Injuries to the knee, the body's largest joint, are increasingly common—especially as a result of a sports injury. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, knee injuries lead to more than 19 million visits to the doctor each year. Read on to learn about the different types of knee pain and when to visit a doctor for treatment.
Two Types of Injuries
Knee pain from injury is divided into two categories — traumatic and repetitive. Traumatic injuries occur as a result of impact, twisting or hyperextension; repetitive injuries occur when a motion is done repeatedly over time. What's the difference?
- Traumatic injuries, such as ligament or torn cartilage injuries, happen when your knee is twisted or hit. Ligament injuries, where the ligaments in your joints are stretched or torn, cause immediate and severe pain. Cartilage injuries cause pain, swelling, and locking or clicking of the knee.
- Repetitive injuries include runner's knee, which is characterized by dull, aching pain and sometimes swelling at the front of the knee. It can be caused by misalignment of the kneecap, overuse or injury.
Screening for Injury
Depending upon your symptoms and medical history, any of the following tests might be used to help determine what type of injury you have and to determine treatment options. Common tests include:
- X-Ray – X-ray takes a two-dimensional picture of the bones around your knee.
- Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT) Scan – CAT scans show ligaments and muscles more clearly than X-rays. By combining images, physicians can get a 3-D look at your knee.
- Bone Scan – A radioactive dye is injected into your bloodstream before this scan, and collects in your bones, showing up on the scan. This test will show abnormal areas in the bone.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – This scan is particularly useful for damage to soft-tissues like ligaments and muscles. An MRI uses energy from a magnet to create a picture.
- Arthroscopy – Surgery during which a doctor inserts an arthroscope into your knee joint through a small incision. The arthroscope has a camera and projects the inside of your knee onto a screen.
- Joint aspiration – A syringe is used to remove fluid excess fluid in your knee to reduce swelling. A lab can then analyze the fluid and figure out if you broke something or have an infection.
When should I check with my doctor?
The longer you wait, the worse the problem may get. If you have long-term pain or swelling, we can help relieve your knee pain and get you back to your previous activity level.
To find a doctor or speak to a nurse, call Consult-A-Nurse® at (951) 788-3463, 24 hours a day.
For more information, visit Orthopedics & Joint Replacement.
Sources: AAOS.org, NIH.gov