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Should I Go to Urgent Care, Family Doctor, or Orthopedic Doctor for Knee Pain?

Should I Go to Urgent Care, Family Doctor, or Orthopedic Doctor for Knee Pain?

knee pain, knee replacement surgeryDo you suffer from knee pain?   One can experience pricking pain on the inner side of the knee, joint instability, swelling,  locking of the knee or redness. The severity of knee pain may vary from slightly achy to immobility.  To get relief the source of the pain has to be identified.

The knee is the most complicated joint in the body.  It is composed of ligaments, bones, and cartilage.  There are plenty of areas that can be causing pain.  Let's discuss what to do at home and when to seek treatment.

Home Care

If the pain is minor and the knee is stable (it can support body weight without feeling weak).  Treat it with anti-inflammatories (aspirin, ibuprofen, Aleve) and hot and cold compresses. 

Schedule Doctor Appointment

If the pain persists or starts getting worse, schedule an appointment with a physician.  As long as the knee is still stable and mobility isn't a problem, waiting for a few days or even weeks is still fine.  After an exam, the doctor will discuss whether additional tests and treatment are necessary.  Physical therapy may be recommended.

Urgent Care

Seek medical attention immediately if the knee pain is due to a fall or other injury.  Medical care is required if any cracking or popping sounds were heard from the knee; if the knee is unstable, wobbling or can't support body weight; if there is excessive swelling; or if the knee is red and warm to the touch.  All of these symptoms indicate a serious problem that needs to be addressed promptly or risk becoming more severe.  An urgent care facility will help wth the immediate need.  Once stabilized a follow-up appointment with the family physician will be directed.

Orthopedic Surgeon

An orthopedic surgeon should be seen if there is any indication of broken bones, degenerated cartilage or detached ligaments.   Surgery may be required to make the knee joint whole and functional again.   In some cases this may mean surgery to make a repair in other situations, this may mean knee replacement surgery.  After surgery, physical therapy will be recommended to get the knee joint back into tip top shape.

When it comes to knee pain, one must get an accurate diagnosis because without knowing the source of the pain, it is impossible to address it.  Sports-related injuries and osteoarthritis both cause knee pain but are treated differently.

Also, knees can be tricky because the real cause of the pain may not be the knee itself.  In many older adults with knee pain, it turns out their hip is the problem.  The knees hurt in these cases because the person is shifting their weight to relieve pressure on their hip, but causing additional stress on the knees.

The correct plan of the treatment can only be prescribed by a physician to avoid future weakening of the muscles and joint. It all depends on the location and severity of the injury as well as the patient's health conditions, activity level and of course, age.

For more information, contact Dr. Dan Albright at 919-863-6808.

  • ABOS
  • AAOS
  • NCOA
  • PractEssentials