Knee Pain and Knee Injury Symptoms and Signs
Knee pain and knee injury are treated by our orthopedic surgeons and orthopedic and sports medicine specialists at the Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Institute in Fort Worth. Listed are knee pain and injury symptoms and signs to be aware of and seek medical attention:
- Pain and swelling with difficulty bending the knee and weight bearing that occurs immediately may suggest a ligament tear or fracture.
- Pain and swelling that emerges over a period of many hours may indicate meniscal or cartilage injuries.
- Longer-term symptoms indicating knee problems will include pain and swelling in addition to other complications. This indicates inflammation of the joint and may gradually resolve as the inflammation decreases. Pain may come and go. It is likely not to occur immediately after activity, but will be delayed as the inflammation develops.
- Pain may be felt with specific activities. Knee pain while climbing stairs, may point to a meniscus injury, as the cartilage is pinched in the joint as the joint space narrows with knee flexion (bending).
- Knee pain associated with walking down stairs suggests patellar (kneecap) pain, as the kneecap is forced onto the femur.
- A feeling of instability in the knee, giving way, or popping or grinding in the knee is associated with cartilage or meniscus tears.
- “Locking” of the knee is the term used when the knee joint refuses to completely straighten, and this is almost always due to torn cartilage. In this situation, the torn piece of cartilage folds upon itself and doesn’t allow the knee to extend.
When to Call your Doctor for Knee Pain and Injury:
Emergency medical care should be sought if, due to injury:
- The knee shows immediate swelling
- The bones around the knee appear deformed
- If there is an inability to bear weight
- If the knee pain is unbearable
- If the foot and ankle turn cold and no pulses can be felt
- If there is loss of feeling below the injury site
Non-emergent Medical Care should be sought if knee pain does not subside with normal home care treatment including “Rice” (REST, ICE, COMPRESSION, and ELEVATION). Medical attention should be sought as well if there is recurrent pain and swelling of the knee.
URGENT MEDICAL CARE should be sought if the knee is red and warm and accompanied by a fever. This usually indicates infection and can be very serious.
Treatment of Common Knee Injuries:
The knee is a complex joint. You can read here about the anatomy of the knee to familiarize yourself to develop a better understanding of the injuries listed below.
- Muscle Tendon Injuries: Strains and Sprains are treated with “RICE” (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). Often the knee is compressed with an ACE bandage, or a knee sleeve is used for compression. Crutches may be used for a short time to assist with walking. Anti-inflammatory medications such as Naproxen Sodium or Ibuprofen may be used to help with pain and inflammation.
- MCL and LCL Injuries (Medial Collateral Ligament and Lateral Collateral Ligament): If the ligament is completely torn, and the knee joint remains unstable, surgery may be the only option for repair. Otherwise, ligament injuries may require a knee immobilizer (a removable velcro splint that keeps the knee straight and stable). Still “RICE” (rest, ice, compression and elevation) are the mainstays of treatment.
- ACL Injuries (Anterior Cruciate Ligament): Walking with this type of injury is extremely difficult. These injuries usually require surgery and subsequent physical therapy for repair and recuperation. It may take months or longer to recover from an ACL injury.
- Meniscus Tears: A meniscus tear can occur acutely (during a one-time event) or overtime. Acute injuries occur when people who play running or jumping sports incur a sudden twist or bend to the knee which tears the tendon. Acute injuries also occur by direct force to the front of the knee or by landing awkwardly from a jump. Sometimes the pain may seem trivial as is not immediate, but comes on over time. In this case, there may be intermittent swelling, pain with walking uphill or climbing steps, or the giving way of the knee that results in near falls. Often it is necessary to diagnose the injury using an MRI. In the case of a meniscal tear, physical therapy, surgery or both are appropriate for complete healing.
- Patellar Fractures: Fractures of the bones of the knee are fairly common. Patellar (kneecap) fractures may be caused by a sudden fall in which the knee incurs trauma. In patellar fractures, surgery may be required in some cases, but in some cases, if the bone is in good position, a knee immobilizer may be all that is required.
- Bursa Inflammation: Bursa inflammation is caused by repetitive kneeling and crawling on the knees. The bursa (space between the skin and the kneecap) becomes inflamed and filled with fluid. Bursa inflammation is a localized injury and does not involve the knee itself. Treatment includes padding the knee and using ibuprofen or naproxen as anti-inflammatory medications.
Prevention of Knee Injuries
The following tips may be helpful in the prevention of common knee injuries:
- Warming up and stretching gently before exercise or sports activities
- Keeping the leg muscles strong and flexible. Strong muscles stabilize joints.
- Avoiding sudden changes in the intensity of activity.
- Replacing worn out shoes. Good traction is imperative for protection from injury.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight.
- Using knee guards in sports where knees are susceptible to injury.
Learn about the Types and Causes of Common Knee Injuries and Problems
- Types and causes of Knee Injuries and Problems
- Knee Anatomy
- Knee Pain and Injury Symptoms and signs
- When to Call your Doctor
- Treatment for Common Knee Injuries and Problems
- Ice or Heat for An Injury?
- Meniscus Tear
- Preventing Knee Injuries
- Knee Replacement
Our goal at OSMI is to provide our patients quality, cutting-edge orthopedic treatments, both surgical and non-surgical. If you have questions about knee arthroscopy or surgery, knee joint pain, or physical therapy, please submit an online appointment request or contact our office at 817-529-1900.