When to See Your Doctor About Knee Pain 

When to See Your Doctor About Knee Pain 

Thursday, 28 May 2020 12:25

Knee pain is not something you should ignore! Injuries have ended many athlete’s careers, and for the rest of us, knee pain can impact our ability to exercise, enjoy recreational activities, and even complete day-to-day tasks. Living with pain that is often excruciating, ever-present, and, at the least, irritating, is a challenge. How do you know when this is not a “normal” and temporary ache? When should you see your doctor about knee pain? 

Handling Mild, Short-Term Knee Pain

Raise your hand if you gave your all at circuit training class, went on an extra big hike, or did yard work all day -  and then woke up with knee pain. It happens, and it tends to happen more as we creep up into our 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond. Now, knee pain that is a result of activity that is more strenuous than normal or that appears gradually can typically be managed well at home. Even a minor injury (e.g. a wrong move during your weekend soccer league or a squat that went wrong) can resolve itself with self-care.

When you’re dealing with this type of knee pain, remember RICE.

Rest: Lay low for a bit! This doesn’t mean your couch needs to become command central, but it does mean that you should hold off on any strenuous activities for a few days. For example, if you typically enjoy running, swap it out for cycling or swimming. If the injury is acute, your physician may recommend staying off your feet for a short time and/or using crutches. Listen to that advice so you do not aggravate your injury.

Ice: Get out the ice pack - a frozen bag of veggies will also do quite nicely! - and apply it to your knee for 15-20 minutes. Repeat this a few times a day. To protect your skin, wrap the ice pack, veggies, or bag of ice cubes in a towel.

Compression: This can be a tricky one: you need to make sure the wrapping fits snugly enough to provide compression but that it is not so tight that it causes pain or swelling. Use an elastic bandage (e.g. ACE bandage) or a brace. Be sure to check with your doctor for recommendations so you do not worsen pain or swelling.

Elevation: Fire up Netflix or grab a book. Then lie down and prop your knee up on some pillows to control swelling and pain.

You can also take NSAIDs, or over the counter medications that relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation. Ibuprofen (i.e. Advil, Motrin) and naproxen sodium (i.e. Aleve) are good choices. If you have certain conditions such as kidney trouble or high blood pressure, acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol) may be a better choice. 

When RICE Isn’t Enough

There are many instances when RICE and NSAIDs are not enough. Call your doctor if you receive a forceful impact to the knee (e.g. a sports injury, car accident, fall, etc.) and/or experience:

  • Extensive Swelling 
  • Redness
  • Warmth and tenderness around the joint
  • Significant pain
  • Fever 
  • Minor pain that persists and/or worsens with usual activities 

In some cases, you need to seek medical attention immediately. Contact your doctor or visit urgent care when you:

  • Notice that a joint appears deformed
  • Hear a popping noise when your knee is injured
  • Can’t put weight on your knee/leg
  • Are in intense pain
  • Experience sudden swelling 

If left untreated, knee pain can worsen and begin to interfere with every aspect of your life. If you are experiencing more than typical aches and pains after a tough session at the gym or an intense day of work, then speak to your doctor. With the right treatment, interventions, physical therapy, and/or orthotic equipment, you can participate in both your essential and favorite activities without paying for it later! 

If you have questions about knee pain and orthotic devices that can help you live your best life, contact Orthopedic Appliance Company today