Sure, some types of knee pain can be managed at home without a doctor’s care. Over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen may be enough to relieve the discomfort. Ice packs or even topical lidocaine gel can help if the pain gets worse, but some types of knee pain and injury do warrant a doctor visit. And when intense, chronic knee pain starts to interfere with your ability to perform everyday activities, a sure sign you should call a doctor for help. Depending on the type and location of your pain, a specialist like an orthopedist, rheumatologist, or pain-management doctor can help diagnose and treat an underlying injury or problem. They’ll help you get some much-needed pain relief.
Not getting the right type of treatment for knee injury or knee pain can make problems worse. Depending on your symptoms, special imaging tests like MRI or CT scans may be needed to diagnose the cause of your pain. Here are four signs you should see a specialist for your knee pain:
Knee Injury, Or Your Knee Suddenly Gives Out
You might hurt your knee while exercising or playing sports, or simply doing an everyday activity like going up or down stairs. Any knee injury that causes a popping noise or sensation, or causes your knee to give out completely, should be checked by a doctor as soon as possible. You could have a meniscus or ligament tear, which both need prompt treatment. Other symptoms to look out for are severe, acute pain coupled with swelling or limping. If you can’t straighten your knee, that’s another red flag, since it can be a sign of a fracture or dislocated kneecap.
Acute Pain That Lasts More Than a Few Days
At-home treatment for knee pain may include the “RICE” protocol – rest, ice, compression, elevation – plus OTC painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicines. If these don’t give you relief after three days, it’s time to call the doctor. You might have damage to your ligaments, cartilage, or tendons, and need specialized treatment.
Chronic Knee Pain or Stiffness
Arthritis is a common condition that affects the knees and causes pain and stiffness. Physical activity may make the pain worse, and eventually your range of motion may be compromised. Aches and pains may be an expected part of aging, but you shouldn’t suffer with chronic pain in your knees. An orthopedist can evaluate your symptoms and come up with a treatment plan to provide relief. You may benefit from physical therapy, knee injections for pain relief, or even surgery, depending on what the doctor finds during an exam and any diagnostic imaging.
Swelling and Pain Without Injury
If you haven’t experienced a knee injury, but your knee is swollen, painful, and hot to the touch, you could have gout, another type of arthritis. Crystals that form in the joint cause sudden and severe pain. Other joints commonly affected by gout include the big toe, ankle, and elbow. Your doctor may do blood work to check uric acid levels in your blood, since those levels can contribute to the formation of the painful crystals. Prescription anti-inflammatory drugs can provide rapid relief for the pain. If you have gout, medicine to reduce uric acid levels can help prevent future attacks.
No matter what type of knee pain you’re experiencing, the team of physical therapists and pain management providers at Lynx Healthcare can diagnose the problem and help you get relief. Our clinics throughout Washington and Oregon offer prompt, caring treatment to help you regain your quality of life. Find the location nearest you for personal care from top-quality specialists.