Is My Knee Pain Serious?

March 3, 2023 • The Kimmel Institute • foot conditionssports injuries
Is My Knee Pain Serious?

Everyone suffers from occasional knee pain. But how do you know when it’s serious?

Your knee’s ability to bend and bear your weight depends on a complex network of bones, cartilage, and ligaments. Considering how much strain you put on your knee in a day by walking, going up and down stairs, and exercising, the occasional knee pain is bound to happen. In fact, one study found 25 percent of adults report knee pain. 

Most minor knee pain resolves in a few days with rest and some at-home treatments, such as applying an ice pack or taking over-the-counter pain medication. But when is knee pain serious enough to see a doctor? 

What causes knee pain and when to see a doctor

Knee pain primarily from overuse and/or aging. Years of wear and tear weaken the cartilage, leading to arthritis of the knee. Trauma to the knee from an accident or a sporting injury can also sprain or tear the delicate ligaments and tendons. The bony kneecap or patella can also fracture.

Pain, swelling, stiffness, and limited range of motion result from a knee injury or a degenerative condition such as arthritis. A few days of rest usually resolves minor knee pain. But these symptoms indicate a serious structural problem requiring medical intervention:

  • Excessive swelling and/or a noticeable deformity of the knee.
  • Inability to straighten your leg or knee.
  • The knee buckles when you try to put weight on it.
  • A fever along with redness, pain, and swelling of the knee.
  • A popping or crunching sensation in the knee.

Preventing knee pain

A physical examination and imaging tests can detect any injury or problem in the knee. Conservative treatments, such as physical therapy and pain management, can heal the knee pain in most cases. However, some injuries or significant degeneration may require surgery.

But if you want to avoid more extensive therapies or surgery, try these preventative measures to keep your knee strong and pain free:

Keep exercising. This may sound counterintuitive, but exercising is the best medicine for knee pain. You’ll have to switch your exercise routine to more knee-friendly non-impact aerobic workouts, such as walking on flat ground, pedaling on a stationary bike, and exercising on an elliptical machine. These activities strengthen the muscles around the knee but are less stressful on the joint. Avoid deep knee bends, running downhill, and kneeling, when possible.

Wear the proper footwear. Most knee pain starts at your feet. For instance, when you wear high heels, the quadriceps on the front of your thigh strain to maintain the knee’s position, which can lead to pain. Choose supportive, comfortable footwear or get fitted with orthotics to lift pressure off the knee and keep the joint in proper alignment. 

Stretch before exercising. Warm up your calf, hamstring, and quadricep muscles with stretching exercises pre-workout. Strong and flexible muscles protect the knee from injury and overuse.

Lose weight. Every extra pound you carry puts that much more stress on your knee joint. Work with your doctor about a weight loss and diet program to shed those pounds. You’ll be rewarded with pain-free knees.

Improve your posture. There’s a reason you’re told to stand up straight. When your whole body is properly aligned, your knees will feel much less strain.

Have knee pain? See a podiatrist! 

Do you suffer from a painful knee? It could indicate a problem with your foot. At Alamitos-Seal Beach Podiatry, we treat all types of foot conditions that could lead to knee pain. Contact us today for a consultation to explore our treatment options to get you back to a pain-free life.

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Fill out the form below to reach Alamitos – Seal Beach Podiatry Group, or call Los Alamitos: (562) 203-6151 or Seal Beach: (562) 242-1559 for immediate assistance.

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