Are you desperate to know if your knee pain warrants a trip to the doctor? The reality is that so many people wonder the exact same thing.

“Is my knee pain bad enough? Perhaps I can cure it with home treatments instead.

Can you relate? If so, this post is definitely for you. Read on to find answers to the question of when to see your doctor for knee pain.

When To See A Doctor For Knee Pain

I absolutely understand the concern of wasting time or being ‘seen’ as a nuisance to the health service if you present with a somewhat ambiguous, non-specific knee pain query.

Therefore, this post aims to help clear up the confusion. This will help you understand when to see your doctor for knee pain. 

We’ll discuss common knee injuries, such as sprains and tears, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic or acute knee pain symptoms, and what they feel like.

By the end of this post, you’ll have sound knowledge of whether a trip to the doctor is on the cards or not.

Severe Pain? Go To The Doctor

When worried about whether to see a doctor for knee pain or not, there are vital points to consider.

Please read this section carefully to understand what symptoms or conditions warrant an immediate medical assessment.

The following all advise a trip to the doctor as a matter of urgency:

  • Severe and intense knee pain
  • The type of knee pain matters; sharp, stabbing pain indicates a more severe injury
  • How quickly the pain started
  • If the pain is continuous
  • If the pain is getting worse
  • If you see skin redness, hear a popping sound, or see visible bruising or deformity
  • Whether you’ve sustained an injury or trauma
  • If pain persists after rest/ice/elevation/painkillers
  • If pain has been present for one week or more with no known cause

Immediate Medical Attention

Now, if you’re experiencing (or have experienced) sudden swelling, extreme pain, instability, and/or are unable to walk, you should immediately seek urgent care. 

Don’t delay; such symptoms may indicate a broken bone or torn ligament, which are serious injuries that often require surgery.

Similarly, if you’ve suffered a fall, car accident, gym injury, or any other injury that you suspect relates to knee pain, go straight to the doctor or hospital to get checked out. 

On the other hand, some causes of pain in the knee can be taken care of at home, but only for a limited time.

In such cases, if the pain continues for a longer period (more than one week) and/or doesn’t seem to be improving at all, it’s important to get it checked by a medical professional.

A pair of hands holding a sore knee.

Imaging And Diagnostics

Depending on the cause of knee pain, your doctor may order imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI scans, or CT scans to diagnose it accurately.

A physical examination may also be performed, including tests on the range of motion and strength in the knee and/or checking for signs of infection and mild swelling, redness, or warmth around the joint.

Your physician might ask about your medical history and activity level to help organize a treatment plan.

Causes Of Knee Pain

Common causes of sudden knee pain include:

  • ACL tears
  • Meniscus tear
  • Bruised knee ligaments
  • Septic arthritis
  • Trauma/broken bones
  • Muscle tears
  • Knee sprain
  • Bursitis

Causes of chronic (long-time) knee pain include:

  • Osteoarthritis of the knee
  • An old ligament injury
  • Any old knee injury
  • Gout
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. 

Each of these conditions leads to varying pain levels, depending on the severity of the injury or condition.

Ultimately, you know your body best, and if you feel in your gut that something’s not right with your knee, go to the emergency room.

And remember to drop the belief that you’re wasting your doctor’s time! It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Self-Care Measures For Minor Knee Pain

Looking after yourself at home is certainly something to consider if you’re experiencing mild knee pain and the pain isn’t related to an injury.

Note: If you’ve had a knee injury, you should seek medical attention right away. 

In the case of non-injuries, the main thing to ease mild knee pain is to prioritize rest and recuperation.

An ice pack or heat therapy can be used depending on the type of injury, while over-the-counter medications may offer pain relief. 

Additional support can come in the form of wearing a knee brace or wrap and maintaining a healthy body weight, as well as gentle exercise and forms of physical therapy.

What If I’m Not Sure?

If your knee pain is severe and/or accompanied by swelling, redness, difficulty walking, or impacts your quality of life, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.

Equally, a sudden change in the intensity of pain is usually a sign of a more serious medical condition that requires urgent attention. 

If the pain persists and does not go away after rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications have been tried and tested, then seeking medical attention is essential.

In addition to the intensity of knee pain, pay attention to other warning signs such as the inability to bear weight on the leg, a popping feeling in the knee joint, a (significant) decrease in range of motion, and signs of infection, including fever and chills.

Don’t forget – if you’re ever unsure about knee pain, seek medical advice for their opinion. 

Trust me, as someone who’s sustained bilateral ACL tears in my knees in the past, I know how much knees affect daily life.

Honestly? The knee joint is a delicate thing, meaning it’s best to get things checked out whenever you’re unsure.

Good News & Summary

The good news? It’s this:

Following a doctor’s visit, you can feel reassured and comforted that you’re in the best hands.

Treatment options will be available to you, and hopefully, you’ll feel confident to make a good recovery, regardless of the type of pain or knee condition you’re dealing with. 

I do hope you find this post on when to see a doctor for knee pain interesting, informative, and helpful.

If you’d like to read more of my posts, click here. 

About the Author

Hi there! I’m Dr. Keagen Hadley, OTD, OTR/L. Straight out of the University of Mary, I’m all about blending my know-how in knee health, well-being, and medical technology. As a licensed occupational therapy doc, I’m here to translate complex concepts into clear, actionable insights – whether it’s knee care or groundbreaking healthcare tech.

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