fluid that causes a lump behind your knee.
Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that the swelling behind your knee can be a cause of knee pain. You will probably find it difficult to flex the knee and your symptoms may be worse after physical activity. To treat a Bakers cyst, doctors usually drain the fluid to reduce the swelling and ease knee discomfort.8
What Natural Home Remedies Relieve Knee Pain
Over-the-counter pain medications can frequently alleviate the pain. If someone is taking these medications on a regular basis, he or she should see a health care professional to evaluate the knee pain for proper diagnosis and to avoid the potential side effects of chronic medication use.
The RICE mnemonic is often helpful, especially for minor injuries:
Rest: Rest the joint, and take a break from your usually activities involving the knee joint.
Ice: Applying ice can help with pain and inflammation.
Compress: A compression bandage can help prevent swelling and help knee alignment. It should not be tight and should be removed at night.
Elevate: Elevation can help with swelling and resting of the knee.
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Treating Chronic Knee Pain Without Surgery
In my practice I see many patients struggling with chronic knee pain from osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the knees natural cushion of cartilage wears away due to stress, strain, age, inflammation, or injury. This leads to pain which can make it difficult to enjoy life to the fullest. Fortunately, many non-surgical treatments can help reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Used individually or in combination, these treatments can reduce pain, increase mobility, and improve quality of life.
The treatment options described below are based on guidelines from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons , the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons , and the American College of Rheumatology. For more information about these treatments and other treatment options for knee arthritis, please see the links at the bottom.
Low-Impact Aerobic Exercise ***
When we experience pain, the natural inclination is often to rest or resist moving the painful joint. In cases of knee osteoarthritis, however, exercise can actually make the knee feel better. Many find it surprising that low-impact exercises are part of the first-line treatment for knee arthritis and have some of the best supporting evidence for symptom relief.
Physical Therapy ***
*** Denotes Strong Evidence Recommendation by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Can You Prevent Knee Pain
There can be many reasons for knee pain. Therefore, there are different strategies to prevent the pain depending on the underlying cause. Running on soft surfaces or decreasing the amount of running can help if the pain is due to overuse. Avoiding any direct injuries to the knee including wearing a seatbelt can prevent traumatic injuries. Weight loss can be helpful for many different forms of knee pain.
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Exercises To Help Relieve Knee Arthritis Pain
The most common cause of knee arthritis is osteoarthritis, which becomes more common with increasing age. Over time, the cartilage in your knee joint wears away causing pain and tenderness while using your knee.
The stronger your leg muscles are, the more they can help cushion your knee joint during impact and during exercise, explains Dr. Brooks.
But, youve likely already noticed that some common leg-strengthening workouts, such as running or jumping, actually worsen your knee pain.
High-impact weight-bearing exercises arent recommended for people whose knee pain is due to arthritis, says Dr. Brooks.
Instead, Dr. Brooks recommends improving your knee mobility by stretching regularly especially your quadriceps, hamstring, and calf muscles and increasing your knee stability by performing low-impact leg strengthening exercises, such as:
- Riding an exercise bike
- Using an elliptical
- Water-based workouts, such as walking, high-stepping, kickboarding or other exercises you can perform while holding on to the ledge of the pool
Performing water-based exercise is a really good way for a person with arthritis in the knee to maintain his or her overall fitness, explains Dr. Brooks. The buoyancy effect of water can relieve the pressure on the joints, making conditioning and strengthening exercises much more comfortable.
When To See Orthopedic Doctor For Knee Pain
Generally, if you do not see a relief in symptoms after 4 weeks you should consult with your healthcare provider for further guidance. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, it is important to see an orthopedic doctor right away:
Severe pain that prevents you from bearing weight on your knee
Intense swelling that does not subside after a few days
Inability to fully extend or flex your knee
A deformity in the knee joint
A popping or grinding noise when moving your knee
Redness, warmth, or bruising around the knee
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see an orthopedic doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Only an orthopedic specialist can provide you with the care you need to get relief from your knee pain.
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Your Knee Has Been Feeling Funny For Several Days But Youre Not Sure If You Need To Make An Appointment With Your Doctor Here Are Some Telltale Signs That Its Time To See A Medical Professional
Whether its knee pain, a strange finger cramp or a swollen elbow, joint pain can range from mildly uncomfortable to completely debilitating. But its difficult to know when you should make an appointment with your doctor.
As a rule of thumb, you should see your doctor immediately, if your joint pain was caused by an injury. Other reasons to see your doctor include:
- Youre in a large amount of pain.
- You cant move the joint.
- It hurts to put weight on the joint.
- The joint suddenly swells.
- The joint is deformed.
If your joint pain wasnt caused by an injury, make an appointment with your doctor if:
- Your joint pain, stiffness and/or swelling lasts three days or more.
- You have several flare-ups of joint symptoms within one month.
According to Donald B. Longjohn, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Keck Medicine of USC and assistant professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, whether you should go to the doctor for joint pain also depends on your age and activity level.
If a younger person playing sports has a serious injury that leads to a deformity or extreme pain, definitely go to an emergency room, Longjohn says. If its a simple sprain, twist or you pulled something, or if pain persists or swells or worsens despite resting and icing, then please get that checked out.
If your joint pain is mild and infrequent, its OK to wait and bring it up at your next annual checkup.
The Best Ways To Sit Down
Instead of sitting of your knees, consider the following postures. These positions are easier on the knees.
