When to See Your Orthopedic Surgeon About a Knee Injury

Getting injured is just a fact of life and knee injuries are no different. There are dozens of ways to injure your knee, through blunt traumas, twists and awkward movements. Even a seemingly innocuous movement can have significant consequences.

As kids, we often shake off these injuries. Our bodies are growing, bones are still relatively soft, and joints are able to withstand significant force. So, while we may get bruises or even fractures, they tend to heal quickly and often times completely with no long-term effects, even when surgery is necessary. However, as we get older, recovering from these injuries becomes more difficult and a complete recovery is not assured. Of course, there is also that time in our lives – usually in our 30s and 40s – where we believe we can still perform activities without consequences. It is during this time that many patients come in with significant injuries to various joints around the body, particularly the knee.

But does every knee injury require a visit to your orthopedic surgeon? The short answer is no. There will be times where minor traumas to the knee heal very nicely without any intervention. Minor injuries can usually be treated with rest, ice, compression and elevation. Some moderate injuries will not require much more than proper rest and care of the knee. However, there are times where a knee injury will require a visit to your doctor. These will include:

  • Feeling instability in the knee after an injury
  • Feeling a pop in the knee during strenuous activity
  • Knee pain that does not improve in the few days after an injury with proper rest and care
  • Inability to put weight on the affected leg
  • Limited range of motion the persists past several days after an injury
  • Constant grinding or popping of the knee when the leg is extended
  • Significant bruising or swelling that does not begin to improve in short order
  • Of course, anytime there is a clear fracture in or around the area

Even if a knee injury requires a trip to your orthopedic surgeon, it is not necessarily a guarantee that you will require surgery. Similarly, there are some injuries for which surgery is recommended or necessary in order to regain proper range of motion and function. However, in many cases, immobilization of the knee with splinting can give it sufficient stability for a proper repair. However, to know if this will work, x-rays are typically taken and if soft tissue injury is suspected, an MRI may be necessary as well.

Consequences of Not Going to a Doctor When You should

Unfortunately, too many patients shrug off their injury and do not visit their doctor. This can lead to a poorly structured repair of soft tissue, like ligaments or tendons, or improper fusion of bone if there is a fracture. Of course, simple diagnostic imaging can help your orthopedic surgeon visualize the problem, and ultimately avoid this situation.

In the end though, it is better to be safer than sorry. Working through the pain and ignoring it for months or even years only limits your lifestyle and pushes you closer to significant problems and even a knee replacement. Instead, speak to your primary care provider or your orthopedic surgeon to get a proper diagnosis and effective treatment plan.