When to See An Orthopedic Surgeon About Knee Pain

May 23, 2024

Knee pain is a common complaint that can range from mildly annoying to severely debilitating, impacting your quality of life and mobility. While minor knee discomfort often resolves with rest and self-care, persistent or worsening pain may indicate a more serious underlying condition that requires medical attention. Knowing when to seek help from an orthopedic surgeon is essential for diagnosing the root cause of your knee pain and implementing an appropriate treatment plan. Here’s a guide to help you determine when it’s time to consult with a specialist:

  • Persistent Pain: If you experience persistent knee pain that doesn’t improve with rest, ice, elevation, and over-the-counter pain relievers, it’s a sign that something more significant may be going on. Chronic knee pain can be caused by various conditions, including osteoarthritis, ligament injuries, meniscus tears, or tendonitis, which may require specialized treatment from an orthopedic surgeon.
  • Swelling and Inflammation: Swelling around the knee joint, accompanied by warmth and redness, can indicate inflammation and may be a sign of an underlying injury or joint disorder. If your knee consistently swells without a clear cause or if the swelling persists despite home remedies, it’s advisable to seek evaluation from an orthopedic specialist.
  • Difficulty Weight Bearing: Difficulty bearing weight on the affected knee or feeling unstable when walking or standing can indicate a serious injury, such as a torn ligament or cartilage damage. If you experience significant weakness, buckling, or giving way of the knee, it’s important to consult with an orthopedic surgeon to determine the extent of the injury and explore treatment options.
  • Limited Range of Motion: If you notice a significant decrease in your knee’s range of motion, such as difficulty bending or straightening your leg fully, it may indicate joint damage or stiffness. Conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or a meniscus tear can restrict movement and cause discomfort. An orthopedic evaluation can help identify the underlying cause and develop a plan to improve mobility.
  • Pain That Interferes with Daily Activities: When knee pain begins to interfere with your ability to perform daily activities, such as walking, climbing stairs, or participating in recreational activities, it’s time to seek professional help. Ignoring persistent pain can lead to further injury and may worsen your condition over time. An orthopedic surgeon can assess your symptoms, order diagnostic tests if necessary, and recommend appropriate treatments to alleviate pain and restore function.
  • Previous Knee Injuries: If you have a history of knee injuries, such as ligament tears, dislocations, or fractures, you may be at increased risk for developing chronic knee problems. Even if the initial injury seemed to heal well, monitoring for any recurring pain or instability that could indicate lingering issues is essential. Consulting with an orthopedic surgeon can help prevent future complications and address ongoing concerns related to previous injuries.
  • Persistent Symptoms Despite Conservative Treatment: If you’ve already tried conservative treatments such as physical therapy, bracing, corticosteroid injections, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) without significant relief, it’s time to explore more advanced treatment options with the guidance of an orthopedic specialist. Surgery may be necessary to address structural problems or correct damage to the knee joint, especially if conservative measures have been unsuccessful.

Early intervention is key to preventing further damage and improving outcomes when it comes to knee pain. If you’re experiencing any of the signs or symptoms mentioned above, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. By seeking timely medical attention, you can receive an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan tailored to your needs, helping you regain a pain-free, active lifestyle.