But regardless of how you sit, try to maintain a neutral spine. Its also important to change positions frequently, which will help minimize knee pain and posture problems.
The following sitting positions are better for knees:
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Gentle Stretches And Exercises
Knee pain is often a result of stiff joints. Stretching and exercise build strength and can loosen stiff muscles and other joint tissue to increase mobility and reduce pain. There are several stretching and exercise techniques you can incorporate, including lunging hip flexors, standing hamstrings, half squats, and side leg raises.
Pinched Nerve Causes And Symptoms
A pinched nerve can happen to anyone, but certain people have a higher risk than others. Someone whose job involves repetitive motions may be more likely to experience a pinched nerve. Or a pinched nerve may occur after a long period of sitting or sleeping in an uncomfortable position. Pregnant women can also experience pinched nerves due to the extra weight.
If you do have a pinched nerve, symptoms may include:
- Tingling or a pins and needles sensation
- A sharp aching or burning pain that may radiate outward
- Numbness or decreased feeling in the affected area
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What Will An Orthopedic Doctor Do For Knee Pain
An orthopedic doctor is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the musculoskeletal system. This includes bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves. Orthopedic doctors can treat a wide variety of conditions, ranging from simple sprains and strains to more complex problems such as arthritis or fractures.
If you are experiencing knee pain, an orthopedic doctor will first complete a thorough evaluation to determine the cause of your pain. This may involve taking a medical history, conducting a physical examination, ordering X-rays or other imaging tests, and/or performing laboratory tests. Once the cause of your pain has been determined, the orthopedic doctor will develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs.
Medical treatment options for knee pain often include rest, ice, heat, exercises, physical therapy, or medications. Other treatments could include injections or surgery.
How Long Should You Let Knee Pain Before Seeing A Doctor
Athletes with chronic pain who have lasted more than 48 hours and other adults with persistent symptoms should see an expert if there is no improvement for three weeks. Most healthcare providers recommend that you schedule an appointment as soon as you notice that your symptoms have a significant impact on your life.
Over time, the knee joint wears out or becomes too worn down, resulting in knee pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several options for treating knee pain. There is no need to operate on a knee that responds well to physical therapy and corticosteroid injections. Surgery is usually the only option available in most cases. The anterior cruciate ligament is responsible for knee stability. When the knee is bent while the foot is on the ground, an ACL tear usually occurs. Minor tears, moderate tears, and severe tears are the three major types of meniscus tears.
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Swelling Redness Or Deformity
When your knee pain is accompanied by swelling or redness or feels warm to the touch, it could be a sign of infection. Underlying conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or bursitis can also be the source of swelling.
A septic joint is one type of infection associated with knee pain. This occurs when bacteria invade the synovial fluid, the liquid that lubricates your knee joint. A septic joint may occur when bacteria enter your knee joint area through an open wound or a puncture wound, or as a result of knee bursitis.
Any type of knee deformation can indicate a potentially serious condition. A broken bone, torn cartilage, or torn ligament may be the source of pain. Knee pain that occurs as the result of a trauma, such as a car accident or sports injury, should be evaluated for the possibility of joint damage.
Other Knee Pain Causes And Symptoms
Other causes of knee pain include:
ACL Injury An ACL injury is a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament , one of four ligaments that connect your shinbone to your thighbone. This type of injury is common in people who play sports that require sudden changes in direction, like basketball and soccer. It is typically a noncontact injury . If you experience symptoms of an ACL injury, such as a loud pop or “popping” sensation in the knee, seek immediate medical care, notes Mayo Clinic.
Fractures The knee bones, including the kneecap , can break during incidents like falls or auto accidents, or simply due to stepping the wrong way if your bones are weaker due to osteoporosis, per Mayo Clinic. If you have symptoms of a knee fracture, such as a pain around the kneecap or in the knee itself, possibly with swelling, inability to bend or straighten the knee or to hold the leg out straight, deformed appearance of the knee, or bone protruding from the skin of the knee, seek medical attention, per Johns Hopkins.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Sometimes called runners knee, this refers to pain between the kneecap and the thighbone, notes Mayo Clinic. It’s common in athletes and young adults, and can develop in older adults due to arthritis. Home treatments such as rest and ice can help, but if the pain doesnt go away in a few days, call your doctor, notes Mayo Clinic.
Mechanical Problems Some mechanical problems can also cause knee pain, including:
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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.
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When Should You Not Ignore Knee Pain
Knee pain is something that should never be ignored. If you are experiencing any kind of pain in your knee, it is important to see a doctor or another medical professional as soon as possible. There are many different reasons why someone might experience knee pain, and some of them can be serious. Ignoring knee pain can lead to further injury or even permanent damage. If you are unsure about what is causing your pain, it is always better to err on the side of caution and get it checked out.
Empire Physical Therapy is an independent physical therapy clinic in Los Angeles, California. A torn cartilage and fracture, a ruptured ligament, or osteoarthritis can all cause knee joint pain. If you wait to seek treatment for knee pain, you are at risk of further injury. It is possible to prevent a fall or surgery by treating the condition. We encourage you to take preventative measures when it comes to knee pain. Electrophysiological therapy, also known as electrophysiological therapy, is a promising field of physical therapy. Physical therapy can be an excellent way to prepare for shoulder replacement surgery. When you have lower back pain, you may develop chronic pain as a result of your injury, mobility issues, and other symptoms.
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