When to see a doctor for knee pain: Warning Signs and Symptoms to Watch For

Knee pain is any stiffness, pain, or soreness in or around the knee joint. Knee pain symptoms can be mild to severe and result from various conditions, including disorders, overuse, and wounds.

You must see a doctor if you have knee pain for several reasons. First, knee pain may indicate a more serious underlying condition that needs immediate medical attention, including arthritis or a ligament tear. 

Delaying therapy can result in chronic pain and symptoms that aren’t easily treatable. Besides, some signs of knee pain, such as infections, might have serious consequences if left untreated. In detail below, let’s review the warning symptoms of knee pain and when you should seek medical attention.

Causes of Knee Pain

The body’s largest joint (the knee) is also frequently damaged and comprises the bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons, allowing you to bend your leg. 

The knee is extremely vulnerable to various injuries due to its sensitivity and joint structure. These are the main causes of knee pain.

  • Trauma and Injury

A fall, a hit to the knee, a sports injury, or any violent injury can cause knee pain. Ligament sprains or tears (such as an anterior cruciate ligament or ACL rupture), meniscus tears, fractures, and dislocations are all common signs of knee pain.

  • Arthritis

The arthritis types, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis, can also result in knee pain. Arthritis is a condition that damages and strains the joints, resulting in pain, stiffness, and restricted mobility.

  • Tendinitis

When a knee tendon is inflamed, it can cause knee pain. The patellar tendon connecting the kneecap to the shin bone or the hamstring tendons (which attach the hamstring muscles to the knee joint bones) are also susceptible to tendinitis.

  • Meniscus Tear

The meniscus is a cushiony cartilage disc between the knee joint bones. A meniscus tear can happen due to a rapid rotation or knee twisting, wear, and strain over time. Meniscus tears can trigger pain, swelling, and impaired mobility.

Warning Signs and Symptoms

Several indications could indicate the need to see a doctor for knee pain.

  • Acute and Chronic Knee Pain

Acute pain frequently results from trauma or injury. In severe cases, it can also hamper mobility. Contrarily, chronic pain is defined as discomfort that lasts longer than three months and is frequently brought on by disorders like tendinitis or arthritis. Chronic pain can range from mild to severe and can be persistent or intermittent.

  • Swelling and Redness

Swelling around the knee joint can indicate inflammation or injury. Increased blood flow to the area causes swelling, resulting in pain, stiffness, and restricted mobility. Increased blood flow eventually results in redness, indicating infection or inflammation.

  • Stiffness and Stumped Mobility

Stiffness is a sign of knee pain. Inflammation, trauma, or illnesses like arthritis can all contribute to this. The knee joint may feel tight or uncomfortable and be difficult to move due to stiffness. The limited movement might also make it challenging to carry out regular tasks like walking or climbing stairs.

  • Instability and Knee Locking

These are other common indications of knee pain. When a ligament is injured or damaged, it can result in instability, which is a sensation of weakness or shakiness in the knee joint. Locking of the knee happens when the knee joint becomes caught in one position and is difficult to move. 

It can be caused by a meniscus tear or other structural abnormalities in the knee joint. Both of these symptoms may necessitate medical treatment because they significantly impact mobility.

 When to Seek Medical Attention

If the knee pain symptoms persist, it means it is chronic knee pain that may have an underlying disease that is causing it and can only be identified by proper tests done by medical professionals. Sudden swelling and redness indicate immediate first aid; if the pain is unbearable, seek immediate help from a doctor. 

A limited range of motion may not be serious and treatable with proper exercise and stretches advised by a physiotherapist. However, if it persists, it may need medical attention. 

The instability or locking of the knee commonly happens when there is a ligament tear like ACL or meniscus tear. It requires immediate medical aid and should be treated; otherwise can get infected, which requires surgery in severe cases.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A physical examination is the typical initial step in diagnosing knee pain. The doctor may check the knee joint’s range of motion, redness, soreness, and swelling. Additionally, they could inquire about the patient’s medical background and any prior wounds.

Diagnostic tests are performed to identify the underlying knee pain causes. These examinations could involve X-rays, MRI, CT scans, or ultrasounds to find structural flaws or damage. Blood tests are also performed to look for inflammation or infection-related symptoms.

The underlying cause of knee pain will determine the most effective treatment. RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation), physical therapy, medication, or surgery are all possible forms of treatment. 

In most cases, lifestyle changes to control knee discomfort, such as losing weight or changing one’s activity level, may also be advised. The treatment programme is customized to meet each patient’s needs and can include a multidisciplinary approach to improve outcomes.

Summing Up!

Although knee pain is a very common problem, it can majorly affect a person’s mobility, quality of life, and general health. Many problems, including injuries, arthritis, tendinitis, and torn meniscus, might contribute to its development. 

You must immediately contact a doctor if your knee discomfort doesn’t go away, there is abrupt swelling and redness, your range of motion is constrained, or your knee is unstable or locking.

Early intervention can reduce future issues and enhance results. A complete examination, including physical examination and diagnostic procedures, can determine the underlying cause of knee discomfort. 

Treatment options may include medication, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, or surgery. By following an appropriate treatment plan, many people with knee pain have successfully managed their symptoms and maintained their mobility and overall health.

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