Knee pain is common. It can start with a twist or can come on gradually. You can wake up with it and it can then progress over days. Initial treatment is to rest it and avoid activity that aggravates it. If you are having severe pain in the knee especially after a fall and/or if the pain builds over hours and is associated with swelling, tenderness or redness, you need to see a doctor.
If you don’t fall into this category you can try some treatments on your own. You can decrease the weight bearing until the pain subsides. You stop impact activity. If it hurts to walk you go on crutches. If it still hurts while on crutches you make sure you place no weight on the painful leg 100% of the time. If you do all that and it still hurts you need to see a doctor as soon as possible.
If you are able to get to the point where your knee doesn’t hurt putting less weight on it, then you can start reconditioning the knee. You start with straight leg raise staying within the pain free range. If you can bend the knee you can use a stationary bike. If you are not sure what to do you need to see a doctor who will be able to direct you. If the rest and simple exercises doesn’t relieve your pain, again it is time to see a doctor.
Your doctor’s visit will usually involve being asked a series of questions and an examination possible along with an x-ray. Depending on the problem you will be prescribed rest, exercise and/or medication. The exercise will either involve home exercises or supervised physical therapy. You will be given follow-up visits to see how you are doing and to make adjustments in your treatment plan.
If your pain persists or gets worse it frequently means you are putting too much weight on your leg. Limping is not a problem that you can will away. It means your knee can’t handle the weight you are putting on it. So you need to take the weight off you knee with crutches. It may take several days of no weight bearing for the pain to subside. If the pain doesn’t go away or is severe, you will need to call the doctor.
Additional treatments may be needed. This may include additional x-rays, joint aspiration or injection. Sometimes the knee pain is caused by a problem that requires surgery. This may be due to a break in the bone, a tear in one of the ligaments or damage to the cartilage of the knee that the body can’t heal. Sometimes this surgery can be done arthroscopically through small incisions as an outpatient. Sometimes bigger surgery is necessary. The recovery varies depending on what the problem is. It can be as short as a week or take several months.