When Is It Time to See a Doctor About Knee Pain?
Listening to the Body
Aches and pains are a fact of life. It could be the result of injury, pushing too hard during your last workout, the impact of working while seated in the office catches up to you, or when the body rebels after too long spent on your feet. This is certainly the case for the knee, a part of the body that not only takes on the stresses of walking and motion but also that of maintaining the body’s position.
Especially as a person ages, a lot can go wrong here. Not only is there always the risk of injury but other, endemic conditions and wear and tear can crop up. It’s no wonder, then, that knee pain is incredibly common; according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as many as 30 percent of Americans over the age of 65 report this problem.  Given how disruptive it can be—and the many ways that it can impact quality of life—it’s important to assess when you need to seek out medical treatment.
At what point is it clear that home-remedies and rest won’t solve the problem? Here’s a breakdown of signs its time to call your doctor.
If your knee pain is the result of a recent injury, and especially if recovery is slow or seems not to be happening, you’ll want to make an appointment with your doctor. The intensity of pain following injury to the knee can vary greatly, but there’s definitely a problem if it’s not going away. Even mild pain that’s persistent might mean that treatment is needed, and if you do nothing, the situation can get worse.
Other factors to consider with pain following an accident or injury are the circumstances surrounding the incident. Seek immediate attention—up to and including an ER visit—if you experience the following:
- The knee joint looks deformed in some way.
- Your knee has no ability to bear weight.
- You hear a popping noise at the time of injury.
- The pain is very intense.
- The injury is followed by sudden swelling.
If knee pain is accompanied by excessive swelling and stiffness, a doctor’s visit is recommended. Cases are considered significant when the patient cannot straighten their leg or legs, and if comfort is only found when it’s at a 15 to 25 degree angle. What’s happening? Swelling occurs when fluid surrounds the knee joint; you’ll see the area filled up and be able to feel it. This is associated with a range of underlying conditions, including osteoarthritis, injury to bones, ligaments, or tendons, and rheumatoid arthritis among others. 
Unusual red pigmentation around the knee—especially if coming alongside pain and stiffness—can be indicative of more serious problems. It’s a common hallmark of arthritis, a breaking down of cartilage around the knee joint. In rare and extreme cases, this symptom accompanies the growth of tumors in the area.  This is something to watch out for; if you’re seeing this symptom in one or both knees, make that appointment with the doctor.
Warmth & Tenderness
The sensation of a knee being unusually warm, especially if accompanied by pain and stiffness, can be another sign of trouble. In some cases, the sensation of discomfort is experienced as a “burning” type pain. This is often a sign of damage to cartilage as in various forms of arthritis or following injury to relevant tendons and ligaments. Warmth or burning in the region may also be signs of overuse injuries: when wear and tear “catches up” with you. As with other symptoms, you’re best served being pro-active about seeking out medical attention.
Disruption & Other Signs
Ultimately, you’ll need to make an assessment of how disruptive your knee pain is. Is it getting in the way of your daily activities? Is it affecting your sleep? Are you unable to move and/or stand comfortably? Likely, if your answer is “yes” to any of these, you need to call your doctor. In addition, if fever is accompanying your knee symptoms, you may be experiencing an infection, so you should seek out medical attention as soon as possible, even if it means going into the ER.
Care is Teamwork
When it comes to your health, remember that you’re not acting alone: a good doctor, dedicated support-staff, family, and friends all play a part. When you’re suffering—be it from knee issues or others—you should do as much as you can to be open and clear about it. The good news it that for as many types of knee problems that exist, there are dedicated and effective treatment approaches. In times of trouble, then, it’s time to assemble the team that will get you back on your feet.
If you suffer from pain in the knees, the team at Onward Orthopedics is ready to help. The specialists and doctors here employ the latest in treatment techniques and technologies and have helped countless patients find effective relief. Learn more about what they do by calling (800) 577-1693 today!
- ” American Academy Of Pain Medicine – Get The Facts On Pain “. 2018. Org. Accessed March 12 2018. http://www.painmed.org/patientcenter/facts
- Dean Cole, MD. 2018. “What Causes A Swollen Knee (Water On The Knee)?”. Arthritis-Health. Accessed March 12 2018. https://www.arthritis-health.com/types/general/what-causes-swollen-knee-water-knee.
- Melissa Conrad, MD. 2018. “Joint Redness: Check Your Symptoms And Signs”. Medicinenet. Accessed March 12 2018. https://www.medicinenet.com/joint_redness/sym