When To See a Doctor for Knee Pain

Learn the warning signs that your knee pain may require a trip to the doctor

When to see a doctor for knee pain
When to see a doctor for knee pain. Stockbyte/Getty Images

Most athletes will experience some knee pain from time to time. Overuse, long training days or bumps and bruises from contact sports often result in minor knee pain that heals within a day or two with some rest and ice. But there are some clues that indicate more serious knee pain and injuries that may need to be seen by a doctor for a complete evaluation and treatment plan.

When to See a Doctor for Knee Pain

You should see a doctor for your knee pain if you have any of the following warning signs:

  • Pain that lasts more than 48 hours
    If you have pain deep within the knee joint for more than a day or two your should get checked by a doctor. The knee joint isn't covered by muscle so pain here is rarely of muscular origin. Some of the causes of pain deep within the joint include and injury to the meniscus and to the cartilage that covers and supports the joint. The meniscus is referred to as the 'shock absorber' in the knee, and it covers the ends of the leg bones to allow smooth flexion and extension of the knee during walking and running. If the meniscus tears, it not only limits the smooth range of motion of the joint, but it can cause a feeling of deep knee pain.
  • Swelling that lasts more than 48 hours
    The first thing that happens after an acute injury is swelling around the site of the injury. When soft tissue is damaged, it swells or possibly bleeds internally. This swelling causes pain and loss of motion, which limits use of the muscles or joints. Swelling is usually obvious and can be seen, but occasionally you may just feel as though something is swollen even though it look normal. Swelling within a joint often causes pain, stiffness, and may produce a clicking sound as the tendons snap over one another after having been pushed into a new position from the swelling.
  • Inability to put your full weight on the leg
    A difference in your ability to support your full body weight on one leg,compared to the other, is another tip-off to an injury that requires attention.
  • Deformity of the knee joint
    If the knee joint looks deformed compared to the pain-free side, you should see a doctor. A fracture, patella tracking injury or a dislocating kneecap might sound obvious, but there are varying degrees of injury.
  • Knee joint pain in an active child
    If a child has knee pain it should be checked out be a doctor to rule out Osgood-Schlatter Disease.

More Information About Knee Pain

Find the Right Doctor for Knee Pain

If you have any of these signs, you may want to see a specialist for a complete evaluation and treatment plan. These resources can help you find the right doctor and get teh right treatment for your injury.


    Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia: Knee Pain, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003187.htm.

    Continue Reading