Your knee is a complex joint that consists of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage that work together to enable movement. Damage to any of these structures can result in debilitating knee pain that can interfere with your daily activities and affect your quality of life.
Knee pain can affect anyone at any age, with sensations ranging from a dull ache to a piercing jab. Many types of knee pain can improve with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) therapy at home. However, when the source of knee pain is a serious injury or degenerative condition, you need to seek medical treatment to improve your symptoms.
Whether your knee pain originates from an injury or arthritis, determining the source of your discomfort is key to finding the right treatment. Our interventional pain management specialist, Shoeb Mohiuddin, MD, at Regenerative Pain & Spine in Chicago, Illinois, specializes in diagnosing and treating all types of knee pain.
Dr. Mohiuddin has the expertise to identify the cause of your knee pain and determine your treatment options based on your medical history, current condition, and the results of diagnostic tests such as X-rays.
Depending on your condition, you may benefit from medications, casting, physical therapy, epidural injections, or regenerative medicine. Serious injuries may require knee surgery or knee replacement.
Since knee pain is so common, it’s often endured as being “normal.” However, knee pain that forces you to make long-term accommodations in the way you move may need more than home care to improve.
Here, we discuss common symptoms that can indicate whether your knee pain requires a medical evaluation.
Knee pain that doesn’t improve
While it’s likely that a knee sprain will improve over a few weeks with RICE therapy and over-the-counter pain medication, you should get a medical evaluation if your pain and range of movement remain unchanged for several weeks. An injured knee that doesn’t improve could be a sign of a torn muscle, a meniscus tear, or torn cartilage, all of which require a medical evaluation.
However, if you’ve experienced an injury that causes severe pain, don’t wait to see if it improves. Intense pain can be a sign of soft-tissue damage or a bone injury. In these cases, waiting to get medical treatment can limit your treatment options and extend your recovery time.
Inability to put weight on your knee
As the largest and strongest joint in your body, your knee is capable of supporting a significant amount of weight. Your knee joint supports a load equal to four times your body weight. The amount of pressure increases during activities like walking up steps or squatting to reach the floor.
When you have knee pain and your knee feels like it will give out if you stand, it may indicate a ligament injury. A ligament is a band of tough, flexible, connective tissue that holds your knee together by connecting bones to each other.
A ligament injury results in knee instability and a limited range of movement. It’s often accompanied by a loud pop or crack at the time of injury. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which connects your thigh bone to your shin bone, is the knee ligament that’s injured most often.
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.
Aching or stiffness
Knee pain accompanied by aching or stiffness may be an early sign of arthritis, an inflammation of one or more joints. While arthritis can affect any joint, knee arthritis is common. Medical treatment, ranging from medication to surgery, can reduce symptoms.
While there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common types to affect your knees. Pain from osteoarthritis worsens over time as the cartilage between your bones wears away and bone-on-bone rubbing results. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which your body attacks healthy tissues in your joints.
If you’re experiencing knee pain with any of these symptoms, don’t delay in getting an accurate diagnosis. Call one of our offices in the West Ridge area of Chicago to arrange a consultation.